Scientists associated with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) are doling out a dose of good news today. After more than a century of coordinated conservation efforts, the organization is rolling out its "9 for '19" list of recovering species expected to do better this year as a result of conservation efforts.
WCS consulted with scientists working under the Global Conservation Program and at the organization's zoos and aquarium for their take on the conservation status of some of the world's most iconic wildlife species. Founded in 1895 under the leadership of Theodore Roosevelt, the non-profit organization's mission is to conserve the world's largest wild places, prioritizing 16 regions home to more than half of the planet's biodiversity.
Burmese Star Tortoises
Found only in a dry region in central Myanmar, the Burmese star tortoise (Geochelone platynota) populations were decimated by demand from wildlife markets in southern China in the mid-1990s, ultimately leading to a classification of ecologically extinct. Collaborative efforts thereafter started with 175 individual turtles, most of which had been confiscated from wildlife traffickers, in captive breeding facilities. Now, experts estimate there are around 14,000 tortoises in both the wild and captivity, with 750 animals already released into now-protected areas.
Greater Adjutant Stork in Cambodia
Dubbed the world's rarest stork, Southeast Asia's greater adjutant storks (Leptoptilos dubius) have been brought back from the brink of extinction following local efforts to protect their flooded forest home on Cambodia's Tonle Sap. Their numbers had plummeted following unregulated collection of eggs and chicks in conjunction with the destruction of their primary nesting habitat. Today, populations have grown from just 30 to more than 200 pairs.
Jaguars in South America
After having their forested habitat depleted in the face of human development, the jaguar (Panthera onca) has been decimated across much of its historic range in Central America and is currently limited to northern Argentina. Conservation efforts over the last three decades have helped populations to grow by an average of almost 8 percent each year in certain regions, with signs of recovery in their northern ranges and a possible return to the southern US.
Around the world, humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) populations were once pushed to the edge of existence following intensive whaling practices. Now, their numbers are increasing across the globe with as much as 90 percent of populations recovered in certain regions namely due to international protection.