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By: Ron Mwangaguhunga
A little over forty years ago something amazing, monumental in fact, happened in the animal conservation world. The first step to raising awareness about the severity of declining animal populations was taken. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 established federal listings of animals as either a “Threatened” or “Endangered” species, sending out a national warning. Today, animal-lovers and creatures everywhere have something to celebrate.
Four decades later, our world is a better place because of it, and hopefully positive change will continue to be made. In 2012, a report titled On Time, On Target by the Center for Biological Diversity showed the great success of the ESA. The ESA has helped 90% of the 110 protected species get on the right path to meeting recovery goals set by federal scientists. Here are 5 species that are no longer endangered:
The American Alligator – a creature that often goes hand in hand with Florida – has been, by far, the greatest success of the ESA. Hunting for sport and skin as well as massive habitat loss led to the American Crocodile’s listing as Endangered in 1975. By 1987, however, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced the American Alligator had fully recovered. This animal can live for up to fifty years in the wild! Now, American Alligators are strong in numbers with a hearty population of about 5 million. Right now, they are designated as Threatened, meaning there is still work to be done, but .
Fun Fact: The American Alligator can weigh up to half a ton.
It is impossible to undermine the effects that the harmful pesticide DDT, now banned for over forty years, has had on birds in America. DDT thins the shells of birds, hurting their chances of survival at the very start of life. That, along with lead poisoning, illegal shooting and habitat loss reduced the population of California Condors to a devastating total population of 27! California Condors were nearly extinct by 1987. That same year the US government put in place a drastic program to capture all the remaining birds and save the species.
Luckily, the bird breeds well in captivity, and under the care of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the Los Angeles Zoo, the populations began climbing. In 2009, some of the population was reintroduced into the wild, and by October 2014 there were over 400 living in either the wild or in captivity.
Fun Fact: California Condors have wingspans of 10 feet!
If the American Alligator is symbolic of Florida, than the bald eagle is totemic of the entire United States. Once again, DDT decimated the population of these majestic birds. By 1967 there were only 487 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states. By 2006 there were nearly 1,000 breading pairs.
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Commission. US Fish and Wildlife changed the listing of the Bald Eagle in 1995 from Endangered to Threatened. Finally, Bald Eagles were removed from the Threatened list in 2007. A truly incredible feat for this animal and our country. Again, the thriving Bald Eagle population can be contributed to the 1970’s ban on the outdoor use of DDT.
By 1938 there were as few as 21 counted Whooping Cranes. Woah. In 1967 the long legged, wading bird was listed as Endangered due to unregulated hunting. Habitat loss in Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, and Kansas further threatened their very existence. It was through human intervention, intensive habitat management, nest protection, captive breeding and reintroductions that the once extremely endangered species is now making a recovery. By 2011, the population, though still considered very rare, was estimated at 599.
Although the population may not be what it was hundreds of years ago, the bird nests in three principal protected areas: Central Florida, Wood Buffalo National Park (Arkansas) and Wisconsin.
Fun Fact: Whooping Cranes are America’s tallest bird at just under five feet as a fully grown adult!
The Gray Wolf is another iconic animal, native to the Rocky Mountain West. Wolves were listed as Endangered at the outset of the ESA. Plagued by bounty hunting, these animals were considered the bane of farmers since the days of the Wild West. Between the 19th Century and 1967, when they were officially listed as an Endangered species, most of the Gray Wolf population had been decimated in the lower 48 states. Under a well regimented process of recolonization, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and Idaho in the 80s and 90s. The result? Growing populations sprouting in regions all across the US. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, by 2015 there were 3,606 Grey Wolves living in the Great Lakes States,1,782 in the Northern Rockies, 20 outside the Northern Rockies district, 97 in the Southwest and over 7,000 living in Alaska.
A huge thank you to the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for implementing the ESA, and for all of their unprecedented hard work, dedication, and service to saving and protecting the animals in our country.