Whether on land, in the air, or in the water, plants and animals large and small are struggling. In the tropical sub-regions of the Americas, for example, wildlife populations have plummeted by 94% since 1970.
Overall, more than 1 million species of animals and plants face extinction, experts say. It’s a serious situation, but there is hope in the form of people striving to boost biodiversity through rewilding and conservation efforts. Here are some success stories, which could point the way to further positive outcomes in the future.
Gibbons in China
Off the southern coast of mainland China lies the island of Hainan. It’s home to the Hainan gibbon, which although endemic to the island is in a perilous state. Only around 30 of these primates remain, all residing within the Hainan Bawangling National Nature Reserve. Following loss of habitat caused by a 2014 typhoon, conservationists have constructed rope crossings to join separate parts of the forest together for the gibbons.
As such, being able to travel via the forest canopy from one area to another – in search of food, water and shelter – is vital. The Hainan rope crossings helped bridge gaps created by storm damage.
The Tasmanian Devil
The Tasmanian Devil was wiped out in mainland Australia around 3,000 years ago, mostly as a result of being outcompeted by other carnivores, such as the dingo. Confined to the island of Tasmania – hence the name – these small marsupials then suffered a 90% population collapse in the wake of disease.
Now, a charity called Aussie Ark has started to rewild parts of Australia with Tasmanian Devils. Weighing up to 8kg, the Tasmanian Devil is about the size of a small dog. Yet it is an apex predator, not to mention the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial.
South American jaguars
The jaguar is the world’s third-largest cat and South America’s largest predator. Like other big cats, it has come close to extinction. Hunting and habitat loss came close to seeing them disappear completely from parts of the continent – in Argentina today, there are only around 200 left.
The United Nations Environment Programme and the Global Rewilding Alliance are reintroducing this magnificent creature to one of its former natural habitats in the northeast of the country: the Iberá wetlands.
In January 2021, a female adult jaguar and her two (captive-born) cubs were released there as part of a rewilding programme that will eventually return 20 jaguars to the area.
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