Human expansion comes at a cost, and nowhere is that cost more apparent than in the biological diversity of the natural habitats surrounding us. Countless species have been driven to extinction by human activity. However, for much of the losses we have observed, active efforts of conservationists have been able to bring numerous species back from the brink of extinction, though there is always more work to do.
Species saved from extinction
Steller sea lion
Steller sea lions are indigenous to the West Coast of the United States. In 1979, their numbers had dropped down to 18,000 as a result of offshore drilling, hunting, and drift nets. Fortunately, continued rehabilitation efforts proved successful. By 2010, their population had risen to 70,000, and they were removed from the endangered species list in 2013.
Gray wolves once roamed the United States in plentiful numbers, but the threat they posed to livestock and human populations created hunting efforts that drove them to near extinction. By 1960, there were only 300 surviving gray wolves in the forests of Wisconsin and Minnesota. Their numbers recovered throughout the conservation efforts of subsequent decades, especially with their introduction to natural parks that encompassed their natural habitats. Their status as endangered is a topic of controversy, but their numbers have greatly improved from the verge of near extinction to the tens of thousands.
Golden lion tamarin
Logging and mining throughout the Brazilian rainforests has decimated countless natural habitats, and the golden lion tamarin is one of many displaced and endangered species that fell victim to these projects. Conservation efforts began in the 1980s. Today, almost one third of all surviving golden lion tamarins were raised by humans.
Southern white rhino
The last male northern white rhino died in 2018, rendering the species functionally extinct. Thankfully, efforts to save their southern cousins throughout Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe have proven successful. Though the southern white rhino still face threats from poaching efforts, their numbers have steadily increased since early conservation efforts. They were numbered at around 20,000 as of 2016.
Galapagos giant tortoise
Galapagos turtles were a favored cargo aboard ships in the 20th century as they could survive for up to a year without food or water, providing fresh meat and a source of water for wayward sailors. Habitat destruction and later poaching efforts brought their numbers down from around 250,000 to 3,000 by 1970. Captive breeding and decreased deforestation helped to bring their numbers back up to 20,000 in recent years.
Currently endangered species
Blue whales roamed all of earth’s oceans up and until the 20th century. Whalers drove their populations to near extinction, and their numbers still struggle to recover.
Gorillas re-divided into two distinct species (Eastern and Western), both comprising another two subspecies of lowland and mountain gorillas. They are all endangered. The largest extant populations of gorillas, both lowland and mountain, reside in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Iberian lynx is the most endangered feline species, of which there are several. Ongoing conservation efforts work to bring their numbers up, with the most recent population count at around 400.
Pygmy slow loris
The pygmy slow loris is a small primate found in Vietnam, Laos, eastern Cambodia, and China. The nocturnal creatures have been hunted for traditional medicinal remedies and smuggled as pets, leading to their listing by IUCN as vulnerable.
The population of California condor declined throughout the 20th century down to only 22 documented members of the species. The remaining birds were taken into captivity in the 1987 and reintroduced in the early 90s. Their population numbers were estimated at 446 as of 2016.