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Conservation In Action: 10 Species On The Road To Recovery Hot

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Captive Mangshan Pit Viper

In celebrating their 10th anniversary ARKive have launched a campaign to champion the important message that no conservation challenge is a lost cause if knowledge, dedication and strong partnerships are put into play.

ARKive have worked closely with the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Specialist Groups to select and highlight ten very different species to be ambassadors for conservation. All of the chosen species have the unfortunate distinction of being at risk of extinction should their plight be ignored.
However, a further factor linking these ten species is that each one has been put on the road to recovery thanks to targeted conservation efforts led by dedicated scientific experts, and all are expected to improve in status over the next ten years should this extremely important work continue.

The ten species selected are:

1. Kemp’s ridley turtle


Kemp’s ridley turtle is one of the smallest marine turtles, and unlike many other similar species it is known to nest during the day. In addition to deaths caused as a result of being caught in shrimp trawl fisheries, over-exploitation of both the eggs and adults contributed to a severe decline in Kemp’s ridley turtle in the 1950s and 1960s. Increased legal protection and promotion of the use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in shrimp trawl fisheries have both played a big part in helping Kemp’s ridley numbers to recover somewhat in recent years.

2. Scimitar-horned oryx


Overhunting for meat and hides caused a rapid decline in the scimitar-horned oryx during the 20th century. With the added threats of drought, desertification and habitat loss, the scimitar-horned oryx disappeared from its range, and was declared as Extinct in the Wild. The scimitar-horned oryx is now the subject of a captive breeding programme, which aims to eventually reintroduce the species to its natural habitat.

3. Asian white-backed vulture 


The Asian white-backed vulture has suffered severe declines as a result of feeding on livestock carcasses treated with the veterinary drug diclofenac. By 2007, a devastating 99.9% of the Asian white-backed vulture population had disappeared. Breeding centres have been set up to help save the Asian white-backed vulture, and several countries have banned the manufacture and importation of diclofenac.

4. Lord Howe Island stick insect 


The Lord Howe Island stick insect is currently only found on Ball’s Pyramid, a tiny Pacific Ocean island administered by Australia. The main threat to the Lord Howe Island stick insect is the presence of rats in its habitat – an eradication programme is being planned to rid the island of the predatory mammals and return the Lord Howe Island stick insect to its home. Growing up to an impressive 13 cm in length, the Lord Howe Island stick insect is a heavy-bodied species, with the males having enlarged, spiny hind legs.

5. Juliana’s golden-mole


Juliana’s golden-mole is one of Africa’s oldest mammals, and despite its misleading name is closely related to African elephants, aardvarks and manatees. Although Juliana’s golden-mole has eyes, they are non-functional and are covered in fur. Extensive habitat destruction and fragmentation has led to a decline in Juliana’s golden-mole, but conservationists are working hard to help implement projects to save this wonderful species.

6. Holokea


Holokea is an extremely rare Hawaiian plant found only on the eastern part of the island of Maui. Habitat degradation and declines in bird species which are important in pollinating holokea have both contributed to the plant’s population reduction. Holokea’s habitat has since been restored, and the species is being carefully propagated in special nurseries before being planted back in the wild.

7. Kihansi spray toad


A tiny amphibian measuring just two centimetres in length, the Kihansi spray toad is a fascinating species endemic to the Kihansi River Gorge in Tanzania. A devastating combination of habitat loss and disease led to severe declines in the Kihansi spray toad, and led to this species being classified as Extinct in the Wild. Thanks to the efforts of conservationists, the Kihansi spray toad has now been returned to its native habitat.

8. Brown teal


Once the most abundant waterfowl species in New Zealand, the brown teal suffered massive declines as a result of the introduction of mammalian predators such as ferrets, cats and dogs. Habitat loss is another major threat to the brown teal, and by 2004 the population stood at just 1,000 individuals. Targeted conservation measures are in place to help save the brown teal, including habitat restoration, predator eradication and the captive breeding of the brown teal for release.

9. Largetooth sawfish


Growing up to an impressive six metres in length, the largetooth sawfish is a relative of sharks and rays which is named for its long, saw-like rostrum. Unfortunately, excess coastal fishing pressure has led to a severe depletion in the largetooth sawfish population, and although this species is now generally not targeted by fishermen, its saw still makes it vulnerable to becoming accidentally caught in fishing nets. A global Conservation Strategy has been developed for all five sawfish species, including the largetooth sawfish, which aims to help secure a future for these unusual animals.

10. Mangshan pit viper


As its name suggests, the Mangshan pit viper is only found around the Mangshan Mountain area of China’s Hunan Province. The Mangshan pit viper has suffered severe losses as a result of habitat destruction and overexploitation for food, trade and medicinal purposes, and its population now stands at only about 500 individuals. Captive breeding programmes have been established to boost the Mangshan pit viper population, and its listing on Appendix II of CITES should go some way to help control commercial trade in this species. 

While the work of conservationists and scientific experts is a vital component in the fight against species extinctions, we are also keen to highlight the role that members of the general public can play in the future survival of Earth’s incredible biodiversity. By learning more about the natural world around them and understanding its importance, it is hoped that people will be inspired to take action in their daily lives to safeguard our invaluable species and ecosystems.
From recycling and limiting plastic usage to making wiser seafood choices and supporting some of the many hundreds of organisations and scientists who devote their lives to conservation, we can all strive towards building a healthier planet.
Join us on our journey of discovery, as we uncover the true importance of conservation, and celebrate its successes, at: http://www.arkive.org/conservation-in-action.

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Arne Purves
Author: Arne PurvesWebsite: http://www.arnepurves.co.zaEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Arne's passion for the environment, wildlife and conservation was instilled from an early age, leading to a career in nature conservation, first as a game ranger in the Natal Parks Board, a conservation officer with CapeNature and today in the City of Cape Town's Environmental Compliance Department. Photography is his creative medium of choice.