As we quickly approach the end of the year, many will look back at all that was accomplished in 2014 and all they hope to accomplish in upcoming year. As activists, it is nice to know that our efforts to implement positive change in the world are not going unnoticed or unfulfilled. Though the year had some setbacks in the animal conservation front, such as the loss of the Western Black Rhino, not all was bad. In fact, much was accomplished this year.
If we continue to work as hard as we did for animals and conservation, we’ll be sure to see the effects in years to come. Here are seven of the greatest accomplishments we saw in the animal conservation field in 2014.
1. Marine Protected Areas Added
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), are in important aspect of preserving the ocean’s biodiversity. These areas are especially dedicated to the protection of marine species as they help prevent loss of habitat and overfishing associated with our intense reliance on the ocean. The global fish catch has been declining constantly since 1989, and MPAs provide a safe haven for many fish species to reproduce and grow to reproductive maturity. Many MPAs have extremely minimal direct human impact and, thus, provide a sanctuary for flora and fauna to recover from other stressors, such as ocean warming and acidification.
In 2014, we saw the addition of several new MPAs. The Shark Reef Marine Reserve was declared a National Marine Park by the government of Fiji. This is a first in this particular archipelago and the result of 11 years of local initiative. This MPA was specifically instated for conservation and research of sharks. This MPA will be sanctuary to eight different species of shark, from Whitetip Reef sharks to impressive Tiger Sharks, as well as a vast array of other marine life.
The President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, also announced earlier this year that his country has decided to create a new marine protected area network of ten marine parks covering more than 18,000 square miles. This would make Gabon’s waters about 23 percent MPA up from their current one percent. These waters are home to whales, sea turtles, and other marine species, all of which will now have a safe place to recover.
In the U.S., President Obama announced the creation of the world’s largest marine protected area in the Pacific Ocean. The President is expanding the current Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument from nearly 87,000 square miles to more than 490,000. This MPA will now be off-limits to commercial fishing and energy exploration.
2. Sharks and Manta Rays Protected
Sharks not only lucked out in Fiji this year, but 2014 brought around new laws to protect five species of shark and two species of manta ray. CITES, the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species has been working the last 18 months on regulations that will be implemented to protect sharks and rays. The new regulations will require permits and certificates to accompany and trade of these animals or their parts. The great hammerhead shark, smooth hammerhead shark, scalloped hammerhead shark, oceanic whitetip shark, and manta rays are the species protected by the new regulations. This will help track and regulate use of these animals to ensure their long-time survival.
3. European Carnivores Stabilize
A study published this year in Science found that, contrary to popular belief, populations of carnivores in Europe are stable, if not rising. Brown bears, lynx, wolverines and wolves are all thriving on the European continent. Though the population of people is also rising, this has had minimal effect on the carnivore population. This could be an example of success in the “land-sharing” method of conservation. This is completely different to methods used in North America, where faces are used to separate urban areas from wildlife.
The reasons for its success in Europe include. political stability, growing populations of prey species such as wild deer, and financial support for non-lethal livestock protection such as electric fences, which mean that farmers do not resort to shooting wild predators.
4. Grizzly Bears Recover
It was a highly successful year for Grizzly Bears in the Greater Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide ecosystems. The number of Grizzly deaths is down to the lowest in the past five years. Grizzy bear conflicts was also down this year and numbers are estimated to have gone up a great deal. It appears that Grizzy bears in these ecosystems have found alternative food sources to the collapsed sources they once relied on, such as cutthroat trout. The successful growth of the grizzly bear population has even put them in the brink of declassification from the threatened species list.
Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith/Flickr
5. Scarlet Macaws Reintroduced
The Scarlet Macaw has made a successful reentry into the rainforests of the Gulf of Mexico. These birds where wiped out from this area about 50 years ago. Earlier this year, however, 27 macaws were released into the Biosphere Reserve of Los Tuxtlas in southern Veracruz. This is the first step of many in an effort to restore the wild population of these beautiful birds. Loss of habitat and intense exploitation for the pet trade devastated wild populations of scarer macaw in the past.
Along with introduction back into their previous ranges, education about these animals will be implemented in the areas surrounding the rainforest. This reintroduction has created the closest population to the U.S. and the northernmost area to see this magnificent animals.
6. Plans for Pollinators
With bee deaths at a record high and Monarch butterfly numbers at a record low, pollinators are in trouble. Honeybee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops in the U.S. each year, so their loss would be extremely detrimental. President Obama, however, created a plan this year to help protect and reverse the damage done to populations of pollinators. The plan includes establishing a pollinator health task force, increasing and improving the habitats of these pollinators, and increasing citizen engagement in the problem. Hopefully by next year we will see increases in numbers of bees and butterflies across our country.
7. Banning Wildlife Crime
Earlier this year, the U.S. was one of 30 countries that signed on the criminalize poaching. This came along with a U.S. ban that will prohibit the commercial import and export of elephant ivory, significantly restrict domestic resale of elephant ivory, restore endangered species act protection for African elephants, and support limited sport-hunting of African elephants. This National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking & Commercial Ban on Trade in Elephant Ivory is an integral step in stopping poaching and the decline in species such as elephant and rhinoceros.
At the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, meeting this summer, Thailand was given a strict timeline to rectify the its large unregulated ivory market. Vietnam and Mozambique were also given strict timelines with the potential for sanctions if not followed. Ivory is now an important issue being addressed internationally.
Keeping Up Progress for 2015
We have made many efforts to help slow the decimation of endangered species across the globe. Though these are amazing examples of how working towards a goal can help species survival, there is still much work to be done. Making sustainable choices in your daily life as well as staying educated about the plight of endangered species will help their cause. Hopefully we will see even more success in the next year.
Lead image source: Julien Lagarde/Flickr