For the final blog for conservation biology class I thought it would be nice to highlight some conservation success stories, just to come out of this with a good feeling that we are able to turn things around if we need to. So I searched for some success stories and found some on BIRDS!!! that I would like to summarize here.
First, I’m going to talk about the Wood Duck. Its populations decreased drastically in the late 1800’s due to over-hunting and the loss of its wetland habitat. The Wood Duck was almost brought to the brink of extinction. But, simply by closing the hunting seasons for the Wood Duck for several decades, the numbers of this good-looking duck have increased dramatically, and it now actually occurs over a wider range in North America than it ever did before. This was helped by the duck’s high reproductive rate; Wood Ducks typically lay 10-14 eggs. Also, the construction of nest boxes has been important in bringing them back. So now we’re allowed to hunt Wood Ducks again. The Wood Duck is one of my favourite ducks – they’re so cool looking and are like the North American equivalent of the Mandarin Duck in Asia, which is I think supposed to be a symbol of fidelity.
Next, let’s look at the famous success story of the Whooping Crane. This bird, like the Wood Duck, declined due to over-hunting and loss of its prairie marsh habitat. At one point only 16 individuals returned to a regular wintering area on the Texas coast. With the protection of breeding and nesting grounds, and stopover sites, and with captive breeding and release programs, the numbers of Whooping Crane have increased to a more stable population size. They’re future is not set in stone yet, though. Time is still required for population numbers to reach a totally safe level.
And now, a success story from one of the coolest birds around: the Peregrine Falcon. For over 3 decades this raptor was classified as an endangered species. The biggest cause of population declines was DDT, which caused reproductive failure by causing thin egg shells. With the banning of DDT in 1972 and intensive conservation efforts including artificial insemination, incubation, and fostering young peregrines to other raptor species, the species has made a great recovery. It is no longer endangered, but its number are still being monitored closely.
And last but not least, the California Condor. This species had suffered a century-long collapse until only 21 individuals remained in the wild. All of these super-critically endangered animals were captured in the 1980s, and had to be treated for lead poisoning. Captive breeding programs were established at zoos in the United States, and today the population has reached over 150 birds, and efforts are still underway to ensure the maximum amount of outbreeding occurs. California Condors are still vulnerable to environmental poisoning like lead poisoning, and collisions with power lines can be fatal. The captive-breeding programs are still vital to the survival of the population.
So I guess I didn’t leave off on as positive a note as I would of liked, but these conservation success stories still show us that conservation efforts can be very successful. These are only a few examples of success stories, which can be found all over the world. These stories show us that even in the most desperate situations, our efforts can, literally, bring species back to life.