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Here are 5 times when humans helped Earth's creatures survive.

Sometimes in the course of human events, we screw things up. Sometimes we also realize what we've done and try to fix it.

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Discovery - Racing Extinction

Sometimes in the course of human events, we really really screw things up. Some of those screwups have small consequences. Others almost wipe out entire species.

Fortunately, sometimes we also realize what we've done and try to fix it. And even succeed.


Here are five times when good conservation saved animals we couldn't imagine our world without and and what we could do to help out right now.

1. That time hand puppets helped save the California condor

The California condor has an image problem. It's a giant roadkill-eating vulture with a bald head and a face only another condor could love. So, in grand human tradition, we did our best to get rid of them.

Photo by George Kathy Klinich/Flickr.

After decades of being hunted and losing its habitat, the California condor was at the brink of extinction. By 1982, there were only 22 California condors living in the world.

Conservationists sprung into action. They captured the 22 remaining condors and placed them into two captive breeding programs. To ensure that new baby condors bonded only to other birds, human handlers raised them with little puppets that looked like condor heads.

Yes, really.

By all accounts, their recovery has been remarkable. By 1990, enough new condors had been born for some to be released back into the wild. By 2014, there were 421 California condors, 228 of which lived in the wild. The species is still considered endangered.

2. How whaling bans saved the humpback

By 1986, it was so much of a given that humans would render humpback whales extinct, that Hollywood even made a blockbuster Star Trek movie about us doing it. After all, we came pretty close.

GIF via "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home."

Throughout the last two centuries, baleen whales like the humpback were a popular target for ocean-going hunters. While exact numbers are unknown, historians estimate that 90% of the global humpback population — about 200,000 whales — were killed by whaling between 1904 and 1966. When the ban was instated, only 5,000 whales remained worldwide.


Photo by Christopher Michel/Flickr.

Once the threat of whaling was removed, humpback populations bounced back rapidly. There are now an estimated 80,000 humpbacks worldwide, with large populations in the Northern Pacific and Northern Atlantic and the Southern Hemisphere. As of 2009, the International Union for Conservation of Nature considers them an animal of "least concern."

3. How banning a pesticide brought the brown pelican back from the brink

Rachel Carson wrote "Silent Spring" in 1967. In her attempt to explain how pesticides like DDT were poisoning entire animal food chains, she helped birth the entire environmental movement. This was good news for the brown pelican — one of the most beloved birds on the U.S.'s south coast.

Photo by Kevin Cole/Flickr.

DDT makes brown pelican eggshells thin and brittle, causing them to break when pelican mothers try to incubate them. Researchers quickly made the connection: No eggs means no new brown pelicans. Without intervention, this unique species would have been extinct within a decade.

Thanks to conservation efforts, 1972's nationwide DDT ban, and the signing of the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1973, brown pelican populations have had an impressive recovery. By 2009, all subspecies of the brown pelican had large enough populations to be delisted as endangered.

4. The world's largest tiger finally has its day

War leaves victims everywhere it touches, even in the animal kingdom.

There are no official statistics on how large the Siberian tiger population was before the Russian Civil War, but we do know how many were left afterward. By 1935, only 40 Siberian tigers remained in the wild.

Photo by Matthias Appel/Flickr.

The Soviet government banned tiger hunting from 1947 until its dissolution in 1991. During that time, populations increased slightly to several hundred tigers, but massive threats still remained from habitat loss and poachers selling tiger parts to Chinese markets.

Starting in 2010, the Russian government got serious about tiger conservation. They started a Global Tiger Day, unveiled new monitoring and research programs to study current and potential tiger habitats, and launched new regulations to fight poachers.

It appears to be working. As of 2015, there are an estimated 480-540 Siberian tigers in far eastern Russia, including 100 cubs.

5. Before conservation organizations ever existed, ranchers helped save the bison

The European colonization of North America continues to have many, many casualties, but few are quite so unnecessary, brazen, and shocking as what happened to the bison.

Photo by Doreen Van Ryswyk/USFWS/Flickr.

Before the 19th century, there were more than 20 million bison roaming the prairie — being chill and eating grass — with a small number sustainably hunted by Native Americans.

Then came the Europeans with their rifles, railroads and manifest destiny. In a few short decades almost all of the bison were slaughtered — mostly for their hides and their tongues. By 1889, just over 1,000 bison remained.

With extinction seeming inevitable, ranchers and amateur conservationists began raising their own herds to try to save the species. Conservation organizations also joined the cause, helping to create Yellowstone and Wood Buffalo National Parks as safe spaces for wild bison to roam. Today, about 500,000 bison live in North America mostly in privately-owned herds. 15,000 roam free.

We can change things. We've done it before. We'll do it again.

And that makes me want to dance. Like the currently endangered panda you can learn more about by clicking below.

Conservation is hard work, but real, positive results can happen. Especially if we're willing to face how we ended up in this situation in the first place. Learn more about what you can do to help at Racing Extinction's website. And if you wanna share the times we made a difference, that'd be awesome.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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