Today is the 12th annual Endangered Species Day! Every year, we organize celebrations and days of action around the country to celebrate conservation successes and work to make our world safer for endangered and threatened species. If you don’t already have plans, we have some ideas here for ways you can be a part of Endangered Species Day.
In the spirit of celebrating this 12th Endangered Species Day, we’ve put together 12 success stories in endangered species recovery. Tweet your favorite species success stories by clicking the bird icon and if you have other endangered species success stories you want to celebrate, please share them in the comments!
1: Bald Eagle By the early 1960’s, the count of nesting bald eagles plummeted to about 480 in the lower 48 states. Today, with some 14,000 breeding pairs in the skies over North America, the bald eagle endures as a testament to the strength and undeniable moral correctness of the Endangered Species Act.
2: American Alligator By the 1950s, the American alligator had been hunted and traded to near-extinction. Captive breeding and strong enforcement of habitat protections and hunting regulations have contributed to its resurgence. Alligators now number around 5 million from North Carolina through Texas, with the largest populations in Louisiana and Florida.
3: Green Sea Turtle In 1990, fewer than fifty green sea turtles were documented nesting at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s east coast. This 20-mile stretch of beach hosted more than 10,000 green sea turtle nests in 2013, making this one of the greatest conservation success stories of our time.
4: Piping Plover Development-related habitat loss, recreational hunting, and the feather trade pushed these beach-loving birds to perilously low numbers last century with as few as 550 pairs surviving. Their numbers have tripled following their protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1985.
5: Peregrine Falcon The U.S. population of peregrine falcons dropped from an estimated 3,900 in the mid-1940s to just 324 birds in 1975, and the falcon was considered locally extinct in the eastern United States. Their comeback has been truly remarkable–today, there are approximately 3,500 nesting pairs in the United States.
6: Channel Island Fox Three species of fox native to the Channel Islands off of the coast of California were near extinction in 2004 when they were granted protections under the Endangered Species Act. Today, Santa Rosa Island, Santa Cruz Island, San Miguel Island foxes have recovered and were removed from the endangered species list in 2016.
7: Humpback Whale Commercial whaling nearly drove humpback whales into extinction, slashing their population from around 125,000 individuals to a mere 1,200 in 1966. Thanks to protections afforded by the International Whaling Commission, the Endangered Species Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, these whales have recovered dramatically to more than 21,000 today.
8: Puerto Rican Parrot Hunting, deforestation, and other habitat losses drove the Puerto Rican parrot to near-extinction in the mid-twentieth century. Captive breeding and other conservation efforts made possible by the Endangered Species Act have allowed the Puerto Rican parrot to avoid extinction and increase gradually over the last several decades to 400 individuals.
9: Robbins’ Cinquefoil Although it was once close to extinction, today the original Robbins’ cinquefoil population in New Hampshire numbers around 14,000 plants. In a remarkable win for the Endangered Species Act, the Robbins’ cinquefoil was removed from the list of protected species in 2002.
10: Whooping Crane By the time the whooping crane was listed as endangered in 1967, just 50 birds remained. Whooping cranes remain one of North America’s most threatened birds due to oil and gas development and collisions with aerial power lines, but their recovery to an estimated 603 birds today is a testament to the progress that is made possible by the Endangered Species Act.
11: Brown Pelican Brown pelicans were dramatically impacted by habitat destruction and DDT. Driven to extinction in Louisiana, pelicans have made a dramatic comeback under the Endangered Species Act; in 2014, the population in Louisiana numbered 16,500 nesting pairs. Thanks to ambitious reintroduction programs, the brown pelican was fully delisted in 2009.
12: California Condor Lead poisoning from bullet fragments in carrion and the chemical DDT nearly drove California condors to extinction in the mid-twentieth century. The elimination of DDT and the protections of the Endangered Species Act prevented these birds from disappearing forever. California condors numbered as few as 10 in the wild in the 1980s and have rebounded to 435 worldwide, with 237 of them flying the skies of the Southwest.