Since the ratification of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, many species have been saved from extinction. For over three decades, the Endangered Species Act has served as America’s safety net for wildlife. Its purpose, to protect fish, plants and wildlife from going extinct is yet to be reached but many species are on the road to recovery. As of April 3, 2007, there are 1,326 species on the threatened and endangered lists but many have been saved. Here are 10 of their most notable success stories:
1. Prairie Dog – Prairie Dog After a large extermination effort in the early 1900s, prairie dogs habitat had been reduced by 98%. Their population was drastically reduced, from almost 100,000 to 3,000. They are one of only two prairie dog species with federal protection, and estimates were below 1,500 individuals in the 1970’s. Their persecution started in the 1920s because it was believed that the species damaged rangeland. The species received the status of endangered in 1973 and was reclassified as threatened in 1984 after some minor recovery. By 1981, that number had nearly tripled, back to almost its original number just eight years after the passing of the Endangered Species Act. Colonies at Bryce Canyon were reestablished in 1974, and the park now protects a few major populations.
2. Whooping Crane – Whooping CraneIn the late 1800s, there were about 1,500 birds in Western Canada and the U.S. Conservation efforts begun in 1938 have resulted in a slow increase. Now, there’s an effort to reintroduce the birds to their winter home in Florida. But that involves teaching the captive-bred birds how to migrate from their northern nesting grounds by following an ultra-light aircraft. In 40 years, the cranes’ population increased from 50 to approximately 500.
3. Grizzly Bear – These Brown Bears were once abundant in North America, but now are close to disappearing forever. The grizzly bear is listed as threatened in the contiguous United States, and endangered in parts of Canada. What is more worrying is that bear hunting is still legal in Alaska and some parts of Canada. Still, it seems that these symbols of Earth are making a come-back: the population increased from increased from 271 to over 580 bears in the Yellowstone area between 1975 and 2005
4. Bald Eagle – The bald eagle is probably some of the most successful American wildlife story. Bald EagleIt reached the edge of extinction due to hunting, habitat loss and the effects of pesticides. Bald eagle populations dropped from more than 100,000 nesting eagles at that time to only about 400 breeding pairs in 1963. Adult female birds were affected the pesticide DDT that prevented them from laying healthy eggs. The bird was declared an endangered species in the U.S. in 1967. After massive conservation efforts, there are more than 7,500 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states today.
5. Gray Wolf – Heavily persecuted in Europe, the wolf became extinct in England in 1486, Scotland in 1743, and Ireland in 1770. In the first part of the 20th century in North America, it was believed that wolves caused widespread livestock losses, thus reducing their population considerably. Heavy involvement in this issue lead to a massive increase of the population in Northern Rockies, Southwest, and Great Lakes, the reintroduction experiment being a resounding success.
6. Green Sea Turtle – Probably the oldest animal on Earth, that witnessed the dinosaurs’ destruction, Green Sea Turtlethe green turtle was hunted for food and for the cosmetics and clothing industries. Being an important part of the the beach/dune and the marine systems, their extinction would have a negative impact on these environments. Although still on the endangered species list, efforts lead to an increase in the creatures’ nests. Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida, the Marine Mammal Center in Northern California and the Sea Turtle Inc. organization in South Padre Island, TX are only a few of the organizations involved in saving these fascinating animals.
7. Key Deer – Hunted enthusiastically over a century ago, the key deer was a rare animal in the 1950, only 25 members of the species remaining. The conservation movement for these creatures began in Louisiana, aided by the new Federal laws. Road kills from drivers on U.S. Route 1 are one of the major threats for these animals, 40 deers being killed each year. To help with the conservation efforts, key deers were given the National Key Deer Refuge, 8,500 acres of land on Big Pine. today, their population is close to reaching 1,000.
8. Florida Panther – The Florida panther, Florida’s state animal, is one of the most endangered mammals on earth. Florida PantherOnce on the brink of extinction, the population is now getting close to 100 felines. Two of the most important threats for the panther are are automobile injuries and aggression between panthers for territory. The loss of habitat has the most important impact on the population, since panthers need large areas with an adequate number of prey. Scientists say Florida’s current panther population is perhaps the greatest it’s been in the past fifty years.
9. Kirtland’s Warbler – Fire suppression led to decline in suitable habitat for nesting, while nest parasites led to a decrease in the number of Warbler birds. It has restrictive breeding range requirements, preferring 5-20 year old jack pine trees and sandy soil for its nest. From 210 pairs in 1971, the birds population reached 1,000 pairs in 2001 due to intense conservation efforts following the Endangered Species Act. Today, 150,000 acres of public land are reserved for Kirtland’s warbler management.
10. American Alligator – The American alligator is one of the two living species of Alligator and one of the largest reptiles in North America. American AlligatorHumans are the American alligators main threat to survival. Sadly, they are hunted for their meat and their skin used to produce various leather goods. Conservation efforts have helped the American alligator make a comebac, now being fully recovered and consequently removed the animal from the list of endangered species.