Yes, conservation efforts do work.
A number of animals who had all but disappeared in Europe have been making a comeback: that’s the cheering news from an analysis by the Zoological Society of London, Birdlife and the European Bird Census Council. Researchers looked at 18 mammals and 19 bird species across Europe and discovered that the numbers of all but one, the Iberian lynx, had increased since 1960.
“People have this general picture of Europe that we’ve lost all our nature and our wildlife.
“And I think what the rest of the world can learn from this is that conservation actually works. If we have the resources, a proper strategy, if we use our efforts, it actually works.”
Legal protections including a bird directive and a habitat directive, limits on hunting and changing demographics — people leaving rural areas for the city — have all played a part.
1. European bison
The largest herbivore in Europe, the European bison or wisent went extinct in the wild in the early 20th century as a result of hunting and habitat loss. Wild populations were reintroduced in central and eastern Europe, with a stronghold in Poland and Belarus, after a large-scale breeding program. The total population is now almost 3,000 individuals.
2. Eurasian beaver
Once widespread in Europe and Asia, the Eurasian beaver‘s numbers were drastically reduced to some 1,200 individuals in the early 20th century as a result of hunting for its fur and castoreum (a substance from their castor sacs used in perfumes, for medicinal purposes and as a flavoring for food). By 2006, the beavers’ numbers resurged to 639,000.
3. Grey wolf
The wolf’s numbers have grown by 30 percent in the past few decades. The return of the wolf — especially to Western European countries such as Germany and the Netherlands — is unnerving farmers, some of whom have lost sheep or other livestock to the predators.
4. White-headed duck
A migratory species that winters in Spain, the white-headed duck’s numbers have experienced a very rapid decline due to the draining and drying out (in part due to climate change) of the lakes in Central Asia where it breeds, and to competition from the socially dominant non-native North American Ruddy Duck. An estimated 7,900-13,100 individuals remain. In Spain, the decline in the duck’s numbers in Spain has been halted thanks to a ban on hunting.
Photos from Thinkstock
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