Save the turtles

7 animals humans brought back from the brink of extinction

The U.S. almost lost its bald eagles — but conservation efforts have saved this species and many others.

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Humans aren’t always the best at caring for the world around us.

Anthropogenic climate change is one searing example — our actions are already wreaking havoc on numerous plant and animal species.

But there are some situations where human intervention has been a force for good.

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Conservation efforts around the globe have helped bring a number of species back from the brink. Restored populations have also had long-term benefits for entire ecosystems.

Here are 7 species that got a new lease on life, thanks to humans:

7. Brush-tailed bettong

This small marsupial vanished from mainland Australia for over a century. But in August 2021, they were reintroduced in small numbers as part of a government repopulation program.

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Bettongs were once prosperous and covered 60 percent of the island, but were threatened by cats and foxes introduced by European settlers.

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They may be small, but they help keep the native ecosystem healthy.

Bettongs’ tendency to dig in the dirt for food spreads seeds and cycle nutrients in the soil.

6. Florida panther

Though still endangered, this prowler has been the subject of several conservation efforts since it was added to the endangered species list in 1973.

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Its population has gone from just a few dozen in the wild to over 200 cats in recent years.

5. Yellowstone wolves

Wolves were hunted to extinction in Yellowstone during the 1920s. But reintroduction efforts have flipped an unbalanced ecosystem back into order.

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Today, the presence of gray wolves has boosted beaver populations, and helped keep skyrocketing numbers of elk in check.

It’s even helped restore native flora that disappeared when the wolves weren’t around.

4. Sea turtles

Long-term conservation efforts from the U.S. to Thailand are paying off: some sea turtle populations are making a comeback.

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Surveys in 2019 and 2020 found that populations of green turtles and leatherbacks increased significantly over the decades.

But these populations are still at risk, thanks to warming oceans and other factors.

5. Beluga Whales

Some subspecies of beluga are endangered, while others suffer in captivity. But conservation and government groups are trying to save the whales from extinction.

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In the wild, the Cook Inlet beluga, which is currently endangered, is protected by the Endangered Species Act.

It still faces many preventable, human-caused threats — such as pollution and climate change. But there is a glimmer of hope.

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An open-water sanctuary in Iceland started rehabilitating captive belugas in 2020 before reintroducing them to the wild — the first project of its kind.

2. Star Tortoise

In the early 2000s, only a few hundred of these tortoises were left in Myanmar. Captive breeding programs helped bring the population back from the brink.

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In 2017, experts estimated that there are around 14,000 tortoises living in the wild, thanks to human intervention.

1. Bald Eagle

Yes, the symbolic bird of the United States once almost went extinct.

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Aggressive hunting, relocation, and poisoning in fish from a chemical called DDT almost wiped out the bald eagle.

But protections from the Endangered Species Act in 1972 spurred conservation efforts — and today the species is no longer endangered.

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Over the past 12 years, population numbers quadrupled to over 316,000 birds in the lower 48 states.

Read more stories about animals here.

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