While the topic of endangered species can sometimes be disheartening, an important piece of it is celebrating the ongoing recovery efforts that are helping to bring back iconic species around the world. Species recovery is an essential part of WWF’s conservation work as it is crucial for an ecosystem’s long-term resilience and health. There are a few key species around the globe that are making a comeback and playing a critical role in their ecosystems in the meantime. Here are some of our favorite, recent recovery stories:
Black-footed ferrets in the Northern Great Plains
Black-footed ferrets, one of North America’s most endangered mammals, has been on the radar of conservationists in the Northern Great Plains of the United States for the last 30 years. Habitat declines of prairie dogs, their main prey, and non-native disease led to their extinction in the area. Recovery efforts have helped build the population of black-footed ferrets back up to about 300 animals, with a goal of eventually building up to 3,000. WWF leads this recovery effort with the help of tribal communities, their wildlife programs, public land and wildlife agencies, and other conservation organizations. Recovery of their population also signifies the health of the grassland ecosystem that they depend on.
Black rhinos in Namibia
In March of 2020, the classification of the southwestern black rhino changed from “vulnerable” to “near-threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This reclassification occurred after the population of black rhinos increased more than 11% between 2012 and 2017, up to over 2,000 individuals. While the species continues to face threats from poaching, the southwestern black rhino population has steadily increased since 2012 with the help of community-based game guards, increased monitoring efforts, and community engagement campaigns. WWF works with the government of Namibia, conservation partners, and local communities with the goal of fostering the population growth and long-term survival of black rhinos across the country.
Mountain gorillas in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo
The population of mountain gorillas, once thought to be extinct, has been increasing in the protected forests of Central Africa including Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda and the Virunga Mountains of Central Africa are the only two places on Earth where mountain gorillas can still be found. Reports show that in both areas the populations are rising, and the global population is now over 1,000 individuals. WWF will continue to help secure a future for mountain gorillas through the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP), a coalition of conservation organizations that formed in 1991. This coalition continues to work towards ensuring the long-term survival of mountain gorillas.
Swift foxes in Montana
In 2020, 27 swift foxes were brought to the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana from Wyoming. After a 51-year absence, a reintroduction program led by the Nakoda and Aaniih Nations began to bring the locally extinct species back to their native lands. One litter of pups has already been documented since the initial introduction back and an additional 48 swift foxes were released onto the grasslands in 2021. With the help of many partners including the Fort Belknap Indian Community and the Fort Belknap Fish and Wildlife Department, WWF is helping to establish a sustainable population back to the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana.
Tigers in Nepal
Nepal is on track to become the first of the world’s countries to double its wild tiger population since 2010. It is exciting news for the small country that is just one of the 13 tiger range countries that pledged to double the number of wild tigers in a global initiative known as TX2. According to the most recent survey done in Nepal there are an estimated 235 wild tigers in the country, nearly twice the number counted in 2009. This expansive tiger survey was led by WWF-Nepal, Nepal’s Department of National Parks, and the Wildlife Conservation Department of Forests. By strengthening their community-based antipoaching and monitoring efforts, Nepal is a great example to the rest of the tiger range countries about what is possible through collaboration and dedication. Hopefully, Nepal is the first of many countries to double their wild tiger populations.
How You Can Help!
Species recovery is critical to the work that WWF does around the world, and these are just a few of the many examples of how WWF is helping endangered and threatened species. You can help WWF with our species recovery efforts by continuing to support our project, and sharing it with your family, friends, and colleagues. Together we can protect vulnerable animal populations and continue to celebrate the comeback of iconic species around the globe!
naturepl.com / Will Burrard-Lucas / WWF