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8 Animals That Are No Longer Endangered

by Kirsten Howard

In September 2016, almost 50 years of constant breeding and conservation, the giant panda was removed from the endangered species list. Once a common sight in southern China, the panda’s number dropped dramatically due to poaching and skin trading until the 1980s, when the Chinese government began to cracked down on its persecution. Now, there are just under 2000 giant pandas left in the world—a 17 percent increase since 2002.

It’s not the first time a species has been dragged back from the brink. Here are eight other animals that have fought their way back from oblivion—with a lot of help from protected status, conservation laws, and dedicated biologists.

1. THE AMERICAN ALLIGATOR

It may seem ludicrous now that alligators are so plentiful in the United States, often turning up in gardens and on screen as a popular way to die in horror films, but once upon a time, the humble alligator was on the verge of extinction, thanks to the popularity of its skin as material for shoes, jackets, and bags.

During the late 1960s, the alligator was added to the Endangered Species Preservation Act. Twenty years later, they were well on their way back from their dwindling numbers, and in 1987 were declared fully recovered [PDF].

2. THE WHITE RHINO

South Africa’s white rhino went from discovery to near-extinction in just 75 years. In the 1800s, European settlers annihilated the population for sport, and the species was thought to be completely destroyed. But in 1885, 20 remaining white rhinos were discovered in a remote location in Kwazulu-Natal. They were protected and bred for more than a hundred years, and there are now a robust 20,000 white rhinos in the wild.

3. THE GRIZZLY BEAR

The undisputed apex predator of the western United States, the grizzly bear was once on the verge of disappearing from the country forever. In the 1970s, however, when it was discovered that there were only about 140 left, the grizzly was placed on the Endangered Species List in 1975. Now, there are around 1200 wandering around Yellowstone and the Rocky Mountain West—and about 50,000 in the world. They're doing so well, some say they should be taken off the endangered species list. 

4. THE SIBERIAN TIGER

The Siberian tiger—the biggest cat in the world, native to Russia, China and Korea—was heavily hunted until the mid-1940s, when Russia finally banned killing tigers. The Russian population has steadily risen from just 40 to around 500, but China and Korea haven’t seen one around for ages.

5. THE ISLAND FOX

The island fox, which is endemic to California's Channel Islands, suffered a 90 percent population decrease in the 1990s, when pesticide use wiped out bald eagles on the islands. Eagerly replacing the fish-loving bald eagles were their fox-hungry counterparts, the golden eagle—which quickly set about demolishing the cat-sized island fox.

It took a huge conservation effort to bring the island fox back from near-extinction, as bald eagles were reintroduced, golden ones relocated, and feral pigs spread around for prey—all while the foxes were bred in captivity to increase their numbers.

The operation has been enough of a success that three subspecies of island fox have been removed from the endangered species list. One remains on the list but has has been reclassified as "threatened."

6. THE GOLDEN MONKEY

Brazil’s golden lion tamarind makes its home in the Atlantic rainforest near the bustling populations of Rio and Sao Paolo. Consequently, the monkeys' numbers dwindled to around 200 after 93 percent of the rainforest was cut and cleared. Conservationists and government programs have struggled since the 1980s to boost the monkey’s numbers using a variety of methods, and the population has steadily risen to about 1000. However, the population must double before it'll be removed from the list.

7. THE WOOD STORK

A large American wading bird, the wood stork’s population has dropped by 90 percent since the 1930s, landing it on the endangered species list in. Thanks to cooperation between governments and conservation groups in restoring wetlands in the southern U.S., the wood stork population is back up around 6000. Its status was upgraded to "threatened" in 2014.

8. PRZEWALSKI'S HORSE

You might imagine there are plenty of wild horses roaming around the planet right now, but actually the horses we tend to think are wild are domesticated horses that have escaped or been released from protection. There is only one true kind of wild horse left on the entire planet—and that’s Przewalski’s horse.

Found as far back as 20,000 years ago in cave paintings, this horse is the ancestor of every horse we see around these days, but a combination of human domestication and environmental issues meant that by the 1960s, they were considered extinct. Just nine remaining horses from zoos have been used since then to recolonize their old habitat in Mongolia, China, and the Ukraine (where they can be seen roaming around the former site of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant). Today there are about 50 animals. With such small numbers, they're still considered endangered.

Original image
Sylke Rohrlach, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0
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Animals
Scientists Discover 'Octlantis,' a Bustling Octopus City
Original image
Sylke Rohrlach, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Octopuses are insanely talented: They’ve been observed building forts, playing games, and even walking on dry land. But one area where the cephalopods come up short is in the social department. At least that’s what marine biologists used to believe. Now a newly discovered underwater community, dubbed Octlantis, is prompting scientists to call their characterization of octopuses as loners into question.

As Quartz reports, the so-called octopus city is located in Jervis Bay off Australia’s east coast. The patch of seafloor is populated by as many as 15 gloomy octopuses, a.k.a. common Sydney octopuses (octopus tetricus). Previous observations of the creatures led scientists to think they were strictly solitary, not counting their yearly mating rituals. But in Octlantis, octopuses communicate by changing colors, evict each other from dens, and live side by side. In addition to interacting with their neighbors, the gloomy octopuses have helped build the infrastructure of the city itself. On top of the rock formation they call home, they’ve stored mounds of clam and scallop shells and shaped them into shelters.

There is one other known gloomy octopus community similar to this one, and it may help scientists understand how and why they form. The original site, called Octopolis, was discovered in the same bay in 2009. Unlike Octlantis, Octopolis was centered around a manmade object that had sunk to the seabed and provided dens for up to 16 octopuses at a time. The researchers studying it had assumed it was a freak occurrence. But this new city, built around a natural habitat, shows that gloomy octopuses in the area may be evolving to be more social.

If that's the case, it's unclear why such octo-cities are so uncommon. "Relative to the more typical solitary life, the costs and benefits of living in aggregations and investing in interactions remain to be documented," the researchers who discovered the group wrote in a paper published in Marine and Freshwater Behavior and Physiology [PDF].

It’s also possible that for the first time in history humans have the resources to see octopus villages that perhaps have always been bustling beneath the sea surface.

[h/t Quartz]

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iStock
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This Just In
Criminal Gangs Are Smuggling Illegal Rhino Horns as Jewelry
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iStock

Valuable jewelry isn't always made from precious metals or gems. Wildlife smugglers in Africa are increasingly evading the law by disguising illegally harvested rhinoceros horns as wearable baubles and trinkets, according to a new study conducted by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.

As BBC News reports, TRAFFIC analyzed 456 wildlife seizure records—recorded between 2010 and June 2017—to trace illegal rhino horn trade routes and identify smuggling methods. In a report, the organization noted that criminals have disguised rhino horns in the past using all kinds of creative methods, including covering the parts with aluminum foil, coating them in wax, or smearing them with toothpaste or shampoo to mask the scent of decay. But as recent seizures in South Africa suggest, Chinese trafficking networks within the nation are now concealing the coveted product by shaping horns into beads, disks, bangles, necklaces, and other objects, like bowls and cups. The protrusions are also ground into powder and stored in bags along with horn bits and shavings.

"It's very worrying," Julian Rademeyer, a project leader with TRAFFIC, told BBC News. "Because if someone's walking through the airport wearing a necklace made of rhino horn, who is going to stop them? Police are looking for a piece of horn and whole horns."

Rhino horn is a hot commodity in Asia. The keratin parts have traditionally been ground up and used to make medicines for illnesses like rheumatism or cancer, although there's no scientific evidence that these treatments work. And in recent years, horn objects have become status symbols among wealthy men in countries like Vietnam.

"A large number of people prefer the powder, but there are those who use it for lucky charms,” Melville Saayman, a professor at South Africa's North-West University who studies the rhino horn trade, told ABC News. “So they would like a piece of the horn."

According to TRAFFIC, at least 1249 rhino horns—together weighing more than five tons—were seized globally between 2010 and June 2017. The majority of these rhino horn shipments originated in southern Africa, with the greatest demand coming from Vietnam and China. The product is mostly smuggled by air, but routes change and shift depending on border controls and law enforcement resources.

Conservationists warn that this booming illegal trade has led to a precipitous decline in Africa's rhinoceros population: At least 7100 of the nation's rhinos have been killed over the past decade, according to one estimate, and only around 25,000 remain today. Meanwhile, Save the Rhino International, a UK-based conservation charity, told BBC News that if current poaching trends continue, rhinos could go extinct in the wild within the next 10 years.

[h/t BBC News]

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