Habitat destruction, poaching, pollution, climate change: Humans have many ways of pushing species to the brink of extinction. In recent years, we’ve shoved some species over the edge entirely.
The planet, scientists say, is currently on the precipice of the sixth mass extinction ― also known as the anthropocene extinction, or one caused by human activity. It’s an epoch that could see us wiping out at least 75 percent of the Earth’s species.
But while humans have triggered an extinction episode that researchers say is “unparalleled for 65 million years,” humanity has also shown that it can undo some of the damage it has caused.
In recent years, humans have managed to pull a weird parrot, a tiny fox, a rare tiger, an ancient tortoise, a threatened gorilla and a rather handsome mountain goat, among other creatures, from the jaws of extinction.
“We definitely caused the problem and we’re trying to undo it,” said Andrew Digby, a conservationist who has dedicated years to the recovery of the kakapo, a parrot native to New Zealand.
Sometimes the damage humans cause is irreparable. But as these conservation success stories illustrate, efforts to redeem ourselves can have profound and positive impacts.
At the rate we’re going, humans could kill off two-thirds of all wildlife by 2020, according to a WWF report released last year. But experts stress that it’s not too late to turn the tide.
“We might be on the brink of a mass extinction, but we can still avoid it,” Mark Williams, a paleobiology professor at England’s University of Leicester, told HuffPost in December. “We haven’t lost the biodiversity yet. All is to play for.”
These conservation success stories are a reminder of what can be achieved when governments, local communities and activists join forces to protect species under threat.
“Conservation is more than worthwhile,” Cayot said. “It is essential. The world needs this diversity. It’s beyond just ecological processes, it’s something bigger. We live on this planet and we need to keep it healthy.”
Dominique Mosbergen is a reporter at The Huffington Post covering climate change, extreme weather and extinction. Send tips or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.