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Conservation Success for Threatened Species

With all the news of threats to biodiversity and species out there, sometimes it’s tough to remember that conservation succeeds. In 2013, fifteen species had their conservation status genuinely downgraded to lower threat categories on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This means that there was sufficient evidence that their populations were increasing and there was a decrease in the perceived threat to the species. Throughout the year IUCN will bring you many more conservation success stories from the past several years. To get started, here are five of the species from 2013 that are moving in the right direction .

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The Disco Cactus Discocactus horstii

Vulnerable D2 ver 3.1
The entire population is located within the Parque Estadual de Grão Mogol. Photograph courtesy of JM Solichon

This Discocactus species has a very restricted range. It is known from only three locations in Brazil that are all within 100km2 and all of these cacti are found within 6km2. It declined substantially in the past due to collection for the international horticulture trade as well as local quartz extraction. However, populations are currently stable as the entire population is under strict protection. As a result, in 2013 it jumped from an Endangered to a Vulnerable species. Read more here.

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Red-cockaded Woodpecker Picoides borealis  

Red cockaded  Woodpecker (Picoides borealis)_NT_Francesco Veronesi
The Red Cockaded Woodpecker is depedent old-growth pine forest of the Southeastern United States. Photo Courtesy of Francesco Veronesi

The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker was once widespread and relatively common in the Southeastern United States. From the late 1800s to the mid-1900s, it declined rapidly due to the extensive alteration of mature pine forests and saw continued steep declines in the 1960s and 1970s. Conservation emphasis has been on intensive site-specific methods and “Safe Harbor” schemes that offer financial incentives to private landowners who undertake beneficial management prescriptions which has allowed it to move from a Vulnerable species to a Near Threatened Species.

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Costa Rica Brook Frog Duellmanohyla uranochroa

Costa Rica Brook Frog (Duellmanohyla uranochroa)_EN_Brian Kubicki (2)
The Costa Rica Brook Frog inhabits humid lowland and montane forest.. Photo Courtesy of Brian Kubicki

The Brook Frog was a historically common species in Costa Rica. However, by 2002 it had experienced severe declines throughout its range and there is evidence that the chytrid fungus is to blame. It is currently known to exist only in a handful of small subpopulations in the Cordillera region of Costa Rica and Panama. As of 2013 these subpopulations were increasing slightly which led to its change from Critically Endangered to Endangered. Further survey work is required to monitor the population status and trends of the approximately 150 individuals in the wild. Read more here.

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Channel Island Fox Urocyon littoralis

Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis)_NT_Guy Incognito
Island Foxes are restricted to the six largest of the eight California Channel Islands located off the coast of southern California, USA. Photo Courtesy of Guy Incognito

The major threats to the Channel Island Fox were predation by non-native Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) and the introduction of the canine distemper virus. Their recovery from a Critically Endangered to a Near Threatened species was due to a coordinated plan to reduce the pressures on this species by non-native species including feral pigs and golden eagles. Many individuals were also vaccinated for canine distemper disease. Their successful reintroduction required a captive breeding program and ongoing larger ecosystem recovery actions and monitoring. Read more here.

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Rodrigues Warbler Acrocephalus rodericanus

Rodrigues Warbler (Acrocephalus rodericanus)_Jon Hornbuckle
This species has been down-listed from Endangered following evidence that its population is increasing and is now much larger than previously estimated. Photo courtesy of Jon Hornbuckle

Rodrigues Warbler is a small bird from the island nation of Mauritius—perhaps most biologically famous as being the only known habitat of the Dodo. It was once quite common, but saw steep declines due to reductions in native habitat as a result of timber harvesting, subsistence farming, feral livestock and other invasive species. Current conservation actions are focused on habitat protection and reforestation that have begun due to the need for watershed protection and populations of this formerly Endangered species are healthy and increasing and it is now classified as Near Threatened . Read more here.

With the proper attention of decision-makers and the support of conservationists and local people, the conservation of species works! Congratulations to these five, all of the species that have recovered from the brink of extinction,  and hopefully the many more species taking steps in the positive direction in the wild and on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.