The sixth global mass extinction event is under way. New research has suggested that the global animal population has halved in the last 50 years, and 26,500 species are now threatened with extinction. With the threat of greater biological annihilation on our hands more effort and resources has been spent on protecting threatened species. These protections can range from hunting bans, to establishing protected zones that are free of harmful human activity. Do they work? In this blog we will be looking at three conservation success stories, and how these efforts can play their part in halting this sixth mass extinction.
The American Bison
The American bison is one of North America’s most iconic natural inhabitants, before the Europeans landed in North America there were thought to be over 30 million bison roaming the prairies, by the late nineteenth century mass hunting and slaughter meant the species was close to extinction with only around 750 left. Since then numbers have increased to over 350,000. This success was the result of multiple conservation initiatives, and careful herd management. While numbers are never thought to recover to the levels seen pre-European colonisation, the increase in the bison population show that, if carefully managed, species can come back from the brink.
The Blue Iguana
Native to the Cayman Islands the Blue iguana is one of natures most stunning reptiles. The species was nearing extinction in the early noughties with only 10-15 remaining in the wild; thanks to careful conservation efforts there are now over 1,000 as of May 2018. This recovery is down to the efforts of conservationist Fred Burton. In 2002 Fred started his conservation efforts by setting up some incubators in his home office where he started incubating and hatching the Iguana eggs before sending them to a conservation facility. The young iguanas are then reared until they are ready to be reintroduced to the wild. Since the conservation efforts began the Blue iguana has now become a proud symbol of the Cayman Islands.
The Humpback Whale
Humpback whales, probably the most recognisable whale in the world, have seen a surge in their population with an estimated 25,000 in the South Atlantic as of 2019. The species was hunted to the edge of extinction to the point that, by the 1950’s, only 400-500 were remaining in the South Atlantic, down from an estimated 27,000 in 1830. This recovery is due to the banning of commercial whaling in 1986. Since the ban whale numbers in the South Atlantic has recovered to nearly the same population levels witnessed around 180 years ago. This evidence shows us that if left to their own devices, and without any input from humans, some species can recover in a surprisingly short space of time.
What these case studies tell us is that through a combination of careful conservation efforts and sensible environmental policies we can save our vital animal species from extinction. While there are thousands of other species that are endangered, these conservation successes are proof that the extinction of endangered species is not inevitable and that we can stop this from happening.