The Proliferation of Hope


Environmental destruction seems to be all around us all the time: Poaching, habitat destruction, growing markets for ivory and bushmeat, political strife and increasing human population are reducing wildlife populations for many key species.

The Western snowy plover is an endangered shorebird that suffers from human recreation. Beach lovers disturb the chicks or trample the nests, often without knowing it. But by erecting a simple rope marker and signs, and using docents to educate the public, conservation managers have seen approximately 20 to 60 chicks fledge each year for the past decade. Credit:

In the early 90s, it seemed that the rhino had made a successful comeback from the brink of extinction, elephants numbered roughly 1.5 million, cheetah-breeding programs seemed to have saved the rare cat from extinction, and estimates put the African lion population at roughly 350,000.

By 2012, however, the most comprehensive research project done on lions, completed by Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, found only 32,000 lions, a 75 percent decline from their more conservative estimate of 100,000 in 1962. The study’s abstract notes, “Lion populations in West and Central Africa are acutely threatened with many recent, local extinctions even in nominally protected areas.”

Elephant numbers have dropped to between 450,000 and 700,000. A recently-published study reported in National Geographic found that 100,000 elephants were slaughtered in the three-year period leading up to the summer of 2014.

The most comprehensive air-survey ever conducted in Botswana (by Dr. Michael Chase of Elephants without Borders) found a 61 percent decline in 11 species in Ngamiland – the northern region of the country – since a previous 1996 survey. Wildebeest have all but vanished from the plains, their tally having dropped by 90 percent from 23,538 to 1,985 – far below the minimum sustainable number of breeding —> Read More