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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.

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

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."