Conservation News to Be Thankful For (Photos)

Photo credit: Emmanuel Rondeau.

November 21, 2018

It’s the season to give thanks in the U.S. and there was a lot to be grateful for this past year, including new protected areas on land and at sea, new wildlife-friendly laws on the books, and new opportunities to spread the importance of conservation. “As we harness the expertise in our zoos and aquarium with our global conservation program,” said WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) President and CEO Cristián Samper, “we thank our colleagues, partners, and supporters for making this work possible.”

Photo credit: Sophy Machago/WCS.

1. Zebras returned to Tanzania’s Southern Highlands.

Half a century ago, zebras were hunted to extinction or otherwise removed from the region in favor of state-run sheep ranching and dairy farming. Those have since been abandoned. So conservationists recently reintroduced 24 of the animals into a national park there.

Photo credit: Gael Vande Weghe.

2. Countries around the world helped secure nature’s strongholds.

This month, Ogooué-Leketi National Park became the fifth national park in the Republic of Congo. Due to its location spanning the transition from savannah to forest, it covers an area of considerable ecological significance, including fascinating biodiversity found nowhere else in the country (pictured: a yellow-bellied wattle-eye). Honduras, Papua New Guinea, and Myanmarwere among the many other countries that put in protections for land and sea.

Photo credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS.

3. It was a banner year at the New York Aquarium with the opening of Ocean Wonders: Sharks!

At the New York Aquarium in Brooklyn, we opened the Donald Zucker and Barbara Hrbek Zucker Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit. The 57,500 square-foot building features more than 115 marine species, including 18 species of sharks and rays. This is a breakthrough exhibit, which connects visitors to the species living off New York City’s coast and highlights the important conservation work we’re doing to protect them. Our teams continue to conduct cutting-edge research in the New York Bight to protect sharks, whales and other marine life.

Photo credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS.

4. New legislation was proposed to keep straws out of the water.

Millions of tons of plastic enter oceans around the world each year. Since they often can’t be recycled, single-use plastic straws are among the main offenders. But this year, New York City became part of a growing movement for change when Council Member Rafael Espinal put forward a bill to ban plastic straws and stirrers in restaurants and bars. Among the others getting in the act? Congress passed a bill to ban such plastics on Capitol Hill.

Photo credit: Stacy Jupiter/WCS.

5. Scientists identified resilient coral reefs.

A new study highlighted reefs around the world that have the potential to survive the growing threat of climate change and to help revive degraded marine ecosystems. That is, if they’re protected from other threats. Currently, coral reef ecosystems around the globe are on pace to disappear by 2050. But this new discovery brings hope.

Photo credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS.

6. More episodes of THE ZOO on Animal Planet are coming in 2019.

In 2018, Animal Planet premiered the second season of our award-winning docu-series THE ZOO. The series highlights the Bronx Zoo’s pivotal role in wildlife conservation and our expertise in science, husbandry, animal welfare, and veterinary care. It shows the relationships our keepers have with the animals and their expertise at caring for them. We are excited to report that we are currently filming new episodes which will premiere in 2019.

Photo credit: Ivonne Kienast/WCS.

7. Kingo turned 40.

He’s a father of 20 from nine different mothers. He’s a fierce defender of his family who helped nurse two of his offspring back from leopard attacks. He likes to nap with his feet in the air, and he hums while he eats. Meet Kingo, a silverback gorilla in Congo’s Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, who celebrated a milestone birthday this year. Researchers from WCS Congo have been studying him for the past 17 years in this protected area, which we co-manage with the Congolese government.

Photo credit: Jeff Burrell/WCS.

8. Pronghorn crossings proved to be a success.

Researchers from WCS and Oregon State showed that efforts to protect the annual pronghorn migration by installing wildlife crossing structures over highways had succeeded. Each year, pronghorn go on an impressive journey. In 2007, their route through Wyoming became the first (and only) federally recognized wildlife migration corridor in the United States. In studying what had been done to protect it, the scientists were able to identify an increased success rate of pronghorn crossings over time.

Photo caption: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS.

9. The United Kingdom announced an ivory ban.

With technical and scientific input from WCS, the UK put forward one of the strongest bans to date — an important step forward following those enacted in the U.S. and China.