11 min read

4 Amazing Animals That Were Saved From Extinction

Once a species becomes endangered, it is critical to work to preserve its habitat and remaining individuals, lest it disappear from our world. Occasionally, wildlife conservation projects and organizations can be so effective so as to reverse the process and reintroduce a species into the wild, where it will no longer need human intervention. The red wolf, California condor, Golden lion tamarin and Wyoming toad are four species where huge conservation efforts and measures have been put in place, often with successful results.

The Red Wolf

(Photo: Brandon Trentler.)

The red wolf is a smaller relative of the well-known grey wolf and is one of the rarest species of the canidae family. This species was once common throughout the whole of the southeastern United States but by the mid-1960s a large proportion of the population had been lost due to habitat loss and intensive programs to control predation.

Red wolves are monogamous and form breeding pairs which mate for life. They generally live alongside their mate and offspring in small social groups called packs. Although this species has now been downlisted to critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, this species had once been declared extinct in the wild in 1980. It has only been able to achieve this new status through intensive conservation efforts which increased the number of individuals from the former severely depleted population. These conservation efforts have included a captive breeding program and reintroduction program where all individuals left in the wild were captured, bred and then the offspring reintroduced into the wild, therefore bolstering the population number and helping the species reach the current more stable status.

(Photo: Stephen Nakatani)

This particular species recovery program is one of the most successful large mammal conservation efforts and was launched by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The conservation effort began in 1967 and in 1987 individuals bred in captivity were introduced into the wild. A total of four breeding pairs were initially released in North Carolina. This reintroduction has been a success story so far as at present the population is doing well. The population now exceeds 265 individuals which include both captive and wild wolves. Measures put forth to safeguard this so far successful reintroduction attempt include fully protecting it in its current range and conducting local educational programs to ensure the reintroduction gains support from the local community.

Interesting fact: The red wolf is listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, which means that purposefully killing or harming a red wolf is a federal crime. However, this law does not apply to wolves that are attacking livestock or pets.

California Condor

(Photo: Madeleine Holland)

The California Condor is one of the world's rarest birds, with just over 300 individuals in existence. Although believed to have once roamed across the whole of the U.S. continent, with evidence suggesting their range extended from British Columbia to Baja and across the southern U.S. to Florida, by the 1940s the species was limited to six counties in California north of Los Angeles. In1987 the population had been reduced to only 22 individuals living in the mountains above Santa Barbara. All 22 were captured and placed into a captive breeding program. The current population number now consists of both birds in captivity and those which have been released back into the wild with around 150 individuals in both populations. The individuals living in the wild can be found only in California, Baja and northern Arizona. Although the future looks a lot brighter for these huge birds, they still face threats from lead poisoning and predators.

Interesting fact #1: To avoid condor chicks becoming accustomed to human presence in captivity, chicks are fed by a human wearing a glove shaped like an adult California Condor to fool the condor chick into thinking it's being fed by its parent!

Interesting fact #2: A California Condor's wingspan can exceed 9 feet.

Golden Lion Tamarin

(Photo: Jinterwas)

Thirty years of conservation efforts by the Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Program at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and the Associação Mico-Leao-Dourado in Rio de Janeiro resulted in the Golden Lion Tamarin being downlisted from critically endangered to endangered. These conservation efforts saw the establishment of a new population in the União Biological Reserve via translocation of six groups (47 individuals altogether) of Golden Lion Tamarins from isolated pockets of forest elsewhere. The main threat to Golden Lion Tamarins is from habitat loss resulting from increased logging and agricultural activity and other anthropogenic activities.

Interesting fact: Tamarin young are usually twins.

Wyoming toad

(Photo: USFWS Mountain-Prairie)

This particularly unattractive species is considered to be the most endangered amphibian in North America. It is restricted to the Laramie Basin in Albany County, Wyoming, USA, although its historical range was thought to be around 2,330 km². This species was once abundant in this basin, but the population saw a drastic decline and by the 1980s it had been listed as federally endangered. By 1994 the species had been listed as extinct in the wild and so scientists rounded up the few remaining individuals and kept them as an ex situ population. This captive population is maintained for breeding efforts, with the tadpoles and toadlets produced being reintroduced into the wild via a reintroduction program. However, it is still listed as extinct in the wild as the wild population is not self-sustaining. It is highly threatened with the main threats to this species being pollution (e.g. pesticides), habitat destruction and disease (especially the well-known chytrid fungus). Unfortunately, it is thought that the Wyoming toad population at present has been inflicted with the amphibian chytrid fungus, and so at present the future for this fascinating species looks bleak.

Fun fact: Toads secretes poison from glands on their neck; therefore, if an animal tries to prey upon the toad then they will succumb to a reaction to the poison which may result in either an upset stomach or death. This toad adaptation is used to deter predators.

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