Conservationists have made progress in getting animals delisted from the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA) and making sure that their species are no longer threatened by extinction. Their dedicated work of protecting critically imperiled species has payed off, managing to settle proper enclosed environments that encourage reproduction and offer favorable living conditions. The ESA has been signed by President Richard Nixon in 1973, as a consequence of international economic growth that does not take natural conservation into consideration. The ESA aims to protect critically endangered species from extinction. Let’s see some examples of species that have been delisted from the ESA.
The bald eagle is a success story. The species was victim of habitat disruption and destruction, illegal shooting and contamination of food as a consequence of massive use of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). In the 1950s, when the pesticide was in widespread use, it affected the bird eggshells and diminished growth. The population decreased from 300,000+ to just over 400 nesting pairs in the continental United States. Bald Eagle Protection Act prohibited trapping and shooting of the big birds and banned the use of DDT on USA territory. This helped with bald eagle population growth and the species successfully managed to be delisted from the ESA in August 2007. Despite the fact that the population successfully recovered, both Bald and Golden Eagles are still protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and the Bald and Golden Eagle ACT (BGEA).
Another DDT victim in both USA and Canada was the peregrine falcon. The substance was sprayed on farmland and affected the food intake greatly. Since the peregrine falcon is a predator, the species absorbed high amounts of DDT from their prey, both birds and fish. Breeding was also affected because the substance was lowering the bird’s eggshell calcium content to levels fatal for fledglings. The DDT was banned in the 1970s and the peregrine falcon managed to recover enough to be delisted from Endangered Species Act by 1999.
Hunting and habitat destruction impacted alligator populations throughout their entire historic range, and the survival and growth of the species became doubtful. Listed as threatened in 1967, alligators were in great need of protection when Fish & Wildlife joined forces with state wildlife management agencies for effective regulation of alligator meat and skin trade.
Both Fish & Wildlife and the state agencies contributed to the alligator’s recovery in areas where it had disappeared. States monitored their alligator populations closely, to make sure they would continue to increase. In 1987, Fish & Wildlife delisted the species from the Endangered Species Act. The alligator products trade is still regulated, but the conservation status is now in the Least Concern * category of Fish & Wildlife and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The black-footed ferret’s population decimated by disease and by massive poisoning of its main prey, the prairie dog. Ranchers and farmers implemented vast campaigns to get rid of prairie dogs because they were considered pests. The ferrets populations became fragmented, isolated and therefore unable to reproduce. This caused inbreeding and increased the possibility of epidemic disease. By 1985, there were about 10 known black-footed ferrets in the wild. The remaining ferrets were captured and combined with 6 ferrets that were already in captivity. Captive breeding has been successful and conservationists now estimate more than 1,500 living in the wild, still being listed as endangered because ranchers insist on reducing prairie dog populations on their lands.
DDT and poisoning from bullet fragments ingested with carrion, collisions with power lines and fatal contacts with human firearms nearly wiped out the California condor. In 1987, Fish & Wildlife captured the 22 remaining members of the species and put them into a captive breeding program. The program focused on training the birds, aiming to teach them how to avoid human contact and power lines, so they could survive after the program ended. By 2013, there were 435 condors in the wild and in captivity, the species still being critically endangered.
How to Help still Endangered Species
An effective helping method has been the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”, alerting Americans that DDT accumulates in toxic concentrations in the natural habitat and animals can no longer reproduce. She proved that birds of prey were dying out because DDT weakened their eggshells so they collapsed under the bird’s weight and incubation failed. Her writing brought about the ban on DDT, saving the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon, and inspired the Endangered Species Act, a legislative success story. But this is not enough.
What to do about species that are still endangered? Learn about them and support the Endangered Species Act. No law has been better in conserving wildlife, for it created the effective environment to reproduce and breed, managing to delist many species and implement further initiatives to preserve the wildlife.
* The three main conservation status categories and eight subcategories from most to least concern:
Extinct (EX): No known individual survives.
Extinct in the Wild (EW): Survives only in captivity.
Critically Endangered (CR): Extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
Endangered (EN): High risk of extinction in the wild.
Vulnerable (VU): High risk of endangerment in the wild.
Near Threatened (NT): Likely to become endangered in the near future.
Least Concern (LC): Lowest risk, widespread and abundant taxa.