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.

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.

Most Shared
True
Discovery - Racing Extinction


Climate change is happening because the earth is warming at an accelerated rate, a significant portion of that acceleration is due to human activity, and not taking measures to mitigate it will have disastrous consequences for life as we know it.

In other words: Earth is heating up, it's kinda our fault, and if we don't fix it, we're screwed.

This is the consensus of the vast majority of the world's scientists who study such things for a living. Case closed. End of story.

How do we know this to be true? Because pretty much every reputable scientific organization on the planet has examined and endorsed these conclusions. Thousands of climate studies have been done, and multiple peer-reviewed studies have been done on those studies, showing that somewhere between 84 and 97 percent of active climate science experts support these conclusions. In fact, the majority of those studies put the consensus well above 90%.

Keep Reading Show less
Nature

As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

Keep Reading Show less
Packard Foundation
True

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Amy Johnson

The first day of school can be both exciting and scary at the same time — especially if it's your first day ever, as was the case for a nervous four-year-old in Wisconsin. But with a little help from a kind bus driver, he was able to get over his fear.

Axel was "super excited" waiting for the bus in Augusta with his mom, Amy Johnson, until it came time to actually get on.

"He was all smiles when he saw me around the corner and I started to slow down and that's when you could see his face start to change," his bus driver, Isabel "Izzy" Lane, told WEAU.

The scared boy wouldn't get on the bus without help from his mom, so she picked him up and carried him aboard, trying to give him a pep talk.

"He started to cling to me and I told him, 'Buddy, you got this and will have so much fun!'" Johnson told Fox 7.

Keep Reading Show less
Most Shared