Back from the Brink: 5 Conservation Success Stories of 2018

It’s not all bad news out there, but please don’t get too complacent. I want to highlight a few instances where species at risk have made an incredible recovery in 2018 — and to emphasize that this isn’t coincidental. The hard work and thoughtful legislation of wildlife management experts, government officials, nonprofits and NGOs made it possible for some of these species to survive another calendar year.

The IUCN Red List currently lists a thousand or so tracked species whose populations are trending upward, but another 20,000 are shrinking. And each year, more and more species go extinct. We don’t even know the total number, as many disappear before scientists have even discovered or studied them.

Still, these examples show that species conservation is possible. So let’s do more of it, better, each and every year. If you aren’t currently supporting a conservation organization, perhaps 2019 is the year you can start, with whatever you can afford in your monthly budget. Now, this year’s winners!

1. Humpback Whales

Yes! The humpback whale has been growing its population and continued to do so, according to a 2018 assessment. Since these marine mammals range throughout the Pacific and Atlantic, as well as the Southern Hemisphere, people around the world are able to enjoy this species.


It’s a huge relief that humpback whales have gone from endangered in the 1980s to vulnerable in the 1990s and are now designated “least concern” – not to mention still growing this very year. The humpbacks’ global range means international legislation played a key role in making this success happen.

2. Kakapos

This amazing parrot was actually featured in Douglas Adams’ excellent 1990 book about species on the edge of extinction, “Last Chance to See.” Six years later, the kakapo was extinct in the wild. But several years after that, a small captive population grew large enough that individuals could be reintroduced to their island habitat.

I’ve previously written about the kakapo, which managed to hang on even though the population dropped down to 100 or so individuals. Almost seven years since I wrote that article, the kakapo has increased its population only slightly, to 116 individuals – but from extinct in the wild to critically endangered still means we are moving in the right direction. Intense and continued conversation efforts will certainly continue to bear fruit with this species.

3. Keel-Scaled Boas

This snake is also critically endangered, but trending upward in 2018 — thanks to several years of conservation efforts, which have included reintroducing the reptile to parts of its historical range. In many environments, reptiles are keystone species — often as both predators and prey. This recovery is a heartening, indeed.

4. California Condors

California Condor

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Here, too, is an amazing conservation story. In 1987 the few remaining birds were actually removed from the wild, and an intense conservation program was begun. The condor has since been reintroduced, and these efforts have involved such amazingly specific measures as training the huge birds not to land on power lines, since their tremendous wing span meant they were in danger of connecting differential voltage potentials and channeling a deadly current through their bodies.

The species was assessed again this year, several years after being reintroduced to the wild. And while California condors remain critically endangered, the 2018 assessment measures their population as trending upward.

5. Round Island Day Geckos

This lizard was last assessed in 1996, at which point a conservation program began that included a broader effort to clear invasive species from the small island it calls home. After decades on the endangered list it was upgraded this year to merely “vulnerable”. Miracles can happen! But we all need to put in the work.

Photo credit: Getty Images


Tabot T
Tabot Tabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing!

heather g
heather g2 months ago

The Southern Right Whales are abundant around the Cape shores and come in close to show off their youngsters in areas known for whale watching from shore.
In the vast South African wildlife reserves, poaching is rife.

Gino C
Past Member 2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Frances G
Frances G2 months ago

thank you

Nena C
Nena C2 months ago

need more such success stories helping our earth's wildlife, 4 of so many is good start, we need our wildlife saved, once we lose them, mama earth is doomed as are inhabitants, so to those who don't GET it, get on board for saving our wildlife!!

Sherri S
Sherri S2 months ago

Good....No if only we could get Tigers, rhinos,giraffes, etc. on this list.

Lesa D
Lesa D2 months ago

a little good news...

Lesa D
Lesa D2 months ago

#130069 petition signed...

Lesa D
Lesa D2 months ago

thank you Joel...

Henry M
Henry M2 months ago

A few individual species are preserved, but keep in mind, is having 100 individuals of a species alive in the wild rather than zero really a victory, when there would have been 1,000 had humans not disrupted their habitat? We can always save the last few of any creature, but the challenge is maintaining a large wild population.