It seems like every time you sign onto the internet, watch the news, or read the newspaper, all you see is bad news. Stories about wars, terrorist attacks, the effects of climate change, hate crimes, and people just hating on each other in general are widespread. In fact, it’s hard to find a feel-good story anywhere these days.
Well, today I am going to give you just that…a feel-good story! Thanks to the efforts of a number of organizations around the world, several animals are coming back from the brink of extinction! Below are 8 of these animals and their miraculous stories.
1. Louisiana Black Bear
What’s so special about this bear that people would fight so hard for its survival? Well, not only is this beautiful creature the state animal of Louisiana, in addition, the beloved stuffed animal, the teddy bear, was created because of a story surrounding this unique Bear.
In 1902, then U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt (nicknamed “Teddy” even though he hated it) went on a hunting expedition in Mississippi. He hired Holt Collier, an expert bear hunter who had killed thousands of bears, to lead the hunt. Although other hunters in the expedition killed bears that day, President Roosevelt had not had any such luck. So, his attendants found, clubbed and tied a black bear to a tree and instructed the president to shoot it. He refused because he felt it was unsportsmanlike, but instructed the others to put the suffering creature out of its misery.
The story of this incident quickly spread to Washington, D.C. where Clifford Berryman, political cartoonist for the Washington Post, created a cartoon depicting the scene. Berryman drew the bear in the likeness of an adorable, cuddly little bear. The cartoon inspired Morris Michton to create a stuffed version of the animal and the rest is history!
Regardless of the Teddy Bear’s popularity, the Louisiana Black Bear almost went extinct. Only 150 were thought to remain in the wild in 1992. Thanks to the hard work of conservationists, the population is now over 700!
2. Steller Sea Lion
The Stellar’s Sea Lion is native to Alaska, but ranges as far south as central California’s coast. It is an enormous, impressive creature that can weigh up to 700 pounds and grow to 8 ft in length! The seals are named after naturalist Georg Wilhelm StellerYet, who first mentioned them in his writings in 1741.
The population began to rapidly decline in the 1970’s due to hunting, over-fishing of Alaska pollock and herring, and natural and human-caused disasters. There was only an estimated 18.000 Stellar’s Sea Lions left in the wild in 1979. In 1990, NOAA (National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration) put this magnificent animal on their endangered list.
Usually, the animals placed on NOAA’s endangered list are removed because they actually go extinct. The first exception to this was when the gray whale made a comeback in the early 1990’s.
But, now the Stellar’s Sea Lion has done what the gray whale did! Conservationists believe there are now over 70,000 Stellar’s Sea Lions in the world, and the population increases by over 4% every year! Saved from extinction! Yay!
Even more good news, manatees have also recently been removed from the endangered species list. Read more…
3. Lake Erie Water Snake
You might think that saving one “creepy” snake from extinction isn’t a big deal. But, keep in mind that when one creature goes extinct, it disrupts the entire ecosystem of the area where it once lived. Look what happened when the grey wolf was reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park. Enough said.
This non-venomous snake was placed on the endangered list of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1999. The major causes of the snakes’ endangered status were loss of habitat and killing by humans.
But, thanks to public education, habitat protection and community involvement, the snake has made a comeback from the brink of extinction! In fact, by 2011, it had made a big enough recovery in numbers to be removed from the endangered list!
Although the snake is non-venomous, it will bite when threatened. Always use caution when dealing with a wild animal and call an expert to remove the animal if you feel you cannot safely do so yourself.
4. North American Grey Wolf
Speaking of the grey wolf, it was also once in danger of extinction and was placed on the endangered list in the 1970’s. In fact, the grey wolf is the only animal that was purposely brought the edge of extinction because they were thought to be pests in need of elimination. In the 1960’s, the U.S. Government actually implemented policy to control the wolf population as they were believed to be a threat to humans and livestock.
The last 300 wolves left in the continental U.S. lived in the deep woods of upper Michigan and Minnesota – only surviving by running at the first sight of humans. After being protected by the Endangered Species Act in 1974, the wolves began to make a comeback.
The first wild pack of wolves made their way from Canada in the 1980’s and settled in Glacier National Park, Montana. They became known as the “Magic Pack” and their return was celebrated by conservationists everywhere! They were removed from the endangered list in 2011.
The North American Grey Wolf’s cousin, The Mexican Grey Wolf, has also made a miraculous recovery. After conservationists captured the last 4 males and 1 female thought to remain in the wild, they were placed in a captive breeding program. As their numbers increased, they were released back into the wild in a re-introduction project by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1998.
Animals aren’t the only ones who need help. A species of bumblebee in the United States has also recently found itself protected. Read more…
5. Indian Rhinoceros
Several hundred years ago, it’s believed that upwards of 1 million or more Indian Rhinoceros made their home in India. They happily roamed the subcontinent from Bangladesh to modern Pakistan. Then, in the early 20th century, they became the target of big game hunters. By the early 1900’s, they were nearly extinct. In fact, the population of this magnificent animal was only 600 in 1970 and in 1975, it was extinct in Bhutan and Bangladesh.
Thanks to conservation efforts, the population has grown to 5,000 rhinos known to be alive in the wild. While the animal was taken off the endangered list in 2008, it still remains threatened. Illegal hunting, loss of habitat and rhino horn poaching are the biggest threats. Work is still being done to increase protected areas and make them more secure from poachers.
6. The Giant Panda
I’m ending my list with the “poster child of endangered species,” the Giant Panda. I call it that because the World Wildlife Fund uses the panda’s image in their logo. The Giant Panda became threatened with extinction due to loss of habitat, slow reproductive rate (both in the wild and in captivity) and hunting by locals for its soft fur. By the 1960’s, this adorable animal had practically vanished from the wild.
Thanks to efforts by the World Wildlife Fund and other conservation groups, the wild population of pandas is believed to be around 3,000 today! Although it was taken off the endangered list in 2016, the Giant Panda is still a threatened species. Thankfully, there are many projects throughout the People’s Republic of China working to ensure that the Giant Panda is around for a very long time!