These species managed to beat the odds and find their way back from the brink. So much of what happens to them is caused by man: loss of habitat, hunting, poaching, toxic substances. Thankfully, with things such as the Endangered Species Act, we’ve got legislation put into place in order to safeguard this country’s wildlife. These types of laws have helped to save numerous species from dying off completely.
Giant Galapagos Tortoise
These guys faced a whole bunch of challenges, but thanks to a conservation action that included a successful captive breeding program, they now breed happily on the island of Española. At one point, the population was down to a mere 15. But today, over 1,000 of them live there—and that number continues to grow. Unfortunately, the giant Galapagos tortoise had faced some pretty bad odds that were a culmination of several factors and told a story that spanned 40 years. Eradication of feral goats (which were brought to the island in the 19th century) played a major part in their survival. After that, biologists worked to rearrange the island’s ecology, moving from grasses to more woody plants. Shrubs and trees were once preventing the growth of cacti, which is a big part of the tortoise diet. That says a lot—these animals can get to be up to 475 pounds!
Thanks to the protection granted to them by the Endangered Species Act, rehabilitation efforts, and increased pesticide regulation, the brown pelican has been able to make gigantic strides in the struggle for survival. By the time the 1970s rolled around, these guys had almost completely disappeared from the United States. The pesticide known as DDT, which invaded their food supply and caused them to produce thin eggshells, caused most of this problem. When pelican mothers would attempt to keep their eggs warm, simply standing on top of them would crush the eggs. Between 1968 and 1980, we reintroduced 1,276 brown pelicans into Louisiana. They’re populated along the Atlantic coast and the Eastern coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Thankfully, nearly 30 years later, there were an estimated 11,000 nesting pairs producing fledglings. Today, we have seen quite a resurgence.
The American bison have a long history of fighting for survival. Thanks to the efforts of private ranchers and places such as Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and Montana’s National Bison Range, they’ve managed to massively increase their population. In the late 1800s, the bison had gone from millions to just 100. Just over 100 years later, that number went up to 2,100. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service public herds in North America are now numbering 25,000 bison and private herds have 250,000. This great deed was really pulled off by individuals who took action and maintained private herds. Ted Turner bought his first bison in 1976. Now, with 51,000 bison across 14 ranches, he has the largest private herd in the world.
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