Up To 48 Species Saved From Brink Of Extinction By Conservation, Study Finds

It would be natural to feel like the state of the world is a bit hopeless, what with massive fires burning up swaths of the U.S., Australia, and South America, a record year for hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, and an ongoing global pandemic to contend with.

And after learning that two-thirds of all wildlife has been wiped out since 1970 and scientists are predicting an "unprecedented magnitude" of mammal extinctions in the next 80 years, sure, it's easy to feel bummed.

That's why it's important to remember the victories as well. The tiger population in India is bouncing back. Ditto elephants in Kenya. In Uganda, wildlife authorities are celebrating a gorilla baby boom.

And according to a new study, putting some effort into conservation is well worth it.

It's hard to imagine how much poorer the world would be without conservation efforts but that didn't stop some scientists from trying.

In a paper published in the journal Conservation Letters, researchers with Newcastle University and BirdLife International found that conservation efforts have directly saved up to 48 species from extinction.

The study looked at proven conservation efforts including measures such as legal protections for animals, zoo-based conservation, and reintroduction programs undertaken since 1993, when the United Nations established the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The success stories are remarkable.

For example, the Puerto Rican amazon, which is a small parrot from the Caribbean island, was down to just 13 known individuals in the wild as of 1975. After a reintroduction program, its numbers have rebounded to about 600 today.

The Przewalski's horse of Mongolia were considered extinct in the wild as of the 1960s. But today, after reintroduction efforts in the '90s, there are about 760 of them roaming the steppes once again, enough that they are able to sustain themselves. There are about 2,000 in all, all of which descend from just 12 of the horses.

The Iberian lynx, endemic to Spain and Portugal, was down to just 90 known individuals as recently as the mid 2000s.

But Spain embarked upon an intense breeding and conservation effort to bring the Iberian lynx back from the brink.

After enacting strict anti-poaching legislation and encouraging growth of the rabbit population — which is the lynx's favorite food — by 2015, the lynx's population had rebounded to at least 327. That was enough for the IUCN to improve its status from critically endangered to endangered.

The IUCN's red list was critical to the study.

The researchers gathered data from 137 experts around the globe on things like population size, trends, threats, and conservation efforts, and used it all to whittle down a longlist of 17,046 bird and mammal species to 81 listed as threatened on the IUCN's list, according to The Guardian.

From there, the researchers calculated the species most likely to have become extinct by now without conservation efforts.

So, it's not a precise measurement.

However, the researchers are confidant that between 21 and 32 bird species extinctions and seven and 16 mammal extinctions have been prevented thanks to conservation efforts.

The study's authors say that their paper should spur more and more conservation efforts to bring more species back from the brink.

As Newcastle University's Phil McGowan told The Guardian: "The loss of entire species can be stopped if there is sufficient will to do so. This is a call to action: showing the scale of the issue and what we can achieve if we act now to support conservation and prevent extinction."

h/t: The Guardian

Filed Under: