As we celebrate the start of a New Year and a new decade, I have decided to take a look back at what has been happening in the world of conservation over the last ten years.

The IUCN red list has been releasing a lot of statements over the past few months concerning the worrying decline in animal species populations. Within the last decade according to the IUCN’s website, 435 species have been declared extinct. That’s 378 animals and 57 plant species. I’m going to be focusing on animal species throughout this blog and out of the 378 animal species now gone forever, 159 were birds, 75 were mammals, 40 were fish, 20 were reptiles and 2 were amphibians.

Now, this may not even be all of the species which are have become extinct in the last ten years (this is due to the lack of data available). These are the species which have been declared officially extinct in the last decade due to them not being seen for a number of years, even decades.

Lonesome George

One of the most publicized extinctions in the last ten years was the Pinta Giant Tortoise. You may not have heard of the species, but you may have heard of Lonesome George the Giant Tortoise. George was the last of the Pinta Giant Tortoise species, he died on the 24th June 2012 meaning the end of his species.

George was first seen on the island of Pinta in 1971, but he was the only one of his species found. His species disappeared due to a lack of food on the island- because of feral goats which had been introduced there by humans. George was taken into captivity for his own safety whilst researchers tried to find a female of his species. A reward of $10,000 was even offered by the researchers of the Darwin Research Station for a suitable mate. George’s body has been preserved and is currently on display at the Charles Darwin Research Station on the Galapagos Islands.

Conservation over the last decade blog.
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeweston/ [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeweston/ [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Endangered Species

More than 30,000 species are now threatened with extinction. That’s 27% of all species that have been assessed so this number could sadly be even higher.

There are 8007 species of animals which are classed as Endangered, these include:

Cuban Crocodiles, Edwards Pheasants, Cotton Top Tamarins, White-Cheeked Gibbons, Visayan Warty Pigs, Spiny Hill Turtles, Red-Breasted Geese, Grey Crowned Cranes, Yellow Headed Amazons, Umbrella Cockatoos, Javan Sparrows, Ringtailed Lemurs, Barbary Macaques, Muellers Gibbons, Tigers, Red Pandas, Chimpanzees, Bornean Orangutans, African Grey Parrots and Rhinoceros Iguanas.

All of these species we house here at Wingham Wildlife Park.

Chimpanzee at Wingham WIldlife Park, Kent.
Visayan Warty Pigs at Wingham Wildlife Park, Kent
Bornean Orangutan at Wingham Wildlife Park, Kent
tiger at Wingham Wildlife Park, Kent
Cotton topped Tamarin at Wingham Wildlife Park, Kent
Red Panda at Wingham Wildlife Park, Kent
Edward's pheasant at Wingham Wildlife Park
Ring-tailed lemur at Wingham Wildlife Park, Kent
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Extinction in 2019

There have also unfortunately been 10 more species declared extinct in the wild this year. One of these species is the Spix’s Macaw. The children’s animated film Rio, is based on this species, although it is referred to as the blue macaw during the film (apart from when the character Tulio Monteiro, the ornithologist refers to their scientific name Cyanopsitta spixii). Lets hope that at some point this beautiful bird will be able to be returned to its natural range in Brazil from remaining captive populations, just like in Rio 2.

Hope for Endangered Species

Out of the 8007 species currently listed as endangered, only 58 have a population which is increasing. That’s only 0.72%, but it is still an increase in numbers. These include species such as, the California Condor, Blue Whale, Iberian Lynx, Gharials, Black Rhino and Przewalski Horse.

Some of this good news is due to having captive breed to release programs such as with the California Condor. This species was declared extinct in the wild in 1987, with all the remaining 27 individuals captured and taken to Los Angeles and San Diego Zoos.

Through captive breeding, their re-introduction back to the wild started in 1991 and in 2018 their numbers had increased to 488 between both captive and wild populations.

Conservation over the last decade. Credit: PhilArmitage [Public domain]
Credit: PhilArmitage [Public domain]

If you would like to do your own research about animal populations please visit the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species website or learn more about conservation at WWP here.

About Ruth - Head Keeper

Ruth is the head keeper at Wingham Wildlife Park, having been with the park since 2008. When the park was first taken over all of the keepers looked after all of the species, and as such Ruth has a wide range of abilities with the animals here, giving her the right skill set as our head keeper. When she is out of the office (which is most of the time), she specialises in primates.