Endangered Wild Animals - Some Good News Stories From Asia

Steven Katsineris welcomes the news that there are signs of resurgence in some wildlife communities. Steven Katsineris is  Melbourne based writer and activist. 

With lots of bad news regarding so many species of threatened wildlife that are in danger of extinction, it is very encouraging to read some good reports about endangered wild animals. Recently, there was really wonderful news about one of the world’s most iconic animals, the Giant Panda. The Giant Panda population has risen by 268 individuals over the last decade, increasing to a total of 1,864 animals, according to the latest Chinese survey. This represents a total rise of 16.8 percent. 

Found only in China, Giant Pandas are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The only surviving member of its genus, the giant panda lives almost solely on bamboo. It's currently threatened by habitat loss and land degradation. 

In addition to a rising population the survey found that Giant Pandas are also expanding their range. The species now covers 2.57 million hectares, an expansion of 11.8 percent since 2003 with about a third of the animals inhabiting range outside of protected areas.

"A lot of good work is being done around wild Giant Panda conservation and the government has done well to integrate these efforts and partner with conservation organizations including WWF." said Xiaohai Liu, the World Wildlife Fund-China's executive director of programs. 

There has also been cheery news regarding Indian Rhino conservation. Even as poaching increases in India, there is also positive cause for optimism. A paper published this month by Assam’s environmental ministry reveals that the population of Indian One-horned Rhinos in the state has grown by 27 percent since 2006, hitting a high of 2,544 animals. This puts the population well on track toward the Indian government’s goal of 3,000 rhinos by 2020. Smaller Indian Rhino populations live in neighbouring Nepal.

That represents a tremendous success for conservation, said Barney Long of the World Wildlife Fund, pointing out that there were only about 200 Indian Rhinos in the early 1900s. “I think this is a lovely story of conservation success, despite the hideous poaching crisis that we’re in,” he said.

“We know how to save rhinos,” he added. “You have to protect their habitat and you have to protect the animals themselves.”A third element involves moving the animals into new, safe habitats as their populations increase. “When rhinos get too dense of a population, they decrease their breeding rate,” Long said.

And there was further splendid news from India, this time about Bengal Tigers. India’s tiger population has increased by nearly 30% over the last four years! A recent census showed numbers of these forest-dwelling big cats reached 2,226 last year. While poaching remains the greatest threat to wild tigers today, the latest count released by the Government of India proves that this tiger species can recover and thrive.

India is unique in having a significant number of tigers in the wild, in spite of growing population and resource extraction pressures on their habitat. The latest estimate of tigers in various landscapes published by the Ministry of Environment and Forests claims an appreciable rise in numbers of the big cat, up from 1,706 four years ago, to 2,226 in 2014 in India’s various nature reserves, ranging from the hills in the Northeast to central Indian forests and the Western Ghats, to the mangrove-rich Sundarbans delta. India’s great efforts give it a special standing in the global conservation field. Some Indian states deserve credit for strengthening the protection of wild tigers. This shows the need to improve those aspects that lead to a rise in tiger numbers, voluntary relocation of forest-dwellers from core forests, a severe crackdown on the hunting of prey animals, improved patrols against poaching, safeguards against harmful land-use changes and constant monitoring. Conserving Bengal Tigers is increasingly focussed on saving ‘source populations’ of these big cats.

More inspiring news too is that the Amur Leopard population has also increased. The population of one of the world's rarest leopards has doubled in the past eight years, showing that recent conservation efforts are beginning to bear fruit.

At least 57 Amur Leopards now exist in Russia’s National park "Land of the Leopard", up from just 30 cats counted in 2007, according to new census data announced recently. In an amazing tale of recovery, Amur Leopard populations have more than doubled in just eight years. The data reveals Amur Leopards in Russia’s Land of the Leopard National Park now number at least 57 cats, as well an additional 8-12 Amur Leopards were counted in adjoining areas of China.

For the census, camera traps were spread out over more than 900,000 acres of leopard habitat. Scientists then reviewed 10,000 images and identified nearly 60 individual animals, judging by the distinctive pattern of spots on the leopards’ fur. The census was carried out by the Land of the Leopard National Park jointly with the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, with the support of The Amur Leopard Center and WWF-Russia.

Established in 2012, the Land of the Leopard National Park includes all of the Amur Leopard’s known breeding areas and about 60 percent of the critically endangered cat’s remaining habitat. 

Conservationists are also working towards monitoring leopard populations across the border in neighbouring Chinese nature reserves. One of the highly anticipated next steps would be the establishment of a Sino-Russian trans-boundary nature reserve.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done in order to secure a safe future for the Amur leopard, but these numbers demonstrate that things are moving in the right direction,” said Dr. Barney Long, Director of Species Conservation for WWF-US.

The dramatic good news for Amur Leopards comes on the heels of WWF’s release of the first footage of a family of rare Amur Tigers inside China. Both animals share the same habitat.

The key to successful wildlife conservation involves strong protection of habitat and wildlife reserves. But while habitat loss is one of the main threats to endangered animals, there are several other threats, so a survival strategy requires a multi-faceted focus to preserve these endangered species. Wildlife organisations also need to protect animals from poachers and try to reduce human/wildlife conflict, by providing community based, sensitive sustainable development and conservation programs that raise awareness and support for threatened species projects. It is crucial that people participate in the efforts to preserve habitat and protect these rare animal species. Most wildlife groups realise community involvement is a vital part of the solution to the loss of the world’s precious wildlife. 

In these marvellous examples we can see that wildlife conservation efforts to save some of the world’s rarest animals are working in bringing endangered species back from the brink of extinction. Let’s hope there’s even more good news soon!

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