Wildlife Conservation Essay for Students and Children

500+ words essay on wildlife conservation.

Wildlife, like trees, is also a domestic asset that not only helps to maintain the ecological balance but also benefits from financial, recreational and aesthetic points of perspective. There was a time when the number of wild animals was quite large when human interference was minimum and there was no issue with their safety or conservation. But, with the development of farming , settlement, industrial and other development activities, and primarily due to man’s greed, the number of wild animals gradually decreased and decreased. As a consequence, several animal species have become extinct and several are on the brink of being so. The Wildlife Conservation Essay is an insight into the requirements of conserving wildlife globally.

Wildlife Conservation Essay


Deforestation is also a major cause of wildlife loss. Mass murders of wild animals are taking place all over the globe for their meat, bones, fur, teeth, hair, skin, etc. The need for conservation of wildlife has now become a necessity.

Population growth, agricultural and livestock development, urban and road building, and pollution are among the many pressures on wildlife’s natural habitat. In addition to illegal hunting, the decrease of habitat and its degradation has endangered the biodiversity of the widespread areas.

Wildlife preservation does not imply blanket protection for all species of fauna and flora; rather, it means adequate, judicious control over the multiplication of crops and animals that communicate to provide a suitable atmosphere for the man whose very life is at risk today.

In the past, due to the irrational use of the earth’s natural and biotic resources, most wildlife was demolished after recovery. It is our immediate responsibility to safeguard the ecosystem’s natural splendor and to develop a system of coexistence with every living creature on earth.

While the world’s nations must be very specific in terms of wildlife conservation, the amount of wildlife is diminishing day by day. The World Wild Life Fund is a global organization that does a praiseworthy job of encouraging wildlife protection. National agencies are also involved in wildlife conservation.

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Steps Towards Wildlife Conservation

  • To study and retrieve all wildlife data, in particular, the amount and development of wildlife.
  • Habitat protection through forest protection.
  • Delimiting their natural habitat regions.
  • Protecting animals against pollution and natural hazards.
  • Full limitation on wildlife hunting and capture.
  • To impose constraints on the export and importation of wildlife products and to impose serious penalties on those engaged in such activity.
  • Developing game sanctuaries for particular wildlife or world life in particular.
  • Special arrangements should be made to safeguard those very restricted species.
  • To create a general understanding of wildlife protection at domestic and international level.
  • The adoption by trained personnel of a wildlife management system.

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Wildlife conservation.

Wildlife conservation aims to protect plant and animal species as the human population encroaches on their resources.

Biology, Ecology, Conservation, Storytelling, Photography

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Wildlife conservation is the practice of protecting plant and animal species and their habitats . Wildlife is integral to the world’s ecosystems , providing balance and stability to nature’s processes. The goal of wildlife conservation is to ensure the survival of these species, and to educate people on living sustainably with other species. The human population has grown exponentially over the past 200 years, to more than eight billion humans as of November 2022, and it continues to rapidly grow. This means natural resources are being consumed faster than ever by the billions of people on the planet. This growth and development also endangers the habitats and existence of various types of wildlife around the world, particularly animals and plants that may be displaced for land development, or used for food or other human purposes. Other threats to wildlife include the introduction of invasive species from other parts of the world, climate change, pollution, hunting, fishing, and poaching. National and international organizations like the World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the United Nations, and National Geographic, itself, work to support global animal and habitat conservation efforts on many different fronts. They work with the government to establish and protect public lands, like national parks and wildlife refuges . They help write legislation, such as the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 in the United States, to protect various species. They work with law enforcement to prosecute wildlife crimes, like wildlife trafficking and illegal hunting (poaching). They also promote biodiversity to support the growing human population while preserving existing species and habitats. National Geographic Explorers, like conservation biologist Charudutt Mishra and conservation technologist Rebecca Ryakitimbo, are working to slow the extinction of global species and to protect global biodiversity and habitats. Environmental filmmakers and photographers, like Thomas P. Peschak and Joel Sartore, are essential to conservation efforts as well, documenting and bringing attention to endangered wildlife all over the world.

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  • Essay on Wildlife Conservation


500+ Words Essay on Wildlife Conservation

Going by the importance of climate change and associated topics are garnering importance worldwide, an essay on Wildlife Conservation for students in English is an expected topic in the English exams. To prepare well in advance Vedantu has brought this essay for you. It is written by experts having expertise in English. Enough data and content are brought to you so that you can recall maximum points in the exam. This will ensure you achieve amazing marks in the English examination.

Let’s Being with the Essay on Wildlife Conservation for Students in English

Like forests, wildlife consisting of animals, birds, insects, etc. living in the forest is a national resource, which not only helps in maintaining the ecological balance but is also beneficial for various economic activities that generate revenue from tourism. The rich flora and fauna also play a major role in maintaining the ecological balance of a region. There was a time when human needs were minimal and there was bare interference in the wildlife. There is no denying the fact that due to urbanization, pollution, and human interventions wildlife is rapidly disappearing from the planet.

Today the biodiversity of the world is threatened due to the extinction of species. There are thirty-five hotspots around the world, which supports 43% of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians as endemic. The IUCN has compiled a list of species and has classified the different species under extinct, critically endangered, less endangered, vulnerable, near threatened, and least concerned. This list is called the Red Data Book. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the number of birds, animals, marine and freshwater creatures has dropped by almost one-third of its earlier population.

Causes for Decline or Threat to Wildlife

One of the major reasons for the constant decline of wildlife is human’s ever-increasing demands and greed that have led to deforestation and habitat destruction. For development and urbanization, man has chopped down trees to build dams, highways, and towns and this has forced the animals to retreat further and further into the receding forests.

Rapid industrialization and urbanization due to the fast growth in population in recent decades have taken a heavy toll on wildlife. Global warming and extensive environmental pollution have largely threatened wildlife as they lead to habitat destruction and rising temperature.

There is a huge demand for animal fur, skin, meat, bone, etc. across the globe that has led to a decrease in the wildlife population. Poachers kill the animals for the illegal trading of their body parts. For example, elephants are massively poached for ivory, rhinoceros are poached in Assam for their horns. The desire to keep animals in captivity or their desire to consume certain animals as exotic food has resulted in the disappearance of many animal species such as tigers and deer.

Forest fires, food shortage, increase in the number of predators, extreme weather conditions and other extraneous reasons have led to the extinction and endangerment of many species. For instance, the recent forest fires in the Amazon (Brazil), Uttarakhand (India), Australia, etc. lead to the death of many animals every year. 

Many types of animals, birds, and fauna are needed to retain the ecological balance. They are considered necessary for scientific research and experiments that will benefit mankind.

Steps to Conserve Wildlife

The protection and conservation of wildlife is the need of the hour. Some conservation efforts which are widely implemented are given below:


First and most importantly, humans need to have control over their needs. We need to prevent man from felling trees unnecessarily. Trees should be replanted if they are felled.

Pollution is one of the major causes that have led to the destruction of the habitat of animal species. Pollution of the environment like air pollution, water pollution, and soil pollution hurts the entire ecosystem. It has become of utmost importance to control environmental pollution.

More campaigns must be launched to raise awareness in humans on the need to keep our environment clean. A man should be responsible to maintain a healthy and balanced ecosystem so they should be cordial with the environment. More organizations like PETA should be set up to create awareness among people for the protection of wildlife.


The man should consciously put a check on the rapid growth of the population. The slow growth of population will decrease the rate of urbanization and that will have a major impact on the preservation of wildlife.

Wildlife Sanctuaries:

Wildlife sanctuaries should be made to ensure the protection of the areas of ecological significance. Under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 various provisions for protecting habitats of wildlife are made by constructing national parks and sanctuaries. These parks and sanctuaries ensure the protection and maintenance of endangered species.

Ban of Illegal Activities:

Illegal activities like hunting, poaching, and killing animals, birds, etc. for collections and illegal trade of hides, skins, nails, teeth, horns, feathers, etc. should be strictly prohibited and severe punishments and fines should be imposed on people who do these kinds of activities.

Community initiatives

Communities come together to take various conservation initiatives such as the establishment of community forests, raising their voice against illegal activities, creating awareness among the masses, raising voice for the rights of the animals, conserving animals of cultural significance, and many more. For example, members of the Bishnoi community of Rajasthan are very vocal against poaching activities in the region.    

Many countries have taken the initiative to help animals by proclaiming various birds and animals either as national animals or as protected species. In India, the government has launched a program of Joint Forest Management to protect the wildlife and their habitat. Under this program, responsibilities have been assigned to the village communities to protect and manage nearby forests and the wildlife in them.  Animal species have the right to live just like humans. Therefore, we should take every step to conserve them and ensure their survival and betterment.

Wildlife is an integral part of our planet. Wildlife plays a significant role in the ecology and the food chain. Disturbing their numbers or in extreme cases, extinction can have wide-ranging effects on ecology and humankind. Valuing and conserving forests and wildlife enhance the relation between man and nature. We want our future generation to be able to hear the lions roar and peacocks dancing with their extravagant feathers and not just see them in picture books. We must take steps today or else it will be too late and we should always remember 

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed.”

-Mahatma Gandhi


FAQs on Essay on Wildlife Conservation

1. How is Wildlife Important for Humankind?

Wildlife comprises animals, birds, insects, and aquatic life forms. They provide us with a number of products, such as milk, meat, hides, and wools. Insects like bees provide us, honey. They help in the pollination of flowers and have an important role to play as decomposers in the ecosystem. The birds act as decomposers by feeding on insects. Birds like vultures are known as scavengers and cleansers of the environment by feeding on dead livestock. Thus, wildlife helps in maintaining ecological balance.

2. Why Should we Conserve Biodiversity?

We should conserve biodiversity because it is very significant for all living organisms and for the environment. We must conserve biodiversity to save it from becoming extinct.

3. Why are Animals Poached?

The animals are hunted and poached for collection and illegal trade of skins, fur, horns, skins, and feathers.

4. Write Two Steps that the Government has Taken to Conserve Wildlife.

The two steps that the government has taken to conserve wildlife are:

In order to conserve wildlife, the government has established national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, and biosphere reserves.

Many awareness programs are launched by the government to create awareness of protecting wildlife.

5. What is the importance of essays on Wildlife Conservation for students in English?

Essay on Wildlife Conservation is a topic given to students because it serves many purposes and holds a lot of importance in the present times. Before starting the essay, students will do adequate research to get enough data about the topic. In the process, they will learn a lot about wildlife conservation. While writing this essay they will learn to empathize with the plight of the animals. Also, they will become better at expressing themselves in written words by writing an essay on this topic as it is a very sensitive topic. This essay will not just help them in fetching excellent marks but it will also sensitize them about the current happenings.

6. What message does an essay on Wildlife Conservation for students in English carry?

Essay on Wildlife Conservation for students in English carries a very significant message that emphasizes the importance of the conservation efforts taken and that are needed. The essay talks about the efforts which have already been taken and are under implementation and it also talks about what needs to be done in the future. It also talks about why we need to conserve wildlife and what significance it holds. Overall the central message of the essay is to conserve and protect the wildlife as much as we can.  

7. What important points should be covered while writing an essay on Wildlife Conservation for students in English?

As such there are no rigid pointers that you need to cover while writing an essay on Wildlife Conservation, but you may use the following pointers for reference:

Definition of wildlife conservation

Explain the reasons for conserving the wildlife with valid points

Efforts that are taken by international agencies. This should also include various treaties and protocols signed 

Mention the efforts that are taken by the Indian government. Talk about various laws and legislations present.

Mention various provisions on the local level

Talk about various popular civil movements such as efforts undertaken by the Bishnoi Community

What can you do as students to conserve wildlife? Give suggestions and examples.

8. What steps taken by the government should be mentioned in the essay on Wildlife Conservation?

The Indian government has undertaken various measures to conserve wildlife in the country. You can mention some of these in the essay on Wildlife Conservation:

Wildlife Conservation Act, 1972

Schedules involved and protections provided to the animals

Conservation efforts for particular animals like tigers, elephants, etc.

Formation of various protected areas such as National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Biosphere reserves, etc.

Awards and accolades received by India on various international forums

Various international treaties and agreements were signed by India. 

Mention names of international grouping dedicated to conservation efforts whose India is a part of

You may refer to Vedantu’s forum to get more information about steps to conserve wildlife. 

9. In how many words should one write an essay on Wildlife Conservation?

Word count for writing an essay on Wildlife Conservation for students in English can vary depending on which standard the student is studying in. it can range from 300 words to 800 words. Accordingly, the level of writing and richness of the content should vary. You can refer to Vedantu’s guide on essays for further understanding the demand of any given topic. If the essay is being written by a student studying in class 10 then the essay should be data and opinion-driven. It should reflect the ideas and thoughts of the student that are substantiated with authentic data and valid reasons.

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Wildlife Conservation Essay

The phrase "wildlife conservation" serves as a reminder to protect the resources that nature has given us as a gift. Animals that have not been domesticated or tamed are represented by wildlife. They are the only wild animals that live in a natural environment. Here are a few sample essays on the topic ‘wildlife conservation’.

Wildlife Conservation Essay

100 Words Essay On Wildlife Conservation

Animals, plants, and their habitats are preserved and protected through wildlife conservation. Similar to forests, wildlife is a national resource that contributes to ecological balance and is also valuable from an economic, recreational, and aesthetic standpoint. There was a time when there was no human intervention, there were a lot of wild animals, and there was no issue with protecting or conserving them.

However, as agriculture, settlement, industry, and other developmental activities increased, as well as largely as a result of human greed, the number of wild animals rapidly decreased. As a result, a number of animal species have already gone extinct, and a number more are in danger of doing so. In order to preserve the environment and life on Earth, it is essential that we concentrate on wildlife conservation.

200 Words Essay On Wildlife Conservation

Need for wildlife conservation.

The need for wildlife conservation results from how human beings are altering lifestyles and advancing ways of living. The massive clearing of trees and forests is causing the habitats of wildlife to be destroyed. The mass extinction of wildlife species is the result of human beings' careless actions. Poaching and hunting are illegal activities; no animal may be killed for recreational purposes.

Wild animals and plants crucially maintain the ecological balance. They have to be considered necessary. The threat to wildlife comes from a variety of sources. Significant factors contributing to the decline of animals include rising pollution, climatic changes, resource overuse, irregular hunting and poaching, habitat degradation, etc. The government has created and modified a large number of laws and regulations aimed at protecting animals.

As we know, deforestation is a huge problem when we speak of wildlife conservation. Trees and forests are home to numerous animals and birds. Thus we need to plant more trees and stop cutting them as well. My school has recently decided to plant trees near our school area, which is empty. This might be a small initiative, but we need to have more afforestation so that it can have a significant impact and help us conserve wildlife.

500 Words Essay On Wildlife Conservation

Like trees and animals, wildlife is a domestic resource that helps maintain the natural balance and has aesthetic, recreational, and economic advantages. When humans were not present, there were numerous wild animals and little concern for their protection or conservation.

Importance Of Wildlife Conservation

The wildlife in our ecosystem is a crucial component. Here are a few justifications for protecting wildlife:

Wild plants provide one-third of the world's pharmaceutical needs regarding medicinal value. For medical science and technology research, forests offer a wealth of opportunities. Additionally, it gives an excellent opportunity to produce therapeutic drugs on a vast scale.

Maintains the health of our environment by assisting with global temperature regulation. Additionally, it aids in preventing the greenhouse effect and halting sea level rise.

Helps to maintain ecological harmony - In this regard, the interdependence of plants and animals is crucial.

Forests are important economically because they provide raw materials that support the nation's economic development and raise living standards.

Causes Of Wildlife Depletion

Habitat Loss - The intentional destruction of forests and agricultural land for numerous construction projects, roads, and dams significantly reduce the habitat for various species of creatures and plants. Animals are deprived of their habitat by these practices. As a result, they either need to find a new environment or go extinct.

Overexploitation of Resources - Although resources should be used wisely, they are overused when they are used unnaturally. The usage will contribute to species extinction.

Hunting and poaching - These activities are terrible since they include trapping and killing animals for sport or to gain a particular item. Ivory, skin, horn, and other valuable animal goods are a few examples. They are collected by hunting and killing the animals after extracting the product or holding them captive. As a result, there are more and more mass extinctions; the musk deer is one example.

Using Animals for Research - Many animals are used in research labs of academic institutions to assess outcomes. The mass extinction of the species is the effect of taking in such a significant number of them.

Pollution - Unwanted changes in the environment's condition lead to a polluted one—likewise, air, water, and soil pollution. However, the decline in the diversity of animal and plant species can be directly attributed to changes in the air, water, and soil quality.

Impact on Marine Biodiversity - Contaminated water significantly impacts marine biodiversity because the pollutants disrupt the marine biota's ability to function. The contaminants and temperature variations have a significant impact on the coral reef.

My Contribution

The organisation under which I work is building some zoos. In these zoos, we will keep the endangered and rare animals near the forest area in our locality. They will be safe and can be taken care of in this manner. Poaching is another reason for the depletion of wildlife. These zoos will also ensure that these endangered species are not killed and can safely continue their race. I am very proud of my organisation and encourage other organisations and the government to take specific steps for the safety of these animals so they can live peacefully.

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Essay On Wildlife Conservation

wildlife conservation short essay

Table of Contents

Short Essay On Wildlife Conservation

Wildlife conservation refers to the preservation and protection of plant and animal species and their habitats, as well as the management of human-wildlife interactions. Wildlife is a vital component of the ecosystem and provides numerous benefits to the environment, such as maintaining biodiversity and promoting ecological balance.

However, human activities such as deforestation, habitat destruction, and poaching of invasive species pose a threat to wildlife. Overhunting and poaching of wildlife also pose a significant threat to the survival of many species. In addition, climate change and pollution are also causing major harm to wildlife populations worldwide.

To conserve wildlife, various measures are being taken, such as the creation of protected areas, such as national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Strict laws and regulations have also been enacted to restrict hunting and illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products. In addition, wildlife conservation organizations are working to educate people about the importance of wildlife and to promote wildlife-friendly practices.

Rehabilitation and reintroduction programs have also been initiated to restore wildlife populations and their habitats. For instance, captive breeding programs have been implemented to conserve endangered species, such as the giant panda and the Bengal tiger.

In conclusion, wildlife conservation is crucial for preserving the biodiversity of our planet and maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. Human activities pose a significant threat to wildlife, but through concerted efforts and sustained action, we can ensure the survival of our precious wildlife and their habitats for generations to come.

Long Essay On Wildlife Conservation

Wildlife conservation is an important issue for us all, and one we must take seriously if we want to protect our planet’s biodiversity for future generations. In this essay, we will explore the different ways wildlife can be conserved and preserved, as well as the ethical implications of doing so. Read on to learn more about how we can work together to ensure a healthier world for our wildlife!

Introduction to Wildlife Conservation

Wildlife conservation is the practice of protecting endangered plant and animal species and their habitats. Among the goals of wildlife conservation are to ensure that nature will be around for future generations to enjoy and to recognize the importance of wildlife and wilderness lands to humans.

One of the most important things we can do for wildlife is to protect their habitats. Without a place to live, hunt, and raise their young, wildlife cannot survive. Unfortunately, habitat loss is one of the leading causes of species decline and extinction. Habitat loss can occur due to many factors including development, agriculture, mining, logging, and climate change. One way we can help conserve habitat is by creating or restoring natural areas such as wetlands, forests, or grasslands. Another way to help is by reducing our own impact on natural areas; for example, by hiking and camping in ways that minimize our impact on delicate ecosystems.

In addition to habitat loss, another major threat to wildlife is poaching. Poaching is the illegal hunting or trapping of animals. It occurs when people kill animals for their meat, horns, tusks, fur, or other body parts without regard for the law or for the animal’s welfare. Poaching also happens when people collect eggs from wild birds’ nests or take baby animals from their mothers before they are old enough to fend for themselves. Not only does poaching threaten individual animals and populations; it also disrupts entire ecosystems.

There are many ways that we can help protect wildlife, from protecting their habitats to reducing poaching. We can also support wildlife conservation efforts by engaging in educational activities and supporting conservation organizations. By taking a proactive role in conserving wildlife, we can ensure that nature will be around for future generations to enjoy and benefit from.

The Need for Wildlife Conservation

The need for wildlife conservation has never been greater. With the world’s population continuing to grow, and the pressure on natural resources increasing, it is essential that we do everything we can to protect the planet’s wildlife.

Wildlife plays a vital role in the maintenance of healthy ecosystems, and provides us with many benefits, including food, water, clean air and recreation. However, human activity is putting this valuable resource at risk.

The loss of wildlife has a number of negative consequences for both humans and the environment. For example, the loss of predators can lead to an increase in prey populations, which can in turn damage crops and cause problems for livestock. The loss of keystone species can also disrupt entire ecosystems, leading to a decline in biodiversity and an overall reduction in the health of our planet.

Fortunately, there are things we can do to help conserve wildlife. One of the most important things we can do is educate ourselves and others about the importance of conservation. We can also support organizations that are working to protect wildlife habitat and populations. Finally, we can make sure that our own actions don’t contribute to the decline of wildlife populations.

The Benefits of Wildlife Conservation

Wildlife conservation is the practice of protecting wild plants and animals from harm. It is important to conserve wildlife because they are a part of our planet’s natural heritage. They provide us with food, fuel, medicines, and other materials that we need to live. They also help to keep our ecosystem in balance.

There are many ways to conserve wildlife. One way is to set aside land for them to live in. This is called a wildlife refuge. Another way is to protect them from being hunted or killed. We can also help by not polluting their habitats.

One benefit of wildlife conservation is that it helps to preserve the Earth’s biodiversity. Biodiversity is the variety of all life on Earth. It includes all the different species of plants and animals, as well as the different ecosystems they live in. When we conserve wildlife, we help to keep this diversity intact.

Another benefit of wildlife conservation is that it provides us with economic benefits. For example, tourism and recreation are two industries that depend on healthy ecosystems and abundant wildlife populations. When we conserve these resources, we ensure that these industries can continue to thrive. In addition, many medicinal drugs are derived from plant and animal products. So, by conserving biodiversity, we may be able to discover new cures for diseases!

Types of Wildlife Conservation

There are many different types of wildlife conservation, each with its own distinct focus and goals. Some of the most common types of wildlife conservation include habitat conservation, species conservation, and ecosystem conservation.

Habitat conservation is all about protecting the natural environment that animals need in order to survive. This can involve everything from preserving forests and wetlands to creating artificial habitats like wildlife sanctuaries and nature reserves. Species conservation, on the other hand, is focused specifically on protecting endangered or threatened species from extinction. This may involve captive breeding programs, reintroduction efforts, and habitat protection. Ecosystem conservation is a broad category that encompasses both habitat and species conservation; it aims to protect entire ecosystems rather than just individual animals or habitats.

How Can We Help?

There are many ways in which we can help with wildlife conservation. Some of the most important things that we can do include:

1. Educate ourselves and others about the importance of wildlife conservation.

2. Support organisations and initiatives that are working to conserve wildlife.

3. Reduce our own impact on the environment, for example by reducing our consumption of natural resources.

4. Get involved in conservation projects and activities, both locally and globally.

5. Speak out against activities that are harmful to wildlife or their habitats.

6. Help to raise awareness of the issues surrounding wildlife conservation.

The Impact of Human Activity on Wildlife Conservation

The impact of human activity on wildlife conservation is significant. humans have impacted wildlife populations in a number of ways, from hunting and habitat loss to pollution and climate change. Hunting has been a major factor in the decline of many species, both large and small. As our population continues to grow, we are putting more pressure on the land and its resources. This has led to habitat loss for many animals, as well as fragmentation of habitats. Pollution from various sources (including agriculture, industry, and transportation) has also had a negative impact on wildlife, both directly and indirectly. Climate change is another major threat to wildlife, as it can cause shifts in range and abundance, as well as alterations in the timing of important life cycle events (such as breeding). All of these factors have contributed to the decline of many species and the extinction of others.

It is clear that human activity has had a profound impact on wildlife conservation. In order to protect the world’s biodiversity, it is essential that we take steps to reduce our impact on the environment. We can do this by reducing our consumption of natural resources, improving our management practices (including hunting regulations), and increasing our efforts to restore and protect habitats.

To conclude, wildlife conservation is an important part of preserving our planet and its precious resources. Without the efforts of dedicated individuals and organizations, these beautiful creatures would be lost forever. It is therefore important that we do whatever we can to protect them from any potential threats, whether it be poaching or habitat destruction. By taking small steps in our daily lives such as reducing waste and supporting local conservation initiatives, everyone can help make a difference when it comes to protecting wildlife for generations to come.

Manisha Dubey Jha

Manisha Dubey Jha is a skilled educational content writer with 5 years of experience. Specializing in essays and paragraphs, she’s dedicated to crafting engaging and informative content that enriches learning experiences.

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Conservation of Forest Essay

The conservation of forest essay is a useful learning resource for kids to understand the value of forests and wildlife. Forests are important to us. They provide air and water, absorb carbon dioxide, protect us from natural disasters, and house many of our wild animals. Hence, it is our duty to conserve them.

Due to human activities, the world is losing its forests. If we do not take action now, we will lose them forever. The continuing destruction of our forests is both a cause and consequence of climate change. This destroys the habitat of many plant and animal species that cannot adapt to changing conditions. Unfortunately, the trend toward extinction has been accelerated with the recent introduction of exotic species, which have caused millions of trees and other species to be lost or destroyed. We must preserve the environment for future generations, and all of us need to do our part in conserving what is left by keeping invasive species at bay.

Conservation of Forest Essay

To protect the environment, we have to reduce our carbon footprint. Minimising food waste is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint. It is also important for us to care about our wildlife and forests through awareness programmes on the importance of protecting them. The conservation of forest and wildlife essay is a great way to teach kids the significance of coexisting with nature and protecting its elements.

Importance of Conservation of Forests and Wildlife

The conservation of forest essay keeps your little ones engaged in learning the significance of protecting nature and wild animals. Conservation implies preserving something or maintaining it to keep it alive. People have concerns about preserving forests and wildlife because of the need for trees, which is why many people save a fallen tree from being chopped down by cutting it into logs.

Since forests are home to many species, it’s vital to preserve them because it is where animals can escape from danger and find food, water, and shelter. Moreover, forests contribute to climate stability and provide food for animals who live there or depend on them for their livelihoods.

The Earth is full of species, and it is our responsibility to take care of them. Some animals need conservation as they are facing the threat of extinction. The more we help these animals, the better the planet will be. Also, the conservation of forest essay PDF helps create awareness among kids so that they can take the necessary steps to protect our planet.

With the Earth’s resources being depleted, protecting our wildlife and nature is crucial. Conservation of wildlife has a lot of benefits to society that many people are unaware of, and it also helps the environment by reducing pollution and protecting endangered species.

You can find more essays similar to the conservation of forest essay on BYJU’S website. Also, explore a range of kid-friendly learning resources, such as short stories, poems, worksheets, etc., for young learners on the website.

Frequently Asked Questions on Conservation of Forest Essay

Does deforestation affect climate change.

Yes. Deforestation affects climate change, as it increases the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which leads to a rise in atmospheric temperature.

Why is it important to conserve wildlife and forests?

It’s important to preserve wildlife and forests because animals can escape from danger and find food, water, and shelter. Moreover, forests contribute to climate stability and provide food for animals who live there or depend on them for their livelihoods.

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Wildlife Conservation Essay for Students in English [Easy Words]

January 15, 2021 by Sandeep

Essay on Wildlife Conservation: Protecting the wild animals, plants and the related fauna is collectively referred to as wildlife conservation. Man exploited wildlife and exercised poaching for his personal benefits. Due to his selfishness, many species are on the verge of extinction today. In 1972 the Indian government passed a wildlife protection act to prevent damage to wildlife. Zoos, botanical gardens, and wildlife sanctuaries are some of the ways wildlife is being preserved.

Essay on Wildlife Conservation 500 Words in English

Below we have provided Wildlife Conservation Essay in English, suitable for class 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10.

“Wherever there are wild animals in the world, there is always an opportunity for caring, compassion, and kindness.”

Wildlife refers to the species of animals that are not domesticated. It plays a significant role in preserving the Earth’s ecological balance. It also provides stability to different natural processes. Wildlife conservation is a well-protecting wildlife population, ecosystems, and plants. Each species in the world needs food, water, shelter and, most importantly, reproductive opportunities.

Wildlife is a beautiful divine invention. God did not construct the universe exclusively for man. On this Earth, we consider the magnificent oak to the tiniest grass, from the giant whale to the smallest fries, in the wood. God forms all of these in a very balanced way. We, human beings, cannot contribute to these marvellous creations of nature but can preserve them. Thus, wildlife protection is essential to preserve the equilibrium of mother earth.

Types of Wildlife Conservation

Conservation of wildlife can be divided into two essential terms, namely “in situ conservation” and “ex-situ conservation.”

  • In-Situ Protection: This form of protection preserves the imperil animal or plant in its natural environment. In Situ Conservation falls under initiatives such as National Parks, Biological Reserves.
  • Ex-Situ Conservation: Ex-situ wildlife protection simply means off-site protection of wild animals and plants by eliminating and relocating a portion of a population to protected habitat.

Need for Wildlife Conservation

Conservation of wildlife is necessary to maintain a healthy ecological equilibrium among all living things. Every living being on this planet has a unique place in the food chain, and therefore contribute in their specific way to the ecosystem. Unfortunately, humans are destroying many natural ecosystems of plants and animals for land creation and firming. Some other factors that lead to the disappearance of wildlife are like poaching for fur, jewellery, meat, and leathers etc. If we do not take any action to save biodiversity , then one day all animals will be on the list of endangered species.

It is up to us to save the wildlife and our planet. It is also vital for medical values since a considerable number of plants and animal species are used to derive certain essential drugs. Ayurveda, India’s ancient medicinal system, also uses extracts of various herbs and plants. Wildlife protection is essential for preserving a safe and healthy climate. Birds like Eagle and Vulture, for example, contribute to nature by collecting dead bodies from animals and keeping the surroundings healthy.

Effective Wildlife Conservation Methods in India

To protect the environment, various types of wildlife management approaches may be employed. The following are some vital wildlife conservation methods in India:-

  • Wildlife Conservation Laws – The 1972 Wildlife Protection Act is an act which attempts to protect the Indian wildlife. The Indian parliament enacted this act on 9 September 1972, and after that, the destruction of wildlife was limited to some degree.
  • Habitat Management – This approach is used to perform wildlife conservation surveys and to hold statistical data. After that, the wildlife habitat can be improved.
  • Creation of Protected Area – Protected areas are created to preserve wildlife, such as national parks, reserve forests, wildlife sanctuaries, etc. In these restricted regions, wildlife protection laws are implemented to protect the species.
  • Awareness – There is a need to educate the people about the value of wildlife for wildlife conservation in India. Some people neglect or hurt wildlife since they are unaware of wildlife’s significance. Thus, awareness of conserving wildlife in India can be spread amongst people.
  • Eliminating Superstitions  – Wildlife has always been endangered by superstition. Many body parts of wild animals, parts of trees are used as treatments for other diseases. Such remedies have no theoretical basis at all. Also, some people claim that bone, fur etc. will heal their chronic illness by wearing or using other animals.

94 Wildlife Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

🏆 best wildlife topic ideas & essay examples, ⭐ good research topics about wildlife, 👍 simple & easy wildlife essay titles, ❓ research questions about wildlife.

  • Wildlife Tourism Essay Tourism can lead to interference and destruction of the wildlife ecosystem, leading to decrease in the population of the animals and degradation of their habitats.
  • Wildlife Management and Extinction Prevention in Australia This paper investigates the threats to wildlife in Australia and strategies for managing and preventing their extinction. In summary, this paper examines the threats to wildlife in Australia and outlines strategies for managing and preventing […]
  • Wildlife Parks Visitor Management Issues Administrators of wildlife parks have to employ different strategies of visitor management to ensure that they have a balance of demand by visitors and the available regeneration capacity of the wildlife parks.
  • Urban Wildlife Issues Actually, it is important to note that not all human developments are destructive; a focus toward taking care of or conserving animals in urban areas has promoted conservation and sustainability of environment and biodiversity.
  • Javan Rhinos: Wildlife Trading of Endangered Animals Out of the five rhino species, Javan rhinoceros is the most threatened species despite being in the ecosystem for millions of years, playing a crucial role in shaping the landscape by its feeding style.
  • Wildlife Control in and Around Airports The main purpose of the paper is to describe possible ways to protect and control the airport area from wild animals and birds that are potentially dangerous to the safety of passengers and can disrupt […]
  • Wildlife Management in Urban Areas The end result of reducing the number of predator and carnivores in a given ecological system will cause an imbalance that allows organisms in the lower levels of the food chain to multiply to the […]
  • The Manas Wildlife Sanctuary A home to a great variety of wildlife and endangered species, the Manas Sanctuary is located in the Himalayan foothills, in the far eastern state of Assam.
  • Oil Drilling in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge Therefore, drilling for oil in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge would be seen as an act that could potentially harm not only the wildlife and ecosystem in that location, but also affect the well-being of other […]
  • Climate Crisis and Wildlife in Danger The structure of the presentation includes an explanation of the issue and reasons for the beagles’ rescue, followed by the time limit to find new homes for dogs and a chronology of facility inspections.
  • The US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Forrest Service Refuge Management Thus, the aim is to sustain natural resources with the purpose of providing people with the necessary benefits while ensuring the activities do not lead to the deterioration of the land.
  • Wildlife Conservation and Food Safety for Human From the epidemiological investigation, the seafood market in Wuhan was termed as the cause of the outbreak and Coronavirus was identified as of bat origin.
  • Immunization of the Wildlife Population Against Rabies The only way of reducing the number of casualties is by preventing the disease. The efficacy of the method is shown by significant achievements in the reduction of the number of rabies cases among the […]
  • Human-Wildlife Conflict: Vehicle Collisions With Animals The issue of collisions between wildlife and motor vehicles is a major challenge in most countries owing to the unpredictability of the animals’ closing in correspondence to the vast sizes of the parks and lands […]
  • Should the Arctic National Wild Life Refuge Be Opened to Oil Drilling? The Baloney Detection Kit used in the series of discussions provides the guidelines for the arguments presented. Wherever there is a need to justify an argument advanced for the debate or against the drilling, the […]
  • How Global Warming Has an Effect on Wildlife? According to one of the most detailed ecological studies of climate change, global warming is already directly affecting the lives of animals and plants living in various habitats across the world.
  • Trails of Wild Life Tourism The tourism of wild life should be looked in the way it is creating an impact on the ecological balance in the nature and also on the economy of the whole nation.
  • Oil Development in Arctic National Wildlife Range This paper describes the issues based on the development policy of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the efforts made by the government to conserve the ANWR.
  • Hunting in Wildlife Refuges in California In addition, the lack of regulations and the prohibition of hunting in wildlife refuges in its entirety has led to the overpopulation of certain species and the introduction of imbalance to the ecosystem, with the […]
  • Wildlife Controls Around Commercial Airports Managing the safety of the airports is one of the most important responsibilities of civil aviation authorities around the world. Security in the aviation sector is the factors often given priority because of the magnitude […]
  • Wildlife in Art, Science and Public Attitudes In her opinion, Hirst’s approach to art that involves “taking things out of the world” to get to their essence is extremely contradictory and aims to oversimplify the concept of wilderness.
  • Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge’s Issues The article in question addresses the correlation between the value of property prices and the proximity of open spaces. The authors address two research questions, investigating the possibility of a correlation between the proximity of […]
  • Relations of World Wildlife Fund for Nature and Media The purpose of this NGO is to safeguard nature and to stop the degradation of the planet’s environment and “to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature”.
  • Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory and Its Risks The mission of the Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory is to provide evidence to governmental and non-governmental organizations to ensure the protection of the wildlife in the country.
  • Water Transportation Industry’s Impact on Wildlife It is possible to note that emissions and the use of ballast water can be seen as serious issues that pose hazards to maritime animals.
  • Emerging Energy Development’ Impacts on Wildlife One of the major concerns involves the effect of energy development on wildlife and natural ecosystems. It is important to lessen the effects of energy development on wildlife and natural ecosystems.
  • American National Park Service and Wildlife The law reads in part: “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such […]
  • A Call for Conservation of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Though economic benefits of such drilling are obvious, they do not outweigh the need to preserve the pristine nature of the area o the benefit of thousands of animal and plant species that depend on […]
  • Learning During Wildlife Tours in Protected Areas: Towards a Better Understanding of the Nature of Social Relations in Guided Tours
  • Wildlife-Based Recreation and Local Economic Development
  • Location-Specific Modeling for Optimizing Wildlife Management on Crop Farms
  • African Wildlife Policy: Protecting Wildlife Herbivores on Private Game Ranches
  • Illegal Logging, Fishing, and Wildlife Trade
  • Network Structure and Perceived Legitimacy in Collaborative Wildlife Management
  • Protected Areas, Wildlife Conservation, and Local Welfare
  • Habitat Conservation, Wildlife Extraction, and Agricultural Expansion
  • The Transaction Costs Tradeoffs of Private and Public Wildlife Management
  • Caring for Native Wildlife Securing Permit and Approval
  • Evaluating Tax Policy Proposals for Funding Nongame Wildlife Programs
  • Dealing With Wildlife Damage to Crops
  • Clear Forest Cause Extinction of Wildlife
  • Forensic Techniques for Wildlife Crime
  • Bird and Wildlife Management at Airports
  • Economic Benefits, Conservation and Wildlife Tourism
  • Environmental Plans and Wildlife Management Programs
  • The Current Issues Involving Wind Farms and Wildlife
  • Ecological Fever: The Evolutionary History of Coronavirus in Human-Wildlife Relationships
  • Opportunities for Transdisciplinary Science to Mitigate Biosecurity Risks From the Intersectionality of Illegal Wildlife Trade With Emerging Zoonotic Pathogens
  • Mitigation Measures for Wildlife in Wind Energy Development
  • Ecology and Wildlife Risk Evaluation Analysis
  • Ethical Considerations for Wildlife Reintroductions and Rewilding
  • Save Wildlife and Forest for Our Future Generations
  • Spatial Data Analysis and Study of Wildlife Conservation
  • Global Warming and Its Threat to the Future of Wildlife and Its Habitat
  • Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Blackfish: Treatment of the Sea World and Marine Wildlife
  • Information and Wildlife Valuation: Experiments and Policy
  • Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land
  • Identifying and Assessing Potential Wildlife Habitat Corridors
  • Regulating the Global Fisheries: The World Wildlife Fund, Unilever, and the Marine Stewardship Council
  • Wildlife Gardening and Connectedness to Nature: Engaging the Unengaged
  • Urban Sprawl: Impact Upon Wildlife
  • Human Activities, Wildlife Corridors, and Laws and Policies
  • Pollution and Its Effects on Wildlife
  • Tourism, Poaching, and Wildlife Conservation: What Can Integrated Conservation and Development Projects Accomplish
  • Wildlife-Based Tourism and Increased Tourist Support for Nature Conservation Financially and Otherwise
  • Supporting Sustainable Livelihoods Through Wildlife Tourism
  • Evolving Urban Wildlife Health Surveillance to Intelligence for Pest Mitigation and Monitoring
  • Gray Lodge Wildlife Area: A Home for the Animals
  • Can Local Communities Afford Full Control Over Wildlife Conservation?
  • What Is the Biggest Threat to Wildlife Today?
  • What Are the Major Causes of Loss of Wildlife?
  • Should the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Be Opened to Oil Drilling?
  • How Does Hunting Affect Wildlife?
  • What Are the Effects of Wildlife Depletion?
  • What Is the Importance of Wildlife?
  • What Human Activities Badly Affect Wildlife?
  • What Will Happen if We Don’t Protect Wildlife?
  • What Are the Top Ten Ways to Save Wildlife?
  • What Are Man-Wildlife Conflicts?
  • What Are the Five Major Impacts Humans Have on the Environment?
  • How Killing Animals Affect the Wildlife Environment?
  • How Can We Prevent Human-Wildlife Conflict?
  • Where Is the Best Place to See Wildlife in the US?
  • What US National Park Has the Most Wildlife?
  • Does Florida Have a Lot of Wildlife?
  • What Wildlife Is in Yellowstone?
  • What Country Has the Most Exotic Wildlife?
  • How Humans Are Affecting Wildlife?
  • What Country Has the Best Wildlife?
  • What Continent Has the Most Wildlife?
  • What Is the Wildlife of Asia?
  • Which Country in Asia Has the Most Wildlife?
  • What Is the Most Common Wildlife in the Arctic?
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Status and threats, efficacy of protected areas, community efforts in human-occupied landscapes, critical areas for future research, acknowledgments, literature cited.

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Conservation of the world’s mammals: status, protected areas, community efforts, and hunting

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R Terry Bowyer, Mark S Boyce, Jacob R Goheen, Janet L Rachlow, Conservation of the world’s mammals: status, protected areas, community efforts, and hunting, Journal of Mammalogy , Volume 100, Issue 3, 23 May 2019, Pages 923–941, https://doi.org/10.1093/jmammal/gyy180

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Mammals are imperiled worldwide. Threats to terrestrial species are primarily from habitat loss or modification, and in some instances from commercial, illegal, or unregulated hunting. Terrestrial species are negatively affected throughout the tropics from deforestation. Threats to marine mammals are related to harvest, strikes in shipping lanes, pollution, and depleted levels of food resources. Hazards to marine species are pronounced in the North Atlantic Ocean, North Pacific Ocean, and oceans and seas flanking southeastern Asia. Protected areas designed to conserve mammals often are too small, too few, poorly delimited or isolated, and too unreliably supported. The new conservation science proposes that human livelihoods be considered alongside traditional preservationist perspectives. For conservation outside of protected areas to succeed, the protection of wild mammals and their habitats should result in benefit to local people, especially in rural or poor communities. Concerns about declining populations of large mammals in North America during the late 19th and early 20th centuries resulted in the institution of regulations that contributed to the recovery of many populations. Today, in North America and Europe, wild populations are thriving and legal hunting is allowed for a number of mammals, something that is less common in many developing countries, where illegal killing remains a threat to conservation. Nevertheless, populations of large mammals are resilient to regulated hunting because of density-dependent processes that result in increased reproduction, survival, and growth rates. Unfortunately, hunting is unregulated for cultural and economic reasons over much of the Earth. We are beginning to see effects of climate change and invasive species on risk of extinction for many species. The future of mammals, however, is entwined ultimately with the size, growth, and resource demands of the human population.

Los mamíferos están en riesgo en todo el mundo. Las principales amenazas a las especies terrestres son la pérdida y modificación del hábitat, y en algunos casos la cacería comercial, ilegal o no regulada. Las especies terrestres son negativamente afectadas a lo largo de los trópicos por la deforestación. Las amenazas a los mamíferos marinos están relacionadas con la extracción ilegal, colisiones con embarcaciones, contaminación y agotamiento de recursos alimentarios. Los peligros para las especies marinas están más acentuados en el Atlántico Norte, el Pacífico Norte y los mares y océanos que rodean el sureste asiático. Las áreas protegidas diseñadas para proteger mamíferos frecuentemente son muy pequeñas, escasas, pobremente delimitadas o aisladas, además de contar con un mantenimiento incierto. La nueva ciencia de la conservación propone que las necesidades humanas sean consideradas en conjunto con las perspectivas preservacionistas tradicionales. Para que la conservación fuera de las áreas protegidas sea exitosa, la protección de los mamíferos silvestres y sus hábitats debería redundar en beneficios para los habitantes locales, especialmente en comunidades rurales o con altos niveles de pobreza. La preocupación por las poblaciones en declive de grandes mamíferos en Norteamérica durante finales del siglo XIX y principios del XX, resultaron en la implementación de regulaciones que contribuyeron a la recuperación de muchas poblaciones. En la actualidad, las poblaciones silvestres de Norteamérica y Europa son saludables, y la cacería legal es permitida para varias especies de mamíferos, algo que es menos común en muchos países en desarrollo, donde la cacería ilegal continúa siendo una amenaza para la conservación. Sin embargo, las poblaciones de grandes mamíferos son resilientes a la cacería regulada debido a procesos denso-dependientes que resultan en incrementos en las tasas de reproducción, supervivencia y crecimiento poblacional. Desafortunadamente, la cacería no está regulada por razones culturales y económicas en la mayor parte del mundo. Estamos comenzando a ver los efectos del cambio climático y de las especies invasoras sobre el riesgo de extinción de muchas especies. El futuro de los mamíferos, sin embargo, está finalmente ligado al tamaño, crecimiento y demanda de recursos de las poblaciones humanas.

Mammals capture our attention and engender curiosity, thereby enhancing their intrinsic value. This likely occurs because humans are mammals and because of our close and long-term association with canids, felids, and other domestic mammals as companions or livestock ( Clutton-Brock 1999 ; Diamond 2002 ), and our traditional reliance on wild mammals for food and sport ( Hull 1964 ). This affiliation between humans and mammals creates opportunities for education about populations, ecological communities, ecosystems, global climate, and conservation of all species. Thus, mammals are the most likely group to motivate investment of resources for conservation. Nonetheless, mammals are in jeopardy worldwide.

We review the conservation of mammals, and do so by examining threats to orders of mammals, differentiating among factors threatening terrestrial and aquatic species. We also examine strengths and weaknesses of protected areas, and how to achieve conservation objectives in human-occupied landscapes. We further explore the role of hunting in the conservation of mammals, differentiating between legal, regulated harvests, and illegal killing. Our goal is to provide an informed perspective on the threats to mammals and discuss feasible approaches to their worldwide conservation.

Mammalian extinctions.

Mammals are imperiled worldwide. Of 5,487 species recognized by the IUCN Red List, 76 (1.4%) have been declared extinct since 1500, with little chance that any still exist ( IUCN 2017 ). Extinctions are spread across the 27 orders of mammals, and most occur in orders that are species-rich: Primates (2 extinctions), Carnivora (5), Chiroptera (5), Cetartiodactyla (7), Diprotodontia (7), Eulipotyphla (7), and Rodentia (36). Slightly over one-half (55.6%) of the 27 mammalian orders are not known to have experienced extinctions since 1500 ( IUCN 2017 ). Rates of recent mammalian extinctions, however, far exceed past levels, necessitating increased efforts to conserve threatened mammals ( Ceballos and Ehrlich 2002 ; Isaac et al. 2007 ; Pimm et al. 2014 ). Moreover, > 70% of endangered mammals are characterized by declining populations, which bodes poorly for their continued existence ( Ceballos et al. 2017 ). Also, extinctions alone fail to describe the full extent of the threat faced by mammals.

Categories of threatened mammals.

Combining Red List ( IUCN 2017 ) categories of Extinct (EX), Extinct in the Wild (EW), Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), and Vulnerable (VU), 1,219 species of mammals (22.2%) are ranked as Threatened or Extinct. These categories are based on the quantitative IUCN system for classifying threatened species ( Mace et al. 2008 ). The median percent of Threatened or Extinct species for the 27 orders is 19.0%; only six comparatively small orders (i.e., Dermoptera, Hyracoidea, Microbiotheria, Monotremata, Notoryctemorphia, Tubulidentata) have no species in that combined category. Those numbers, although disturbing, likely underestimate the true threat to mammals because an additional 323 (5.9%) species are categorized as Near Threatened (NT), with a median for the 27 orders of 0.6%. Chiroptera (23.8%) and Rodentia (31.9%) have the largest percentage of NT species. Moreover, many NT species exhibit downward trends in their population sizes ( Schipper et al. 2008 ; Ceballos et al. 2017 ). Slightly more than one-half of mammalian species (56.7%) are considered to be of Least Concern (LC), with a median of 54.7% across orders. An additional 836 (15.2%) species of unknown status are listed as Data Deficient (DD), with a median of 13.6% across the 27 orders. Orders with relatively large numbers of Data Deficient species are Primates (56), Cetartiodactyla (62), Eulipotyphla (77), Chiroptera (204), and Rodentia (369). Data Deficient species of terrestrial mammals are concentrated in tropical forests, and Data Deficient marine species are clustered in the Antarctic Convergence ( Schipper et al. 2008 ). In addition to identifying a need for further research on the status of Data Deficient species, this category holds import for determining how Threat Levels are assessed for mammals.

Threat Levels for orders of mammals.

The IUCN Red List currently recognizes 5,411 species of extant mammals ( IUCN 2017 ). The Threat Level (sensu Schipper et al. 2008 ) for those mammals can be assessed and bracketed by evaluating whether Data Deficient species would be categorized as threatened or not threatened. Therefore, Threat Level = [(VU + EN + CR + EW)/(Total − DD)] × 100, where acronyms represent the number of species within those IUCN Red List categories. The lower bound for the Threat Level = [(VU + EN + CR + EW)/Total] × 100; the upper bound for the Threat Level = [(VU + EN + CR + EW + DD)/Total] × 100. The median Threat Level across 27 orders of mammals is 23.0%, with a median for the lower bound of 18.8%, and a median for the upper bound of 33.8%. Davidson et al. (2017) reported that 36% of Data Deficient species of mammals have extrinsic and intrinsic factors associated with a high risk of extinction in other species. Threat Levels are extremely variable ( Fig. 1 ), and large differences exist in causes of potential risk of extinction among mammalian orders ( Davidson et al. 2009 , 2017 ). Orders containing large-bodied species (e.g., Cetartiodactyla, Primates, Perissodactyla, Proboscidea, Sirenia, and Carnivora) have comparatively high Threat Levels ( Fig. 1 ). In addition to taxonomic order and body size, other intrinsic characteristics such as small geographic range, inhabiting islands as opposed to the mainland, and having a slow speed of life history (e.g., low adult mortality, iteroparity, small litter size, high maternal investment in young, long generation times, low intrinsic rates of increase) are associated with high risks of extinction ( Davidson et al. 2017 ).

Threat Levels for 27 orders of mammals. Error bars indicate lower and upper bounds for Threat Levels. Threat Level = [(VU + EN + CR + EW)/(Total − DD)] × 100. The lower bound for the Threat Level = [(VU + EN + CR + EW)/Total] × 100; the upper bound for the Threat Level = [(VU + EN + CR + EW + DD)/Total] × 100 (Schipper et al. 2008). This analysis is based on the IUCN system for classifying threatened species (Mace et al. 2008): VU = number of Vulnerable species; EN = number of Endangered species; CR = number of Critically Endangered species; EW = number of species Extinct in the Wild; DD = number of species that are Data Deficient. Data from IUCN (2017). J. Kenagy and J. Bradley provided access to the phylogeny for inclusion in this figure.

Threat Levels for 27 orders of mammals. Error bars indicate lower and upper bounds for Threat Levels. Threat Level = [(VU + EN + CR + EW)/(Total − DD)] × 100. The lower bound for the Threat Level = [(VU + EN + CR + EW)/Total] × 100; the upper bound for the Threat Level = [(VU + EN + CR + EW + DD)/Total] × 100 ( Schipper et al. 2008 ). This analysis is based on the IUCN system for classifying threatened species ( Mace et al. 2008 ): VU = number of Vulnerable species; EN = number of Endangered species; CR = number of Critically Endangered species; EW = number of species Extinct in the Wild; DD = number of species that are Data Deficient. Data from IUCN (2017) . J. Kenagy and J. Bradley provided access to the phylogeny for inclusion in this figure.

Geographic patterns of species richness.

Land mammals exhibit a peak in species richness centered on the equator ( Grenyer et al. 2006 ; Schipper et al. 2008 ; Ceballos et al. 2017 ). Species richness is especially pronounced in the Andes Mountains of South America, and in the mountains of Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula (Afromontane forests). High species richness also occurs in Asia, particularly in southwestern China, Malaysia, and Borneo ( Heaney 1986 ; Schipper et al. 2008 ).

Marine mammals have zones of high species richness clustered around 40° North or 40° South latitude. The prominent exception is in the North Atlantic Ocean, resulting from past exploitation by humans ( Schipper et al. 2008 ; Davidson et al. 2012 ). Notable areas of high species richness for marine mammals include tropical and temperate coastal benches, as well as offshore portions of the Tasman and Caribbean Seas, and the Southern Indian Ocean ( Grenyer et al. 2006 ; Schipper et al. 2008 ; Pompa et al. 2011 ). Areas with threatened species of terrestrial and marine mammals are characterized by high species richness, high endemism, and high human pressure ( Schipper et al. 2008 ; Ceballos et al. 2017 ).

Geographic patterns and types of threats.

Threatened land mammals are concentrated in southern and southeastern Asia, tropical portions of the Andes Mountains in South America, the highlands of Cameroon, the Albertine Rift in Africa, and the Western Ghats in India ( Schipper et al. 2008 ; Ceballos et al. 2017 ). For marine mammals, threatened species occur in the North Atlantic Ocean, North Pacific Ocean, and oceans and seas proximate to southeastern Asia ( Davidson et al. 2012 ). Species of mammals with small geographic ranges are especially threatened in southeastern Asia, whereas species with large geographic ranges are threatened in Africa, and portions of Asia and the Arctic ( Davidson et al. 2017 ). Fundamental differences exist for mammals inhabiting the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Endemics of the southern-temperate zone have smaller geographic range sizes and are at a greater risk of extinction than are their counterparts from the Northern Hemisphere ( Lamoreux and Lacher 2010 ). Moreover, southern-temperate endemics are less likely to occur within protected areas than are those from the Northern Hemisphere ( Lamoreux and Lacher 2010 ).

Habitat loss and degradation (40% of affected species), and overharvesting (17%) pose the greatest threats to mammals worldwide ( Schipper et al. 2008 ). Those threats are usually driven by human population density and climate change, which pose increasingly greater threats to the future of mammals ( Davidson et al. 2017 ). Threats to land mammals, however, differ markedly from those for marine species. Terrestrial species are negatively affected throughout the tropics from deforestation, especially in the Americas, Asia, and Africa ( Schipper et al. 2008 ). Negative effects of illegal killing on land mammals are most pronounced in Asia, but also in portions of Africa and South America. Overharvesting may result from poaching for food, the bushmeat trade, and use of animals for medicinal and other purposes, as well as from accidental capture in snares set for other species ( Schipper et al. 2008 ; Harrison et al. 2016 ). Overharvesting disproportionately affects larger mammals (Cetartiodactyla, Primates, Perissodactyla, Proboscidea, and Carnivora) compared with smaller ones, possibly because large mammals have slower life histories and larger home ranges compared with small mammals—characteristics that can increase vulnerability to harvest ( Cardillo et al. 2005 ; Schipper et al. 2008 ). Nonetheless, legal and regulated sport hunting, as practiced in much of North America and Europe, seldom threatens and may offer conservation benefits to land mammals ( Organ et al. 2010 ).

Disease is a threat to extinction for comparatively few (2%) species of mammals ( Schipper et al. 2008 ). Nevertheless, some diseases can have catastrophic effects on particular species. For example, a transmissible facial cancer in Tasmanian devils ( Sarcophilus harrisii ) devastated populations of this marsupial, yet because of their rapid evolutionary response, hope exists that they may not become extinct ( Epstein et al. 2016 ). White-nose syndrome, caused by a pathogenic fungus ( Pseudogymnoascus ), has killed millions of bats (Chiroptera) since its emergence in eastern North America in 2006 ( Frick et al. 2016 ). Nonetheless, a possibility exists for limiting the spread of this disease because the fungus is extremely sensitive to ultraviolet light, which might be applied to hibernating bats with a few seconds of exposure from a portable light source ( Palmer et al. 2018 ). Chronic wasting disease, which is caused by a prion, is uniformly fatal in cervids, and presents enormous management difficulties in coping with the spread of this infectious disease ( Saunders et al. 2012 ; Potapov et al. 2016 ). How emerging infectious diseases might interact with other threats to mammals, such as habitat loss and climate change, is uncertain. For instance, recent mass die-offs of the endangered saiga antelope ( Saiga tatarica ), associated with a common bacterium ( Pasteurella multocida ) under conditions of warmer temperatures and higher humidity, indicate that threats from diseases are likely to increase in unanticipated ways in the future ( Kock et al. 2018 ).

In addition to threats posed by disease-causing microorganisms, invasive animal and plant species threaten mammals worldwide. Based on IUCN data from 2014, alien species were listed as a causal threat for 70% ( n = 30) of 43 extinctions ( Bellard et al. 2016 ). Furthermore, during recent decades, increased globalization has accelerated rates of movement and introduction of alien species. Moreover, trade and transport of goods and people globally have created new pathways for biological invasions and new challenges for stemming the loss of biodiversity resulting from the spread of alien species ( Hume 2009 ).

Invasive species can threaten mammal populations in diverse and interacting ways. First, invasive predators often are effective in killing naive prey, and this is especially prevalent for insular populations. A recent review identified 189 mammals representing 45 families that have been negatively affected by invasive predators, with the greatest numbers occurring in Australia and Central America ( Doherty et al. 2016 ). At least 28 of Australian’s endemic mammals have become extinct since European settlement, and extinctions continue to occur at a rate of one to two per decade, primarily as a result of predation by invasive alien predators ( Woinarski et al. 2015 ). Generalist predators such as feral cats ( Felis catus ), canids, and rodents are among the most challenging for island mammals. Feral cats have been reported to threaten ≥ 27 mammalian species on ≥ 120 islands ( Medina et al. 2011 ). Efforts to remove invasive predators from islands have met with success and offer hope for restoration of island fauna ( Jones et al. 2016 ). Recent summaries indicate that efforts to eradicate invasive species have achieved > 85% success rates ( Genovesi 2011 ). Nonetheless, growing recognition of the complexity of multispecies interactions also cautions that unintended consequences can occur following removal or reduction of invasive species ( Lurgi et al. 2018 ).

Second, invasive species can compete with native ones directly for key resources and indirectly through the spread of parasites ( Dunn et al. 2012 ) and facilitation of predation (i.e., apparent competition). Introduction of feral pigs ( Sus scrofa ) to the California Channel Islands provided abundant food for golden eagles ( Aquila chrysaetos ) that colonized the islands and subsequently preyed heavily on the native Channel Island foxes ( Urocyon littoralis — Roemer et al. 2002 ). Such novel biological interactions can reduce fitness of native mammals, resulting in population declines that lead to extirpations.

Third, plant invasions can alter community composition with numerous potential consequences for mammals and the ecosystems they inhabit ( Vilà et al. 2011 ). Such effects include reduction in availability or quality of forage for herbivores, changes in hydrological cycles ( Huxman et al. 2005 ), and alteration of historic fire regimes ( Brooks et al. 2004 ). Invasion of exotic annual plants, including cheatgrass ( Bromus tectorum ), in the western United States has increased frequency and severity of fires ( Balch et al. 2013 ), killing sagebrush ( Artimesia spp.) shrubs and precipitating loss of shrub-steppe habitats that support sagebrush-dependent mammals such as pygmy rabbits ( Brachylagus idahoensis ) and sagebrush voles ( Lemmiscus curtatus ). The uncertainty associated with effects of invasive species under changing climate regimes is an emerging threat to mammals. We address the issue of climate change later, but emphasize here that shifts in climate have the potential to alter consequences of species invasions in ways that have yet to be imagined. We view this as an important area for research to support future conservation of mammals.

For marine mammals, the principal threats are from accidental mortality (affecting 78% of species), including fisheries bycatch and vessel strikes, and pollution (60% of species). Pollution involves chemicals, marine debris, noise, and climate change ( Schipper et al. 2008 ). Harvesting of marine mammals remains a concern (52% of species) largely because of commercialization, notwithstanding improvements via international agreements ( Davidson et al. 2012 ; Bowen and Lidgard 2013 ; McCaughley et al. 2015 ).

Comparisons of terrestrial and aquatic taxa within Cetartiodactyla.

A positive relationship exists between threat of extinction and body size ( Purvis et al. 2000 ; Cardillo et al. 2005 ). Evaluating threats to large mammals of the Cetartiodactyla may offer insights into patterns that species in other orders may face.

For the 10 families of terrestrial species within Cetartiodactyla, a median of 55.5% of the species in those families are Threatened or Extinct. All species in three small families (Giraffidae, Hippopotamidae, Moschidae) are in that category. Threatened or Extinct species compose 37.3% of the species-rich Bovidae (142 species) and 49.0% of the Cervidae (54 species). Comparatively few species (16) from those two large families are Data Deficient, which is a small percentage (6.7%) of their extant species. Nevertheless, Threat Levels for terrestrial families of Cetartiodactyla ( Table 1 ) are high compared with other mammalian orders ( Fig. 1 ). A median Threat Level of 58.3%, with large lower (53.5%) and upper (61.8%) bounds are a clear cause for concern.

Threat levels with upper and lower bounds for families of terrestrial mammals in the order Cetartiodactyla. Threat Level = [(VU + EN + CR + EW)/(Total − DD)] × 100. The lower bound for the Threat Level = [(VU + EN + CR + EW)/Total] × 100; the upper bound for the Threat Level = [(VU + EN + CR + EW + DD)/Total] × 100. VU = number of Vulnerable species; EN = number of Endangered species; CR = number of Critically Endangered species; EW = number of species Extinct in the Wild; DD = number of species that are Data Deficient. Data from IUCN (2017) .

For the 11 families of aquatic species (some are not marine) within Cetartiodactyla, no species, with the possible exception of the baiji ( Lipotes vexllifer ), was thought to be extinct ( Turvey et al. 2007 ). The IUCN (2017) lists that species as Critically Endangered with an unknown population trend. A median of 33.3% of aquatic species in Cetartiodactyla were categorized as Threatened ( Table 2 ). This value likely is biased low because of the large number (45) of Data Deficient species, which constituted 51.7% of aquatic species. Threat Levels to aquatic species within Cetartiodactyla ( Table 2 ) are high compared with other orders ( Fig. 1 ), with a median of 50.0% (the lower bound for Threat Levels was 33.3% and the upper bound 75%). The upper bound for Threat Levels for aquatic families exceeded that for terrestrial families within Cetartiodactyla, largely because of the numerous Data Deficient aquatic species.

Threat levels with upper and lower bounds for aquatic families in the order Cetartiodactyla. Threat Level = [(VU + EN + CR + EW)/(Total − DD)] × 100. The lower bound for the Threat Level = [(VU + EN + CR + EW)/Total] × 100; the upper bound for the Threat Level = [(VU + EN + CR + EW + DD)/Total] × 100. VU = Vulnerable; EN = Endangered; CR = Critically Endangered; EW = Extinct in the Wild; DD = Data Deficient. Data from IUCN (2017) .

The primary factors threatening terrestrial Cetartiodactyla are similar across families based on the top three threats listed by the IUCN (2017) for each family (as determined by the number of species experiencing those threats). The category of “biological resource use” resulting principally from hunting and trapping was a primary threat for all 10 families. Nonetheless, many of those threats pertained to historical use of species, or illegal killing; no such reports listed legal and regulated sport harvest of mammals as a threat. Likewise, all 10 families included the IUCN category of “agriculture and aquaculture” as a threat, mostly a result of livestock farming or ranching. One-half of the families listed “residential and commercial development” as a threat, 20% included “human intrusions and development,” 10% listed “natural system modifications,” and 10% identified “invasive and other problematic species and diseases.” All of those categories except hunting and disease can be considered to be a consequence of habitat loss or modification.

The 11 families of aquatic species within Cetartiodactyla also face common threats. Foremost among those primary threats is “biological resource use” (90.9%), denoted mostly as harvest, fisheries bycatch, or harvesting of other aquatic resources. The only family that did not list “biological resource use” as a threat is the monotypic Neobalinenidae, for which no threats were listed because the pygmy right whale ( Caperea marginata ) was categorized as Data Deficient. “Pollution” also is a common threat (63.6%) in aquatic families; followed by “climate change and severe weather” (45.5%); “transportation and service corridors” (27.3%), which involve principally risks of collisions in shipping lanes; and “invasive and other problematic species and diseases” (18.2%).

Understanding patterns of extinction.

Mammals face dire threats throughout their distribution; the continued existence of many species, especially large-bodied, vagile taxa, is in question. Our results, however, are extremely conservative and do not fully address threats to mammalian species. The IUCN Red List considers only species-level taxa in categorizing the status of mammals, and consequently does not reflect threats to subspecies or local populations ( Butchart and Dunn 2003 ; Ceballos et al. 2017 ). For instance, the pronghorn ( Antilocapra americana ) is listed as a species of Least Concern, yet the Sonoran pronghorn ( A. a. sonoriensis ) is Endangered ( Hosack et al. 2002 ). Bighorn sheep ( Ovis canadensis ) also is a species of Least Concern, but the Sierra Nevada subspecies ( O. c. sierrae ) is Endangered ( Schroeder et al. 2010 ). The white-tailed deer ( Odocoileus virginianus ) has a wide distribution in the Americas and is a species of Least Concern, yet the Florida Key deer ( O. v. clavium ) is Endangered ( Haversohn et al. 2004 ).

Another problematic component of the IUCN database relates to the number of extant mammalian species. For instance, the Mammal Diversity Database ( https://mammaldiversity.org ) currently recognizes 6,399 species of extant mammals, with 96 species recently extinct ( Burgin et al. 2018 ). Moreover, a long-term average of 25 new species has been described each year ( Burgin et al. 2018 ). Undescribed species probably have experienced some extinctions, which would result in further underestimating extinction rate. Moreover, analyses based on IUCN (2017) data have 912 fewer mammalian species than recognized by the Mammal Diversity Database. The IUCN statistics clearly document past threats to mammals but may not track current ones, especially for rapidly occurring changes in the status of some mammalian species. Indeed, population status for many species is poorly documented in developing countries of the world, and nonexistent for the 912 mammal species that do not occur on the IUCN list ( Burgin et al. 2018 ).

Further, the IUCN Red List has been criticized as unscientific and in need of additional or revised metrics for classifying threatened species ( Mace and Lande 1991 ; Nowak 2009 ; Joppa et al. 2016 ). Nevertheless, some of those criticisms are based on misconceptions concerning the manner in which species are classified into categories ( Collen et al. 2016 ). Despite some shortcomings, we believe the IUCN Red List provides a benchmark against which the changing status of mammal species may be judged. The emphasis on extinction of species, regardless of the database used, has resulted in underestimating threats to mammals ( Ceballos et al. 2017 ).

Some mammals have experienced massive contractions in their geographic ranges during historic times ( Laliberte and Ripple 2004 ), and many species of Least Concern are declining, which may result in local extinctions ( Craigie et al. 2010 ; Ceballos et al. 2017 ). Large mammals, in particular, have the potential to greatly influence ecosystems that they inhabit ( McNaughton 1979 ; Stewart et al. 2006 ), but we must find ways to implement conservation measures that will benefit a diversity of mammalian taxa ( Ford et al. 2017 ). Ultimately, the fate of mammals is intertwined with the size, growth, and resource demands of the human population ( Vitousek et al. 1997 ; Czech et al. 2000 ; Gaston 2005 ; McKee et al. 2013 ).

Loss of habitat and habitat fragmentation ( Wilcox and Murphy 1985 ) are quintessential factors threatening most mammals, especially terrestrial taxa. Habitat restoration holds the potential to reduce rates of extinction in fragmented woodlands ( Newmark et al. 2017 ). Although there has been rapid progress in developing protected areas, those sites do not necessarily protect biodiversity ( Andelman and Willig 2003 ; Pimm et al. 2014 ; Bleich 2016 ).

Human livelihoods versus protection.

Curbing extinction and preserving populations are two major goals of mammal conservation. Historically, protected areas (national parks, reserves, and other legal designations intended to limit human activities with the overarching goal of conserving nature) have been a hub for conservation efforts. Recently, however, conservationists have come to realize that protected areas often are too small ( Woodroffe and Ginsberg 1998 ; Bleich 1999 , 2005 ; Gonzalez-Maya et al. 2015 ), too few ( Gaston et al. 2008 ; Newmark 2008 ; Durant et al. 2017 ), poorly delimited or isolated ( Bleich 2014 , 2016 ), or too unreliably supported ( Andelman and Willig 2003 ; Caro and Scholte 2007 ; Craigie et al. 2010 ) to meet many long-term (centuries to millennia) conservation prospects. Consequently, some conservationists are transitioning to a model in which the improvement of human livelihoods is considered (or even prioritized) alongside traditional preservationist views.

This outcome has been dubbed the “new conservation science” ( Kareiva and Marvier 2012 ), and it is reminiscent of the creation of Integrated Conservation and Development Projects (ICDPs). In the mid-1980s, and largely in response to failures perceived with traditional conservation efforts in protected areas (i.e., “fences and fines” approaches), the World Wide Fund for Nature introduced 19 ICDPs in an attempt to meet socioeconomic priorities of rural communities and conservation goals simultaneously ( Hughes and Flintan 2001 ). These ICDPs were established across Africa and South America, normally in conjunction with national parks and typically funded by western governments and nongovernment organizations, with the goal of benefiting local communities through tourism dollars and job creation ( Hughes and Flintan 2001 ). The validity of the ICDP model for conservation rests on at least two assumptions. First, local peoples are hostile toward formally protected areas, and their livelihoods pose a direct threat to biodiversity ( Hughes and Flintan 2001 ). Second, ICDPs offer complementary or alternative livelihoods to locals that are sustainable, will increase living standards, and will reduce threats posed to biodiversity ( Newmark and Hough 2000 ). These assumptions are rarely tested and are sometimes wrong. Moreover, a possible (but not universal— Salerno et al. 2014 ) unintended consequence of ICDP establishment is the increased immigration of people toward the outskirts of protected areas ( Barrett and Arcese 1995 ; Scholte 2003 ; Guerbois et al. 2013 ).

Generally, shifts from traditional conservation to emphasis on human livelihoods are controversial (e.g., Kareiva and Marvier 2012 ; Doak et al. 2014 , 2015 ; Vucetich et al. 2015 ), and are exemplified by two quotations: “Nature preserves…are not places to be saved to be used at a later stage when an ever-growing human population claims more land because of lack of economic development” ( Prins 1992 ); and “Why should all that land be set aside for tourists when it can be used for farming? These white people care more about one dead elephant than they do for a hundred black children” ( Obama 1995 , quoting his sister). At the heart lies debate over the validity of two frequent claims ( Young 2006 ): conservation and improved human livelihoods are compatible; and economic interests, particularly those of rural communities, must be satisfied for conservation to be successful (i.e., “wildlife must pay its way”). Appealing though they may be, evidence for the two claims is equivocal in that valid examples refuting or supporting each are readily available. Each is true for some conservation efforts, in some areas, some of the time.

With these considerations in mind, we review the costs and benefits of protected areas and multi-use, human-occupied landscapes, with particular attention to if and how each has shaped conservation outcomes for mammals. We then consider two examples in which on-the-ground conservation efforts are relying on a combination of formally protected areas and landscapes inhabited by local communities to bolster populations of two related, rare antelopes (Bovidae). Although these examples are broadly applicable, we focus attention on eastern and southern Africa, which house iconic protected areas (Kruger National Park, Serengeti National Park, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Mara Conservancy, and other nearby conservancies), and are occupied by people and their livestock over 75–85% of the landscape, and thus lack formal protection ( Chape et al. 2005 ; Newmark 2008 ).

Costs, benefits, and logistics of protected areas for conserving wild mammals.

We follow Dudley (2008) in defining a protected area as a “clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.” By this definition, the world’s first protected area (the Main Ridge Forest Reserve in Tobago) was created in 1776 via British parliamentary ordinance to collect rainfall for agriculture elsewhere on the island ( UNESCO 2011 ). Since this time, more than 202,000 protected areas have been established across nearly 15% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface ( U.N. Environment Conservation Monitoring Centre 2017 ). Many successes in mammal conservation have arisen precisely because of the establishment of, or targeted efforts within, formally protected areas, which also can serve as critical reference points for restoration ( Arcese and Sinclair 1997 ; Berger 2008 ). For the 24 species of wild mammals for which populations have been bolstered by conservation efforts in recent decades, one-half have benefitted demonstrably from conservation in protected areas ( Hoffmann et al. 2010 , 2011 ). In an extreme example, conservation within a protected area (the Serengeti National Park–Maasai Mara National Reserve complex) almost certainly prevented the conservation status of common wildebeest ( Connochaetes taurinus ) from deteriorating from Least Concern to Critically Endangered ( Hoffmann et al. 2015 ).

Alternative views exist regarding the utility of protected areas as ecological baselines. For example, Sarmento and Berger (2017) demonstrate that increased rates of human visitation to Glacier National Park have caused mountain goats ( Oreamnos americanus ) to relax antipredator behaviors, thereby potentially reshaping predator–prey interactions. More generally, protected areas (even those designated as “wilderness”) often are too small, too isolated, or both to buffer wide-ranging ungulates and carnivores from human influence outside their borders ( Woodroffe and Ginsberg 1998 ; Bleich 2016 ). Therefore, there is some risk that our view of “pristineness” is illusory, and our perception of ecological baselines subjective.

Conservation within protected areas requires a combination of reduction (or exclusion) of people and the creation of economic benefits from wildlife to people around protected areas. With regard to the former, Hilborn et al. (2006) demonstrated that enhanced antipoaching efforts in Serengeti National Park were sufficiently strong to increase numbers of buffalo ( Syncerus caffer ), African elephant ( Loxodonta africana ), and black rhinoceros ( Diceros bicornis ). Examples of effective enforcement within protected areas are rare, despite their critical importance for conservation. Some have suggested that increased funding for antipoaching patrols, rather than increased sentences for captured poachers, is a more economically efficient means of deterring poaching ( Dobson and Lynes 2007 ). Because poaching reduces the effective size of protected areas, and because protected areas display classic species–area relationships ( Fig. 2 ), economic inputs toward enforcement should result in less disparity between the true size of a protected area and its effective size ( Leader-Williams and Milner-Gulland 1993 ; Dobson and Lynes 2007 ).

Species richness of large (> 10 kg) ungulates displays a classic species–area relationship (power function) for protected areas in East Africa, implying extinction risk is a function of size of protected areas (Brashares et al. 2001). Protected areas comprise savanna woodland or grassland habitats in eastern and southern Africa, and include Amboseli National Park, Bontebuck National Park, Etosha National Park, Kora National Reserve, Kruger National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Lake Nakuru National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Nechisar Nation Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Serengeti National Park, South Luanga National Park, Tsavo National Park (East and West combined), and West Caprivi Game Reserve. Data from the IUCN World Database on Protected Areas (https://www.iucn.org/theme/protected-areas/our-work/world-database-protected-areas).

Species richness of large (> 10 kg) ungulates displays a classic species–area relationship (power function) for protected areas in East Africa, implying extinction risk is a function of size of protected areas ( Brashares et al. 2001 ). Protected areas comprise savanna woodland or grassland habitats in eastern and southern Africa, and include Amboseli National Park, Bontebuck National Park, Etosha National Park, Kora National Reserve, Kruger National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Lake Nakuru National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Nechisar Nation Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Serengeti National Park, South Luanga National Park, Tsavo National Park (East and West combined), and West Caprivi Game Reserve. Data from the IUCN World Database on Protected Areas ( https://www.iucn.org/theme/protected-areas/our-work/world-database-protected-areas ).

Fencing of protected areas has been a particularly contentious subject in recent years, although this debate is rooted in discussions from the mid-1980s. The controversy ( Creel et al. 2013 ; Packer et al. 2013a , 2013b ) is related to how best to minimize retaliatory killing of large carnivores (particularly African lions, Panthera leo ) following livestock depredation, as well as effects of habitat loss and degradation from livestock and farming, and depletion of native prey because of their use as bushmeat and competition with livestock. On one hand, population persistence of African lions is projected to be highest within well-funded and fenced protected areas (where African lions are limited primarily by density dependence), and lowest within poorly funded, unfenced protected areas associated with high population densities of people ( Packer et al. 2013a ). Conversely, critics have argued that African lion densities are artificially high within fenced protected areas, and these are too expensive to install and maintain in most locales ( Creel et al. 2013 ). One point of agreement is that African lion conservation requires a larger, sustained financial base to be successful over the long term.

Still, protected areas are not a panacea, and often fall short as a stopgap to prevent population declines, local extirpations, or even extinction. This happens for a number of reasons, foremost among them illegal hunting within protected areas that exist in name only, but that lack adequate enforcement (so-called “paper parks”— Gates 1999 ). Although they occur largely in protected areas, West African chimpanzees ( Pan troglodytes verus ) are on the brink of extinction in several countries; the same is true for addax ( Addax nasomaculatus ) and dama gazelle ( Nanger dama ), despite occurring in the largest protected area on the continent (the 100,000 km 2 Termit Massif Reserve in Niger). In 2000, Miss Waldron’s red colobus monkey ( Piliocolobus waldronae ) was declared extinct in a network of national parks in Ghana and Ivory Coast ( Oates et al. 2000 ; but see the following section). Additionally, extinction risk is amplified in small reserves in West Africa via demographic stochasticity ( Brashares et al. 2001 ) and in the Horn of Africa because of compromised ability of several antelopes with small geographic ranges to track suitable habitats as drying and warming intensifies ( Payne and Bro-Jørgensen 2016 ).

Because protected areas generally are viewed as safeguards in which pristine and fragile nature is physically separated from human activities, protected areas risk being perceived as incompatible with human livelihoods. This observation is particularly applicable to developing countries, where more affluent nations are responsible for the bulk of conservation funding ( Hickey and Pimm 2011 ; Miller et al. 2013 ). Such division between the nations that fund conservation and nations that bear the costs of conservation can result in mistrust of government agencies and other organizations dedicated to conservation in protected areas. By virtue of their proximity to protected areas, local peoples are asked to tolerate direct (e.g., livestock depredation, crop loss) or indirect (e.g., restrictions on development, competition from game species) economic losses to wild mammals ( Waylen et al. 2010 ; Bruskotter et al. 2017 ). Perceptions aside, local peoples derive at least some benefits from protected areas, as evidenced by growing human populations on the outskirts of national parks and reserves in Africa and Latin America ( Wittemyer et al. 2008 ), and increasing human pressures within a substantial fraction of protected areas ( Jones et al. 2018 ).

Costs, benefits, and logistics of human-occupied landscapes for conserving wild mammals.

We consider conservation in human-occupied landscapes (areas with conservation needs that also include people) as synonymous with community-based conservation, in which local involvement in areas lacking formal protection is aimed at enhancing conservation and maintaining or improving living standards ( Berkes 2004 ). Conservation in human-occupied landscapes may complement conservation in formally protected areas, or it may be the only option through which conservation can occur ( Western et al. 2015 ). The latter is particularly the case in developing nations, where governments lack the authority or resources to advance conservation. In such instances, the explicit consideration of human livelihoods may be crucial for curbing extinction and bolstering population sizes of rare or declining mammals.

Conservation failure is the norm in human-occupied landscapes, but it is by no means a foregone conclusion. For conservation outside of formally protected areas to succeed, the protection of wild mammals and their habitats should result in some benefit to local people. Examples include direct payments from ecotourism ( Sindinga 1995 ) and trophy hunting ( Lindsey et al. 2006 ), ecosystem services in the form of enhanced forage quality ( Odadi et al. 2011 ), and reduced risk of tick-borne diseases ( Allan et al. 2017 ). These benefits arise from the diversification of land uses, which increasingly are being implemented to buffer against unpredictable climates and livestock markets ( Reid et al. 2014 ). These benefits also should be tied directly to decisions made by local residents, who should oversee conservation efforts ( Goodwin and Roe 2001 ).

As with protected areas, examples of conservation success in human-occupied landscapes are many. Black-footed ferret ( Mustela nigripes ) restoration is occurring on privately owned rangelands in Wyoming because of a recent clause of the Endangered Species Act, affording regulatory relief for landowners in the form of relaxed prohibitions on take ( USFWS 2014 ). Similar to ferrets, other species of mammals thought to be extinct, have been rediscovered in human-occupied landscapes, including the Philippine naked-backed fruit bat ( Dobsonia chapmani ) on Cebu and Negros Islands (rediscovered in 2000— Paguntalan et al. 2004 ), and the Miss Waldron’s red colobus monkey in the Ehy Forest of Ivory Coast (rediscovered in 2002— McGraw 2005 ). Engaging local people in participatory forest management has been very effective in reducing forest loss around Chitwan National Park, Nepal ( Stapp et al. 2016 ).

Human–wildlife conflict frequently constrains opportunities for conservation in human-occupied landscapes, particularly in the absence of strong local investment in conservation or transparent benefits to individuals from conservation. This occurs because common resources, such as rangelands, forests, and water, are susceptible to overexploitation via the Tragedy of the Commons ( Hardin 1968 ). Self-governance of common resources can benefit wildlife, if major decisions are made locally by communities ( Fennell 2011 ). Ostrom (1990) articulated eight principles that are necessary to prevent a commons tragedy from arising, four of which are particularly germane when considering conservation efforts in human-occupied landscapes:

Clearly defined common resources, and effective exclusion of unentitled parties;

Collective choice, such that users of common resources can participate in decision-making (or elected officials serve as proxies in decision-making);

Sanctions for those who violate community rules in appropriating common resources; and

Recognition of leaders by higher-level authorities of the community.

The success of conservation in human-occupied landscapes hinges strongly on those principles. Ultimately, their implementation requires strong leadership through heads, elders, or other respected individuals in the community, who have strong public support (e.g., Kothari et al. 2013 ; Hazzah et al. 2014 ). Local conservation requires local knowledge, which is necessary but insufficient for conservation in human-occupied landscapes. Local conservation also requires local leaders.

In the following section, we detail two cases in which current conservation efforts rely on a combination of protected areas and human-occupied landscapes to bolster population sizes of two species of imperiled antelope. Both lean heavily on strong local knowledge and local leadership. At first glance, these examples seem similar: the antelope species are close relatives, occur in Kenya, and share the landscape with people and their livestock. But each example highlights a truism: while conservation is a global problem, the solutions are typically local, and require sustained input over the long term ( Pringle 2017 ). Inevitably, such long-term dedication necessitates a focus on place: intimate knowledge of system-specific details of the protected areas or human-occupied landscapes in which conservation challenges occur and can be fixed.

Case study 1: livestock production as a tool to lessen apparent competition for hartebeest.

The aim of this project is to reverse declines of hartebeest ( Alcelaphus buselaphus ) inhabiting the 10,000 km 2 Laikipia Plateau of central Kenya over one or more decades. Since the mid-1980s, hartebeest and several other populations of wild ungulates in Laikipia have declined, due to the increasing tolerance of ranchers toward large carnivores, particularly African lions. The rate and timing of these declines is the same, indicating one or more common underlying mechanisms. Georgiadis et al. (2007a) tested seven nonexclusive hypotheses (including poaching, parasitism, interspecific competition, intraspecific competition, habitat conversion, displacement by humans, and exceptional rainfall patterns) for those declines, rejecting all but predation. Further, the authors suggested that many species of wild ungulates in Laikipia, the hartebeest in particular, were suppressed via apparent competition with plains zebra ( Equus burchelli ), a wild ungulate that has not exhibited the same steep declines characteristic of others in Laikipia, and that is the most common prey of African lions ( Georgiadis et al. 2007b ; Frank 2011 ).

At Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia, Ng’weno et al. (2017) reported support for the hypothesis that African lions had suppressed population growth of hartebeest. Additionally, hartebeest were preferred by African lions over 10 wild ungulate species with which they co-occurred, and exhibited an African lion-mediated Allee effect ( Ng’weno 2017 ). Risk of mortality to hartebeest from African lion predation increased in association with plains zebra and dense vegetation ( Ng’weno et al. 2017 ). These observations support the idea that an increasing African lion population in Laikipia has been subsidized by plains zebra and caused hartebeest to decline to < 10% of their historical abundance.

Finding lethal control of African lions improper and extirpation of hartebeest populations undesirable, Ng’weno (2017) implemented a solution to bolster numbers of hartebeest that did not require lethal control of African lions. Within Laikipia, ranchers corral livestock nightly in temporary, circular corrals (“bomas”) to reduce predation ( Ogada et al. 2003 ). Bomas are occupied between 1 and 6 months, after which they are abandoned and livestock are moved in a rotational scheme. Over 1 year, bomas transition into nutrient-rich grazing lawns, as dung and urine break-down and enrich the soil ( Veblen 2012 ; Porensky and Veblen 2015 ). Those grazing lawns are attractive to plains zebra, but are virtually ignored by hartebeest. Consequently, Ng’weno (2017) used bomas to create grazing lawns away from hartebeest territories, thereby manipulating the distribution of primary prey (zebra) on the landscape and providing a spatial refuge from African lion predation for hartebeest. This approach more than doubled survival rates of hartebeest, although it is too early to know whether this effect is sufficiently strong to reverse population declines of hartebeest.

Case study 2: engaging Somali communities to conserve hirola antelope.

This project involves hirola ( Beatragus hunteri ), a close relative of hartebeest that is classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, with a global population size of < 500 individuals ( King et al. 2011 ). Hirola have never been common, and are restricted to grassland habitats east of the Tana River on the Kenya–Somalia border; such small-ranged species are particularly susceptible to demographic stochasticity, and thus present major conservation challenges ( Caughley 1994 ). In the mid-1980s, geographic range collapse (and the associated global population crash) occurred in response to a rinderpest ( Morbillivirus ) outbreak ( IUCN 2008 ), such that hirola are now restricted to an approximate 1,200 km 2 swath of land on the Kenya–Somalia border. Nonetheless, eradication of rinderpest from the Horn of Africa in the early 2000s did not prompt hirola recovery ( Ali et al. 2017 ). At approximately the same time that hirola populations plummeted, financial backing for the only protected area in the region, Arawale National Reserve, dwindled because of remoteness of the area, lack of a viable tourism industry, and lack of local involvement.

Motivated by increasing calls for in situ conservation and local involvement, the Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy was established in eastern Kenya in 2005 by Terra Nuova (an Italian nongovernmental organization) and has been overseen since by the Northern Rangelands Trust (a Kenyan nongovernment organization supported largely by USAID, The Nature Conservancy, and other international donors). This marked a major shift in attempts to conserve hirola, as local Somali communities were engaged, and indeed were the driving force behind those efforts. In 2012, a predator-proof sanctuary was constructed within Ishaqbini to serve as a source for future reintroductions of hirola throughout their historical range, the first of which is slated for 2018. Interestingly, populations of hirola have grown within Ishaqbini at the same time that they remained stable or declined slightly within a protected area to which they were introduced in the mid-1990s (Tsavo East National Park— Probert et al. 2014 ; Ali et al. 2018 ).

Despite its successes, Ishaqbini is small (72 km 2 ) and therefore insufficient for the long-term persistence of hirola. At approximately the same time as the sanctuary was being created, a coordinated, parallel effort (the Hirola Conservation Programme; HCP) was established. The HCP’s mission is to “regazette” Arawale National Reserve and restore hirola populations throughout their 7,600 km 2 historical range, which would result in the downlisting of hirola from Critically Endangered to Endangered. In the aftermath of rinderpest eradication, hirola populations have been suppressed by a combination rangeland deterioration via tree encroachment and predation by African lions, cheetahs ( Acinonyx jubatus ), and African wild dogs ( Lycaon pictus ), each of which is an IUCN red-listed species ( Ali et al. 2017 , 2018 ).

Because predator control is arguably undesirable and logistically impossible, efforts have centered on identifying strategies to revert Acacia -dominated woodlands to the open grasslands that characterized the historical range of hirola. Local communities support restoration strategies that have been successful elsewhere, including manual clearing of trees and reseeding of grasses over large areas ( Ali 2016 ). Although it is too early to know whether range-restoration efforts have been successful, signs are encouraging because several of Ostrom’s (1990) criteria for combating the Tragedy of the Commons are being met: well-defined community boundaries exist within the hirola’s range, rules are being created for the provision of restored grasslands to individuals, and participatory decision-making is being overseen by a small number of elders who have broad community support ( Ali 2016 ). Mammal conservationists await results with cautious optimism.

The cases of hartebeest conservation in Laikipia and hirola conservation in eastern Kenya represent place-based, system-specific conservation efforts. Those efforts would not be possible without elements of conservation in protected areas and human-occupied landscapes in tandem, and neither would be possible without strong local leadership. Such is the norm for mammal conservation throughout the globe. Although several contributions over the past decade have been key in identifying common challenges associated with protected areas (e.g., Woodroffe and Ginsberg 1998 ; Tranquilli et al. 2014 ; Venter et al. 2017 ) and human-occupied landscapes (e.g., Walpole and Thouless 2005 ; Chapron et al. 2014 ), workable solutions often are difficult to apply generally. In the previous examples, each conservation solution arose because of particularities inherent to the study system. In the first, secondary prey of African lions (hartebeest) are not attracted to grazing lawns to the same degree as are primary prey of African lions (zebra), thereby offering potential for physical separation and spatial refugia. In the second, Somali pastoralists typically do not hunt wild ungulates, and ascribe to hirola a near-mythical status (because hirola are associated with high-quality, abundant grasses Kimitei et al. 2015 ). Such is the nuance of successful conservation efforts, for which we expect both protected areas and human-occupied landscapes to play key roles in the 21st century and beyond.

Patterns of use and exploitation.

Humans have been hunting other mammals throughout our species’ existence ( Bunn and Gurtov 2014 ). The primary motivation for hunting always has been for food, and this remains among the most common justifications for hunting, whether it be for bushmeat by aboriginal peoples in tropical areas of Asia ( Harrison et al. 2016 ), Africa ( Fa et al. 1995 ), Australia ( Finch et al. 2014 ), or South America ( Hames and Vickers 1982 ), or for highly regulated hunting in North America and Europe ( Responsive Management 2013 ). Culling is another term for hunting, but culling is most often used when removals are motivated to reduce population size to lessen conflicts with agriculture or to control predators ( Quirós-Fernández et al. 2017 ).

When tied to economic incentives and commercial markets, however, hunting has led to excessive harvests and declines in wild mammal populations ( Geist 1988 ; Harrison et al. 2016 ). In some instances, this has been the consequence of market hunting, for example, in the bushmeat trade in Asia ( Scheffers et al. 2012 ; Harrison et al. 2016 ) and Africa ( Fa et al. 1995 ) or early exploitation of elk ( Cervus elaphus ) in North America ( Geist 1988 ). During the 18th and 19th centuries, beavers ( Castor canadensis and C. fiber ) and otters ( Endydra lutris , Lontra canadensis , and Lutra lutra ) were extirpated from most of North America and Europe because of a lack of regulations and high economic demand for fur ( Ray 1974 ; Estes 2016 ).

In North America, deliberate exploitation was used to eliminate bison ( Bison bison ) from the Great Plains during warfare by the United States government against aboriginal people who depended on bison for food ( Allen 1954 ). Likewise, European bison ( B. bonasus ), deer ( C. elaphus and Capreolus capreolus ), and beavers ( C. fiber ) were severely overharvested across vast regions of Europe. Large carnivores have been especially persecuted, including wolves ( Canis lupus ), large cats ( P. leo and Puma concolor ), and bears ( Ursus spp.) that were killed to prevent livestock depredation ( Ripple et al. 2014 ).

Declining populations and restorations.

Concerns about declining wildlife populations in the late 19th century prompted Theodore Roosevelt and an elite group of hunters and nature enthusiasts to form the Boone and Crockett Club to initiate major conservation initiatives ( Organ et al. 2010 ; Krausman and Bleich 2013 ). Regulations limiting hunting, with restricted seasons and quotas, were implemented in many areas early in the early 20th century, and reintroduction programs were conducted to restore depleted or extirpated populations of a number of species, including bighorn sheep ( Bleich et al. 2018 ), elk, beavers, and otters ( Geist 1995 ). More recently, large carnivores have returned to parts of their former range even though they are still persecuted in many areas ( Ripple et al. 2014 ). Generally, however, these conservation measures were highly effective for a number of mammal species, and today, in North America and Europe, wild mammal populations are thriving to the extent that legal hunting is allowed for a number of species ( Organ et al. 2010 ). Indeed, hunters in North America have contributed billions of dollars toward conservation and wildlife management ( Southwick and Allen 2010 ).

Patterns of management.

In developing countries, management of hunting varies substantially because of societal views and economics. Artiodactyls threatened with extinction, for example, occur most often in poor countries with unregulated hunting ( Price and Gittleman 2007 ). Hunting of wildlife is banned in several countries, notably China and India, although illegal hunting (i.e., poaching) is known to be a concern in most places to various degrees and has been exceedingly challenging for the black rhinoceros, white rhinoceros ( Ceratotherium simum ), three species of Asian rhinoceros ( Rhinocerus sondiacus , R. unicornis , Dicerorhinus sumatrensis ), and African elephant. In some countries, including Namibia and South Africa, trophy hunting generates substantial revenues for local communities and for conservation, and justifies maintaining and restoring native vegetation with benefits for biodiversity protection ( Lindsey et al. 2007 ).

The legal killing of a telemetered male African lion near Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe prompted huge public media discussions about the ethics of trophy hunting ( Di Minin et al. 2016 ; Macdonald et al. 2016 ). Although still controversial, a report by the IUCN (2016) details circumstances when trophy hunting can be an effective tool for conservation and offers guidelines. The IUCN report details many examples including the local-community management of trophy hunting to support conservation of the Suleiman markhor ( Capra falconeri ) and the Afgan urial ( Ovis orientalis ) in Pakistan ( Woodford et al. 2004 ) and Tajikistan.

Sustainability of harvest.

In most places where hunting is legal, it is regulated to ensure that harvests are sustainable, but sustainable harvests may not ensure hunting in some instances ( Fig. 3 ). Hunting is sustainable, in part, because of density-dependent survival or reproduction ( Boyce et al. 1999 ; Kokko 2001 ; Bowyer et al. 2014 ). Hunting reduces population density, resulting in increased food availability per capita, with consequent enhanced nutrition increasing survival or fecundity, thereby compensating for animals removed by harvest ( Owen-Smith 2006 ). These density-dependent responses to exploitation include increased survival, especially of juveniles ( Eberhardt 2002 ; Bonenfant et al. 2009 ), and increased growth rates ( Schmidt et al. 2007 ; Gamelon et al. 2017 ; Monteith et al. 2018 ). Also, life-history responses influencing reproduction can include larger litter sizes and reproductive output ( Bowman et al. 1999 ; Hanson et al. 2009 ; Gamelon et al. 2017 ), higher pregnancy rates ( Stewart et al. 2005 ), and earlier age at first reproduction ( Boyce 1981 ). Density dependence facilitates resilience to harvest removals and promotes persistence of hunted populations of large mammals.

Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) in central British Columbia, Canada. Trophy hunting for grizzly bears in British Columbia was closed in 2017 because of public opposition to hunting even though research indicated that the hunt was sustainable. Photograph by Mark Boyce.

Grizzly bear ( Ursus arctos ) in central British Columbia, Canada. Trophy hunting for grizzly bears in British Columbia was closed in 2017 because of public opposition to hunting even though research indicated that the hunt was sustainable. Photograph by Mark Boyce.

The hydra effect.

Although hunter harvest or culling typically reduces population size, density-dependent responses in seasonal environments can interact with hunter harvest in a way that can actually increase annual survival ( Boyce et al. 1999 ) and total population size ( Jonzén and Lundberg 1999 ; Abrams 2009 ). Such overcompensation responses to hunting removals (where harvests result in increased survival or increased population size) have been termed the “hydra effect” ( Abrams and Matsuda 2005 ). A variety of mechanisms can cause the hydra effect in multispecies systems ( Cortez and Abrams 2016 ). Likewise, culling of predators resulting in trophic-level interactions can create counterintuitive results ( Mitchell et al. 2015 ; Costa et al. 2017 ). For example, in a tri-trophic system on Little Barrier Island, New Zealand, culling of feral cats ( F. catus ) resulted in increased abundance of Pacific rats ( Rattus exulans ) that caused Cook’s petrel ( Pterodroma cookii ) populations to decline ( Rayner et al. 2007 ). In a similar example, harbor seals ( Phoca vitulina ) were culled to enhance the fishery, but seal removals allowed Pacific hake ( Meluccius productus ) populations to increase, which subsequently caused a decrease in the abundance of Pacific herring ( Clupea pallasii — Bowen and Lidgard 2013 ). Finally, removal of dingos ( Canis lupus dingo ) in Australia has resulted in population increases by red fox ( Vulpes vulpes ) with resulting predation that caused a reduction in native marsupials ( Letnic and Koch 2010 ).

Behavioral outcomes from hunting.

Hunting also can have complex consequences for social structure and behavior of individuals in harvested populations. In African lions and brown bears ( Ursus arctos ), removal of an adult male by hunting can result in sexually selected infanticide ( Packer and Pusey 1983 ; Swenson et al. 1997 ; Whitman et al. 2004 ). After a mature male has been removed by hunting, subordinate males will move into the area vacated by the removal, and will kill young to bring females into estrus so that they can breed with the females in their new home range ( Packer et al. 2011 ).

Other behavioral consequences of hunting, such as disruption of social structure in African elephant populations ( Shannon et al. 2013 ) and elimination of individuals with “bold personalities” in elk ( Ciuti et al. 2012 ), have been documented. Vigilance behavior of black-tailed prairie dogs ( Cynomys leudovicianus ) is disturbed by hunting, which results in reduced body condition and fitness ( Pauli and Buskirk 2007 ). Exposure to hunting can influence learning whereby older animals adopt behaviors to reduce the chances that they will be killed by hunters ( Thurfjell et al. 2017 ). In this example, young North American elk were more vulnerable to hunter harvest, resulting in high turnover among younger individuals in the population. Nonetheless, because elk learn to avoid hunters ( Lone et al. 2015 ), by the time that elk are 9–10 years old, it is highly unlikely that they will be killed by a hunter. This outcome is important because older individuals know migration routes, seasonal foraging areas, and calving sites, and retaining older individuals in the population can potentially enhance population resilience ( Thurfjell et al. 2017 ).

Effects of selective harvests.

Clearly, hunting can be selective, if certain individuals are more vulnerable to harvest than others ( Festa-Bianchet 2017 ). Yet, hunters usually are not highly selective, often taking the first opportunity to kill a legal animal ( Heffelfinger 2018 ) and uncertainty remains about the possibility that selective hunter harvests can have detrimental effects ( Mysterud 2011 ). An evolutionary response requires intense selection on highly heritable traits for an extended period ( Coulson et al. 2018 ; Festa-Bianchet and Mysterud 2018 ). Clearly, hunting can alter the demography of a population, thereby increasing population turnover, changing sex and age ratios, or both ( Milner et al. 2007 ; Monteith et al. 2013 , 2018 ; Hewitt et al. 2014 ). Moreover, a small amount of immigration from an unhunted area can be sufficient to swamp the effect of size-selection by hunting ( Tenhumberg et al. 2004 ). In landscapes with private land ownership, variation in hunter access can be sufficient to ensure that effects of hunting are overwhelmed by spatial patterns on the landscape, because nearby areas exist with fewer hunters and more ungulates ( McCullough 1996 ).


Unregulated or illegal hunting of wild mammals by humans continues to be a threat to the conservation of some mammals, especially in tropical regions with diverse mammal faunas ( Van Vliet et al. 2015 ). Yet, in North America, Europe, and parts of Africa, hunting has been the basis for effective programs to ensure conservation of essential habitats and to restore wild populations ( Organ et al. 2010 ). Resilience of populations to hunting driven by density dependence has proven to be a powerful stabilizing force that ensures sustainable harvests if hunting is managed. Unfortunately, unregulated or illegal hunting continues for cultural or economic reasons over much of the Earth. Finding ways to overcome such cultural and economic barriers to conservation remains among those obstacles preventing continued loss of mammalian diversity.

Climate change.

A rapidly changing climate with accelerating risks of extinction for mammals as well as other taxonomic groups ( Urban 2015 ) augurs poorly for the continued existence of many species. Life-history traits that make mammalian species vulnerable to extinction also make them more susceptible to a changing climate ( Davidson et al. 2017 ). Moreover, geographical areas associated with risk of extinction for mammals may be modified under a rapidly changing climate as a result of altered landscapes or from the decoupling of phenology and life-history events ( Davidson et al. 2017 ). Indeed, threats from climate change are prevalent for both marine and terrestrial mammals ( Simmonds and Isaac 2007 ; Mallory and Boyce 2018 ).

Large-scale climatic variability has negatively influenced growth, development, fecundity, and demographic trends in northern ungulates ( Post and Stenseth 1999 ). In addition, increases in rain or snow events may promote icing and adversely affect cold-adapted mammals at high latitudes ( Berger et al. 2018 ). Changes in snow conditions influencing subnivian spaces may adversely affect small mammals that rely on those seasonal refugia ( Pauli et al. 2013 ).

A warming climate can affect species composition and quality of forage plants available to large herbivores ( Lenart et al. 2002 ). This holds demographic consequences for some of those mammals ( Burthe et al. 2011 ), although not all large herbivores respond immediately to such changes ( Bowyer et al. 1998 ). Shifts in forage phenology also may influence diets and behaviors for large omnivores, with unknown consequences for the community and ecosystem ( Deacy et al. 2017 ). Recruitment in moose ( Alces alces ) near the southern extent of their range was negatively affected by warm temperatures ( Monteith et al. 2015 ). In addition, climate change has affected long-term population growth of pronghorn populations ( Gedir et al. 2015 ). A free-ranging population of Soay sheep ( Ovis aries ) experienced reduced twinning and size of neonates, as well as delayed sexual maturation during warmer winters ( Forchhammer et al. 2001 ). Large mammals, as well as those with nocturnal activity patterns, were more likely to respond as expected to climate change than were other species with regard to local extirpations, decreased abundance, range contractions and shifts, and morphological and genetic changes ( McCain and King 2014 ). Only 52% of all mammalian species studied by McCain and King (2014) responded as expected to climate change. In addition, climate change may require a rethinking of how public lands are managed for native ungulates to lessen effects of competition with domestic and feral herbivores ( Beschita et al. 2013 ). Linkages between climate change and population demography of mammals, including latitudinal and elevational shifts, require additional study ( Moritz et al. 2008 ; Meserve et al. 2011 ; Baltensperger et al. 2017 ). Future research should evolve from descriptions of shifting patterns to investigations of consequences resulting from a changing climate. Species respond to thermal landscapes in complex ways that require information about considerably more than ambient temperatures ( Bowyer and Kie 2009 ; Long et al. 2014 ). For instance, northward range shifts in the distribution of snowshoe hares ( Lepus americanus ) were related to decreasing persistence of snow cover, which created a color mismatch, and ostensibly lead to increased mortality of white hares on a brown landscape ( Sultaire et al. 2016 ; Zimova et al. 2016 ). Similarly, Atmeh et al. (2018) reported that a white morph of weasels ( Mustela nivalis ) was declining compared with their brown counterparts because of a shortening of days with snow cover, likely from increased predation. Much remains to be discovered about how and when a changing climate will affect mammals. For many species, factors that threaten them cannot be eliminated entirely, and those species will need to be managed to ensure their persistence. Such species are “conservation reliant” ( Goble et al. 2012 ), and long-term conservation of many if not most wild mammals will require more intensive efforts.

All authors made major contributions to this paper and order of authorship is alphabetical. We thank M. R. Willig, A. V. Linzey, and E. J. Heske for overseeing this process, V. C. Bleich for his thoughtful review of our manuscript, and R. Ávila Flores for preparing the Spanish summary. The phylogeny in Fig. 1 was modified from one created by J. Kenagy and provided courtesy of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.

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EssayBanyan.com – Collections of Essay for Students of all Class in English

Essay on Wildlife Conservation

“Wildlife Conservation” word reminds us of saving the resources which have been provided to us as nature’s gift. Wildlife represents the animals that are not domesticated or tamed. They are just wild animals and living in total wilderness. The conservation of such animals and plant species so that they may be out of the danger of extinction is termed wildlife conservation.

Short and Long Essays on Wildlife Conservation in English

Find here some essays on this topic to get clear about wildlife conservation in English language for the students of school and college. You can get some help from these essays on wildlife conservation given under 100-150 words, 200-250 words and 500-600 words limit.

Essay on World Nature Conservation Day

Wildlife Conservation Essay 10 Lines (100 – 150 Words)

1) The protection of wild species and their habitat is termed wildlife conservation.

2) Wildlife plays an important role in balancing the ecosystem.

3) Pollution, deforestation, hunting, etc are responsible for harming wildlife.

4) Government is trying hard to conserve wildlife.

5) Crocodile Conservation Project, Project Tiger, etc have been imposed to save wildlife.

6) Due to human activities many wildlife are endangered and some have vanished.

7) Wildlife conservation is important to maintain the food chain.

8) Protecting endangered species, habitat management, banning hunting, etc could help in wildlife conservation.

9) Dodo, Great Auk, Woolly Mammoth, etc species are vanished due to human negligence.

10) To promote wildlife conservation, 4 December is observed as Wildlife Conservation Day.

Essay on Rainwater Harvesting

Essay 1 (250 Words) – The Need for Wildlife Conservation


The protection of the species of wildlife from extinction or vanishing by applying suitable methods is termed as wildlife conservation. The wild animals and plants play an important role in the ecosystem they reside.

The Need for Wildlife Conservation

This is the outcome of the way in which man is changing the lifestyle and advancements in way of living. The enormous cutting of trees and forests is leading to the destruction of the habitats of wildlife. The thoughtless deeds of human beings are responsible for the mass extinction of the wildlife species. The act of hunting and poaching is also a punishable offense, no wildlife species must be killed for the enjoyment purpose.

The wild animals and plants are playing an important role in maintaining ecological balance. Their importance could not be denied. There are several factors that are a threat to wildlife creatures. The increasing pollution, temperature and climatic changes, overexploitation of resources, irregular hunting and poaching, loss of habitat, etc are major causes for the deterioration of wildlife. There are many of the government acts and policies formulated and amended in the direction for the conservation of wildlife.

It is the sole and social responsibility of human beings, on an individual basis, one should try to conserve our renewable resources. They are precious and must be used up in a wise manner. The wildlife creatures and plants add beauty to our nature. Their uniqueness, beautiful voice of some birds and animals makes the surrounding and the habitat pleasing and wonderful.

Essay 2 (400 Words) – What Causes of Wildlife Depletion

The act of protecting the species of wild plants and animals from becoming extinct is termed as wildlife conservation. The same is achieved through the execution of different plans and policies by the human being. The wildlife is an important factor of our ecosystem, without their existence, the ecological balance will turn to an imbalanced state. As each and every creature has its right to exist and therefore they must be provided with a proper habitat and conditions.

But the conditions prevailing are totally different. Man has become so much selfish in his desires that he forgot that other organisms have the same right. The different illegal practices, advancements, needs have led to the creation of a situation which is an alarming one.

Causes of Wildlife Depletion

There are several factors leading to the destruction of wildlife:

  • Habitat Loss – The unwanted clearing of forests and agricultural land to make several building projects, roads, dams is leading to major habit loss of different wildlife animals and plants. These activities deprive animals of their home. As a result either they have to move to some other habitat or becomes extinct.
  • Overexploitation of Resources – The resources are meant to use up in a wise manner but if used in an unnatural way leads to overexploitation of the same. The overuse will foster the extinction of the species.
  • Hunting and Poaching – The act of hunting and poaching is really a miserable one as it involves the trapping and killing up of animals for the enjoyment of obtaining some product. Some of the animal’s products are valuable ones, for example, ivory, skin, horn, etc. They are obtained by making the animals captive or hunting and further killing them after obtaining the product. This is leading to increasing mass extinctions, an example is musk dear.
  • Using Animals for Research Purpose – There are many of the animals, chosen for testing results in the laboratory of research institutes. Taking them in such a large number of results in the mass extinction of the species.
  • Pollution – The unwanted changes in the state of the environment leads to a result in a polluted one. And so is the air, water, soil pollution. But the alteration in the quality of the air, water, the soil is directly responsible for the reduction in the number of animal and plant species.
  • The marine biodiversity is greatly affected by the contaminated water; the chemicals present in the water ruptures the functional activities of marine biota. The coral reef is greatly affected by the temperature changes and contamination.

There should be a positive approach to the conservation of wildlife. There are many policies and plans and initiatives by the government already working for protection purposes. The wild animals and plants which are easy to protect or conserve within their own habitat should be protected following the in-situ conservation measures. The animals and plants which are unable to remain safe in their own habitat or are facing the extinction terrors should be conserved within laboratories or some reserves following ex-situ measures.

Essay on Wildlife Conservation

Essay 3 (500 – 600 Words) – Wildlife Conservation: Factors, Types, Importance and Projects

Wildlife conservation is the phenomenon of protection and management of wildlife facing the danger of extinction. Wildlife is an important feature of our ecology. They are the animals or plants which are the supporting systems of our ecosystem. They are living in wilderness in some forests or jungles. They are helping in maintaining our ecological balance. The inhuman practices are leading wildlife creatures to become endangered or extinct. India is rich in biodiversity, but there are many factors leading to the loss of the same.

Factors Leading to Wildlife Destruction

  • Overexploitation of resources
  • Habitat loss
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Hunting and poaching
  • Climatic changes

Types of Wildlife Conservation

  • In-situ Conservation – In this type of conservation, species of plants and animals, and their genetic material are protected or conserved within their habitat. The areas are termed as protected areas. They are national parks, sanctuaries, biosphere reserves.
  • Ex-situ Conservation – This conservation technique involves conservation or protection of the species of plants and animals and also the genetic material outside their habitat. This is done in form of gene banks, cryopreservation, tissue culture, captive breeding, and botanical gardens.

Importance of Wildlife Conservation

  • Ecological balance
  • Aesthetic and recreational value
  • Promotes to maintain biodiversity

Wildlife Conservation Efforts in India

  • Project Tiger: This project was launched by the Government of India in 1973, with an initiative for protection and management of the reducing population of the tiger. The Bengal tigers were reducing drastically in their numbers and their habitats too as a result of increasing human activities and advancements. Therefore in order to protect their habitat and their numbers, project initiative was taken. The project was administered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

The main objective of the project was to maintain the habitat of the tigers from destruction. Secondly, ensuring a rise in the number of tigers.

The project had a positive approach in saving our Royal Bengal Tigers, as their number increased from 1000-5000 approx. At an initial level, there were 9 protected areas which came up to become 50 till 2015. This was really a successful attempt towards the conservation of the Tiger our national animal.

  • Project Elephant: The increased developmental activities like construction of roads, railways, resorts, buildings are leading to the clearing up many forests and grazing spaces which results in the destruction of the habitat of different wild animals. The same was observed with elephants too. Project elephant was launched by the Indian government in 1992 to conserve the number of elephants, maintenance of their habitat, reduce human-animal conflicts, as well as reduce hunting and poaching.

This project was launched at the central level, but the initiative was taken up by the states, funds were also provided to different states according to the requirements. 16 states were mainly implementing the act.

  • Crocodile Conservation Project: This project was launched in 1975, at different state levels. The objective of the project was to prevent the habitat destruction of the crocodiles and thus helping to increase their numbers. The hunting and killing of the crocodiles should be monitored. As a result of this initiative, the numbers have been increased from 100 to 1000 till 2012.
  • UNDP Sea Turtle Conservation Project: This project launched by UNDP, aims at properly managing and conserving the reducing numbers of the turtle population.

The results of population explosion and urbanization have to lead to an increase in the activities of cutting down forests and turning them into buildings, hotels, or places of human settlements. This results in a reduction of the habitat of different forest-dwelling species. They have to leave those places and search for new habitat which is not very easy. The search for new habitat, a lot of competition for food, carries many of the species towards the verge of extinction.

Wildlife animals and plants are important aspects of nature. A loss at any level may lead to unnatural consequences. They are responsible for the ecological balance and for the sustenance of mankind, the balance must be maintained. Therefore along with the conservation efforts by the government, it’s our social responsibility, to individually put our efforts in conservation of the wildlife.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ans . The conservation of plants and animals in their natural habitat is called in-situ conservation.

Ans . Red Data Book is that contains the data of the threatened species.

Ans . The maximum number of national parks is there in the Madhya Pradesh state of India.

Ans . Wildlife Protection Act was passed on 9th September 1972.

Ans . There were only 5 national parks in India before 1972.

Ans . Kailash Sankhala is regarded as the Tiger man of India.

Related Information:

Essay on Conservation of Water

Essay on Conservation of Natural Resources

Essay on Conservation of Environment

Essay on Importance of Water

Essay on Conservation of Plants and Animals

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  • The Highlight

We pulled pandas back from the brink of extinction. Meanwhile, the rest of nature collapsed.

The trouble with conservation’s cutest mascot.

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Share All sharing options for: We pulled pandas back from the brink of extinction. Meanwhile, the rest of nature collapsed.

On a chilly spring day in 1966, zookeepers in London loaded a giant panda named Chi-Chi onto a commercial plane. The aircraft was bound for Russia. Chi-Chi was bound, you might say, for love. She would soon arrive at the Moscow Zoo to meet a slightly younger male named An-An, the only other captive giant panda living outside of China at the time. The goal was to get the two bears to breed.

To prepare for Chi-Chi’s departure, British European Airways removed about 30 seats in the front of the plane. The panda was carried aboard in a crate and separated from 37 passengers by a screen. Flight attendants sprayed deodorant to try and vanquish the scent of the 235-pound bear. For lunch, the attendants served passengers a side of bamboo hearts in Chi-Chi’s honor.

A black-and-white photo of a panda in a cage in an airplane.

The media breathlessly covered the long-distance love affair. Yet it was doomed from the start. When the bears first met in Moscow, An-An attacked Chi-Chi and zookeepers had to separate them with brooms, one newspaper reported . The pandas stayed in separate cages that summer. In the fall, keepers arranged another meeting, but this time, Chi-Chi “slapped” An-An in the face. Soon after, Chi-Chi returned to London, prompting headlines like “From Russia ... Without Love.”

Although attempts to breed Chi-Chi and An-An failed, they marked the start of a massive, global campaign to breed pandas in captivity. It was fueled by a sense of urgency: The giant panda population was dwindling. In southwestern China, the only place on Earth where the animals live, human development was destroying forests, and pandas were being plucked from their land and placed in zoos. In the 1980s, only about 1,100 bears remained, down from a historical population that scientists believe once numbered in the tens of thousands .

As pandas started vanishing from the wild, they grew into powerful symbols of the movement to conserve the natural world. The plight of wildlife was making headlines, and pandas — clumsy, big-eyed bears that look like plush toys come to life — emerged as the perfect mascot to rally support.

The World Wildlife Fund, an influential environmental organization, helped formalize the animals as icons when it chose the panda as its logo in 1961. Chi-Chi, An-An’s wouldn’t-be mate, was the inspiration for the design. (WWF, now known internationally as the World Wide Fund for Nature, chose the panda, in part, because black-and-white logos were cheaper to print.)

As pandas shot to stardom, China, the US, and zoos around the world fueled the captive breeding campaign with tens of millions of dollars in veterinary research. China also created dozens of forest reserves to protect the bears. In 2018, the country announced plans to combine many of them into a single habitat three times larger than Yellowstone National Park.

wildlife conservation short essay

These efforts have unquestionably paid off for pandas. Scientists learned from Chi-Chi and An-An’s platonic exchange and, in time, they nearly perfected the difficult art of panda breeding and husbandry. That’s the only reason you can see them in zoos today.

The bears are also recovering in the wild. The most recent estimates indicate that more than 1,800 pandas now live in southwestern China, and their numbers are increasing. That trend prompted the country to announce, in 2021 , that pandas are no longer endangered. (The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the global authority on endangered animals, delisted pandas in 2016.)

wildlife conservation short essay

Imagine that: The panda, the very symbol of endangered species, is no longer endangered.

But if giant pandas are mascots for endangered species, then their team is, so to speak, losing. In the time that environmental advocates were saving pandas, much of the rest of the planet’s wildlife continued to deteriorate. The world now faces an unprecedented and accelerating crisis of biodiversity loss, with more than 1 million species at risk of extinction. Forests are quieter. The oceans are emptier.

The story of the panda is, in a sense, a story of success. Tales of rebounding animal populations are rare. But it carries with it a warning: The model of conservation that lifted up pandas won’t work to save everything else.

The global effort to save giant pandas is rooted in our collective obsession with these bears. It dates back to at least the 1930s, when a New York City socialite journeyed East.

The only pandas on American soil back then were stuffed bears in natural history museums. But in 1936, a dress designer in NYC named Ruth Harkness traveled to China in search of a live cub. She was trying to finish what her late husband, William Harkness Jr., had started: Months earlier, the young explorer died from cancer on an expedition to capture a panda and bring it back to the US.

One November morning, Mrs. Harkness and her local guide heard squealing by the stump of a large spruce tree in the mountains outside of Chengdu, Henry Nicholls recounts in The Way of the Panda. There, she found a baby panda no larger than a kitten. The cub was perhaps less than two weeks old.

“I stood for minutes in a trance,” Harkness, known for her deep voice and bright red lipstick, told a reporter in 1937. “I had discovered a most precious thing — a tiny offspring of one of Mother Nature’s greatest and rarest mysteries in the animal kingdom.”

She named the cub Su-Lin and took him back to New York City on a steamship. He was an instant hit. “Wherever she goes, Mrs. Harkness lugs her 10-pound jewel along in a traveling basket,” the Daily News wrote at the time. “The infant panda has viewed the interior of some of New York’s best restaurants since its arrival.”

A black-and-white photo of a woman holding a very cute baby panda, roughly the size of a large human infant.

What makes animals like the panda so popular? Maybe it’s their looks, their striking appearance, cute and fearsome all at once. Pandas also exploit our parenting instincts. Cubs have round faces with big cheeks, and they tumble about like helpless toddlers. (We also tend to like what we can relate to. Fellow mammals with arms? Sure. Freshwater mussels ? Not so much.)

Harkness eventually brought Su-Lin to the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, where the cub — the first live panda in the US — drew a record 53,000 visitors on the first day he was displayed.

It was China, however, that turned the bears into a global sensation.

In the 1970s, the Chinese government began sending wild-caught pandas around the world as state gifts — a sign of goodwill and friendship, historian Elena Songster wrote in her 2018 book, Panda Nation. There was even a term for it: Panda diplomacy.

“Giant pandas served the Chinese government as invaluable tools for putting a friendly face on China,” Songster wrote. “These fuzzy creatures thawed Cold War tensions and promoted the idea that warmer relations with the inscrutable Communist power could be possible.”

Most famously, China gave two pandas to President Richard Nixon in 1972 after a series of successful peace talks. The bears, Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling, flew to DC on Air Force One and were taken to the National Zoo “under security measures as tight as if they had been Chairman Mao,” the New York Times reported . (In exchange, the US sent China Matilda and Milton, a pair of musk oxen with some kind of skin condition.)

American pandas were as famous as any celebrity. Two decades after Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling arrived, China sent the US two more bears, Shi Shi and Bai Yun, this time to the San Diego Zoo. News helicopters filmed their high-security motorcade as if they were heads of state .

“Make no mistake: That phenomenon that zookeepers call ‘pandamania’ is back,” the LA Times wrote in 1996. “No animal in the history of US zoos brings the crowds and the awe-struck response of pandas.”

A black-and-white photo of several photographers with bulky cameras taking photos of a small panda cub. One of the photographers is crouching, getting a shot at ground level.

Pandamania was good for zoos and for China. It wasn’t necessarily good for wild pandas.

In the 1980s, China stopped giving away pandas as state gifts but began loaning them out for a few months at a time, often at the expense of the wild population. George Schaller, then director of science at a large environmental organization called the Wildlife Conservation Society, criticized these short-term loans as “rent-a-panda” programs.

“I have a nightmare vision of evermore pandas being drained from the wild until the species exists only in captivity,” he wrote in his 1993 book The Last Panda.

In those years, pandas were facing other pressures in their homeland. Mines and human developments in Sichuan Province were replacing forests. Meanwhile, pandas were running out of food — stirring up fears that the world’s most beloved animal might soon go extinct.

Pandas, like humans, are technically omnivores. About 6,000 years ago, however, they stopped consuming meat, for the most part. Today, pandas almost exclusively eat bamboo.

While bamboo grows abundantly in China, it has a few critical shortcomings. Like celery, it doesn’t have many calories, so pandas have to spend half of the day eating. Plus, they can’t put on enough fat to hibernate in the winter like other bears.

A graphic illustration of a panda in a bamboo forest.

Bamboo is also a somewhat unreliable food source. Every so often, at seemingly random intervals, entire hillsides of bamboo stalks flower, produce seeds, and die.

Normally, only one or a few bamboo species might flower at the same time, so pandas can just forage for other varieties if they need to. But in the ’70s, multiple species died all at once, according to Songster, causing the bears to starve. By some estimates, more than 100 died. Then in the ‘80s, bamboo forests flowered and died once again, fueling concerns that pandas were at risk of extinction (not to mention reports that pandas were looting food from peoples’ homes).

Although it’s not clear whether the second bamboo die-off actually harmed many pandas, it helped ignite the global campaign to save these animals — at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

China and groups such as WWF relied on two main approaches. One was to establish a system of protected areas that prohibited hunting, logging, and other harmful human activities, as China has done. Another was to build out a massive breeding operation, the likes of which the world had never seen.

A photo of three tiny pandas, each roughly the size of a sweet potato, inside a clear plastic box that resembles a prenatal incubator.

Breeding animals in captivity can theoretically help refresh a dwindling wild animal population. It also helps restock zoos. Without breeding pandas or taking them from the wild, zoos would eventually run out of their biggest attractions. That’s a problem, not only for zoos but for conservation, said William McShea, a scientist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

“If you’re going to sell people on giant pandas, you need to show people a giant panda,” he said. (Pandas are “great showmen,” McShea added. “Giant pandas will sit there and essentially do tricks for you all day long.”)

Breeding pandas, however, is a challenge.

Female pandas ovulate just once a year for one to three days. In the wild, males will congregate along ridge tops in the spring and “a stream of visiting females in heat keeps the mating activity intense,” McShea has written . In captivity, however, vets have to introduce a pair of pandas at just the right time. Even then, the bears may prefer to swat at each other rather than have sex.

wildlife conservation short essay

“There was nothing easy about any of it,” said David Kersey, an associate professor of physiology at Western University who helped develop the National Zoo’s captive breeding program.

In several instances, zoos have tried using videos of pandas copulating, a.k.a. panda porn, to get the bears in the mood. This is not a joke . At one of the most famous breeding facilities in China, scientists showed a video of pandas mating to a five-year-old female bear named Ke Lin because she kept rejecting her mate, Yongyong.

“We played them the film and she took great interest in it,” a spokesman at the Chengdu facility told the Independent. “After that, there was no stopping her and they mated successfully.”

Zookeepers have also tried giving pandas viagra and working them out. In 2011, keepers at the National Zoo ran Tian Tian, a popular male panda, through a sort of sex training program designed to strengthen his legs. “We’re building up his stamina,” Brandie Smith, a senior curator at the zoo, told the Washington Post. “I think Tian is in pretty good shape, but ... we’re turning him into an Olympic athlete.”

The early years of panda breeding were full of disasters. In one case, a male panda in Japan reportedly died during a routine electro-ejaculation procedure — which involves a veterinarian sending a small shock to the animal’s prostate to get him to produce semen. Zookeepers also had a hard time figuring out if a bear was pregnant until right before she gave birth. Infants are tiny, weighing just 3 to 5 ounces . During ultrasounds, zookeepers would occasionally confuse feces for a fetus. It was a mess.

Yet little by little, the science improved. Vets figured out how to tell exactly when a female is ovulating and in heat. They also learned which males make the perfect genetic match. “We’ve seen the success rate of breeding just skyrocket,” Kersey said.

wildlife conservation short essay

Scientists also learned how to keep more babies alive. In the ’90s, the survival rate of captive cubs in China was about 10 percent, according to Qiongyu Huang, a wildlife biologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Today, it’s almost 90 percent, he said. There are now around 600 pandas in captivity.

“Veterinary science has done an outstanding job,” said Marc Brody, president of the NGO Panda Mountain, who’s worked on panda conservation for more than two decades.

Pandas are a threatened species, still just one step away from the classification of endangered. But along with China’s growing efforts to protect a massive area of forested land, captive breeding has, for now, managed to avert their extinction. “The turnaround in China has just been remarkable,” McShea said.

Pandas are one of several iconic creatures that have for decades drawn the bulk of conservation support and public attention. Tigers, mountain gorillas, wolves, and elephants are other examples.

Pouring resources into a handful of popular animals was the dominant approach to conservation in the late 20th century, said Jason Gilchrist, an ecologist at Edinburgh Napier University. The idea was to use those flashy species to draw in funding that could trickle down to other animals — in other words, pandas could be tools for conservation, not just diplomacy. Plus, protecting land for one kind of animal can shield a whole host of others.

This approach, known as single-species conservation, has worked to some degree, especially for nature’s A-listers. Since 2008, for example, India has doubled its wild population of tigers. The number of mountain gorillas in Central Africa is up, too, as is the US population of gray wolves and bald eagles. Recent research also shows that past conservation efforts have, at least temporarily, helped prevent a number of bird and mammal species from going extinct.

Still, it’s hard to see this species-focused model as a success, some scientists say, if the ultimate goal of conservation is to protect biodiversity and the countless benefits it provides. On this endeavor, the world has failed.

A graphic illustration of a crocodile on a rock.

Since 1970, as the campaign to save pandas was ramping up, populations of most major animal groups including birds, mammals, and fish have declined by an average of 69 percent . Species without popular appeal are often worse off. One-fifth of reptiles such as crocodiles and turtles are now threatened with extinction . Mussels are in peril, as are corals — two animals that provide essential services for us and other creatures. (The latter, for example, provide shelter for fish and safeguard coastal communities from flooding . Popularity isn’t always a sign of ecological importance.)

Furthermore, parks designed to protect charismatic species don’t always safeguard other animals. A 2020 study in the journal Nature, for example, found that four species of large carnivores (the leopard, snow leopard, wolf, and an Asian dog called a dhole) have declined across panda habitat since the mid-20th century. Another study , published in 2021, found that populations of several species that overlap with giant pandas, including the Asiatic black bear, Chinese serow, and forest musk deer, have all plummeted, as well. (Panda preserves may have slowed these species’ declines.)

“Panda conservation doesn’t appear to be benefiting other species, or the wider ecosystem,” Gilchrist wrote about the 2020 study. “These findings shake the foundations of one of conservation’s most enduring ideas — that investing time and money into protecting particular large, influential species can pay dividends for the other species and habitats they coexist with.”

Put another way, “you’re essentially sleepwalking into losing biodiversity by focusing resources on specific species,” Gilchrist told Vox.

Breeding animals in captivity — now a widespread practice among zoos — also has questionable benefits for wild populations, according to some researchers. “Captive breeding is not a conservation strategy,” said Jillian Ryan, a researcher who wrote her dissertation at the University of South Australia on panda conservation.

A photo of a panda emerging from a crate while onlookers watch and take photos.

Zoos “carefully breed their animals as if they might be called upon at any moment to release them, like Noah throwing open the doors to the ark,” Emma Marris wrote in the 2021 book Wild Souls: Freedom and flourishing in the non-human world . “But that day of release never quite seems to come.”

Zoos rarely reintroduce animals to the wild because they don’t often survive, Ryan said.

A dozen or so captive pandas have been released in China so far, and at least a few of them have died. The first panda scientists ever released, named Xiang Xiang (or “Lucky”), died in 2007, less than a year after his return to the wild. He likely fell out of a tree following a fight with wild-born pandas, according to multiple news reports.

“Any reintroduction program has an inherent challenge: You’re increasing the potential for the animal to die,” said Jake Owens, director of conservation at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens. “The nice thing about zoos is that they do provide really high care.”

Owens and some other researchers argue that captive breeding can be an essential tool to avert extinction. It’s helped species like the endangered California condor recover , he says. Zoos and breeding facilities also help people fall in love with pandas, he said, which has put pressure on China to conserve their habitat.

But using zoo animals as inspiration for conservation has its limits, Marris argues. “There’s no unambiguous evidence that zoos are making visitors care more about conservation or take any action to support it,” she writes. People go to the zoo, she added, to be entertained.

Some scholars also argue that campaigns to save charismatic animals have distorted the human relationship with nature. Pandas, and most other highly charismatic species, are only visible in zoos or protected areas far from cities, reinforcing the idea that nature is something to look at, something apart from ourselves. Yet we all exist within ecosystems and depend on the services they provide, from water purification to crop pollination.

A crowd of people smile while taking photos.

Indeed, most of the world’s remaining biodiversity exists alongside humanity — all 8 billion of us. To conserve wildlife, people will need to steward the plants and animals in their own backyards, in cities, in places they consider their home, said David Jachowski, a professor of wildlife ecology at Clemson University.

The environmental movement is changing. In recent decades, large environmental groups have adopted a more ecosystem-scale approach to their work.

In a previous interview with Vox, Marco Lambertini, then the head of WWF International, said that using pandas and tigers to inspire the public to care about wildlife was incredibly effective. That approach helped WWF grow into the world’s largest environmental organization. But he acknowledged that the nonprofit could have done a better job at “connecting the dots,” linking wildlife to ecosystems and all the benefits they provide for people. (WWF told Vox that ecosystem-based approaches have always been core to the organization’s strategy.)

Perhaps, then, it doesn’t make sense to have a single species as the mascot for conservation.

If there were one animal to represent the movement to conserve the natural world, the panda is probably the wrong one. It could be the weasel , Jachowski says; they’re predators that help sustain the food chain. Other researchers have argued that even earthworms would be better candidates.

Worms and weasels might not have the appeal of pandas. But they’re linchpins in a complex web of life that’s unraveling before our eyes. To sustain these and so many other underrated animals — the moths and flies, the bats and shrews — is to sustain the world’s ecosystems. It is to sustain ourselves.

Benji Jones is a senior environmental reporter at Vox, covering biodiversity loss and climate change. Before joining Vox, he was a senior energy reporter at Insider. Benji previously worked as a wildlife researcher.

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The world’s biggest owl is endangered—but it’s not too late to save it

Found throughout Russia and parts of Asia, Blakiston’s fish owl is declining due to habitat loss and climate change.

a brown owl in a tree

A female Blakiston’s fish owl, alert and with ear tufts erect, prepares to fly in March 2008.

Sitting motionless on a fallen tree trunk, Rada Surmach strained to hear the mournful echo of nesting owls, deep in the Tunsha River Valley of the Russian Far East.

In the twilight, she finally heard it: The duet of the Blakiston’s fish owl, an endangered species whose six-foot wingspan makes it the world’s biggest owl.

These haunting duets, rare among owl species, reinforce pair bonds. It’s as if the male is calling out to his mate, “I’m here!” to which the female responds in a lower tone, “I’m here too!”

Perched high in the forest canopy, fish owl pairs perform a four-note duet of synchronized calls that can last up to two hours. These raptors, known for their intense yellow eyes and showy ear tufts, nest in cavities of old-growth trees among the wooded river valleys of the Russian Far East, where boreal and temperate rainforests meet the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk.

Named after 19 th -century English naturalist Thomas W. Blakiston , the owl is divided into two subspecies: Bubo blakistoni doerriesi , found on the Russian mainland and likely northeastern China, and Bubo blakistoni blakistoni, which lives in Hokkaido, Japan, Russia’s southern Kuril Islands. ( Take our poll and pick your favorite superb owl.)

In Hokkaido, people put out food for the Blakiston’s fish owls and manage their populations; in Primorye Province, the mated pairs that remain—fewer than 200—are truly wild. The global population of the owls is estimated at 1,000 to 1,900 individuals.

Rada Surmach, a Ph.D. candidate and researcher at the Federal Scientific Center of the East Asia Terrestrial Biodiversity in Vladivostok, has created a long-term conservation plan to reintroduce captive-bred fish owls to the Land of the Leopard National Park in southern Primorye, a relatively developed region where the fish owl once lived.

For Hungry Minds

Surmach believes that the impressive bird of prey has potential as a flagship species for raising public awareness, similar to the role played by the Siberian tiger , or Amur tiger.

“Every time I explain this is the biggest owl and it lives in our forest,” she says, “people get really excited.”

Shifting seasons, destructive storms

Fish owls face two main threats: Habitat loss and the effects of climate change .

True to their names, fish owls hunt for salmon, trout, and lamprey in icy rivers during the winter. Come springtime, the male fish owl adds amphibians to the menu to feed his mate and their single fluffy hatchling.

A changing climate could shift spring’s arrival , causing frogs to emerge too early or too late to sustain hungry fish owl chicks, says wildlife biologist Jonathan C. Slaght , the Wildlife Conservation Society ’s Russia and Northeast Asia coordinator. The results of such a shift—called a trophic mismatch—could be catastrophic, starving owlets to death and contributing to an eventual population decline, says Slaght, who published the book Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl in 2020 with the hopes of raising public interest in this unique owl.

As sea surface temperatures rise in the northwestern Pacific , increasingly destructive storms and typhoons have also battered Primorye in recent years—another another potential threat to the owl’s nesting sites and habitat, Slaght says. In 2016, Typhoon Lionrock caused massive damage to old-growth forests , smashing gigantic Manchurian elms, willows, and Korean pines, leaving nothing but washed-out gravel along the riverbank.

Bumps in the road

Today, by far the greatest problem for Primorye’s fish owls are logging roads, according to Slaght. These roads are legally built, but since the 1980s, the number of roads has grown more than 17-fold . Although fish owls mostly nest in tall, dead trees of no commercial value, logging roads allow people such as poachers, illegal loggers, and pine nut collectors access to more remote parts of the forest. ( Read why birds matter, and are worth protecting .)

Such intruders can pose a serious threat to fish owls and other endangered species, for instance by hitting animals with their vehicles or causing accidental wildfires.

In addition., loggers often tear down old-growth trees favored by nesting fish owls to build impromptu bridges through the forest. To encourage logging companies to find other alternatives, Slaght and Sergey Surmach —Rada Surmach’s father, who has studied fish owls for three decades—completed a five-year study on fish owl habitat in 2010.

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The scientists advised logging companies to steer clear of certain old-growth tree species, such as elm, chosenia, and Japanese poplar, and instead harvest more common trees not used by fish owls, such as Dahurian larch and aspen. They also urged logging operations to block unused roads with berms to keep out illegal loggers and poachers. Even if the roads aren’t blocked permanently, such closures give wildlife a reprieve, says Slaght.

TerneyLes , the biggest logging company operating in Primorye, did not respond to two email requests for comment about its role in owl conservation.

Walk on the wild side

On the positive side, conservationists say, Primorye has already protected about 10.8 million square miles, or 17 percent, of its total landmass, either in federal or local preserves. Just in the last 15 years, the province has established four new protected areas totaling about 6,100 square miles.

The province’s government also has a long history of environmental stewardship and collaboration with conservationists, particularly in regards to Siberian tigers and Amur leopards , says Victor Bardyuk, director of the Land of Leopard National Park .

“The preservation of these animals, including Blakiston’s fish owl, is a vivid example of people’s attitude to nature and the effective work of the state to preserve it,” Bardyuk says. ( Take a look inside Russia’s wildest nature reserves .)

an owl taking off with a fish in its mouth

A Blakiston's fish owl from the Bubo blakistoni blakistoni subspecies flies near Rausu, Japan.

He adds that logging prohibitions in “high-status protected areas,” setting quotas for timber, and satellite monitoring of logging activities have helped protect the critically endangered Amur leopard, which only numbers around a hundred wild animals.

Svetlana Soutyrina, the director of Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve , Primorye’s largest protected area, says her reserve has greater control over illegal timber trafficking and poaching in recent years. And the involvement of nonprofits such as the Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF Russia, and the Amur Tiger Center have improved conditions for the region’s wildlife—including the fish owl.

Though it’s still years away, Rada Surmach and colleagues hope to launch a captive-breeding program for the owl. That could create an insurance population of animals that could be someday released into the wild. In 2018, the Moscow Zoo launched a Blakiston’s fish owl breeding program , which currently is made up of two B. b. blakistoni females, one in Moscow and another at the Sakhalin Island Zoo .

“They’re the king here”

Such efforts don’t just benefit fish owls. Habitat that remains wild enough to support the bird is more likely to meet the needs of countless creatures, including yellow-throated martens, red deer, brown bear, moose, Eurasian lynx, and many more, conservationists say. ( Here’s what we lose when a species goes extinct .)

“Primorye is a place where there’s still wilderness,” says Slaght. “There’s something worth protecting, and it can be done.”

Recalling her first encounter with fish owls in the wild, Rada Surmach says, was akin to discovering fresh tiger footprints in the snow.

“You realize that you are not alone in this forest. There are wild creatures around you," she says. “It’s their forest, and they’re the king here.”

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A man with a sword stands behind a tree.

Protecting wildlife begins with understanding how best to counter wildlife crimes

wildlife conservation short essay

Senior Research Assistant, Canadian Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation, Carleton University

wildlife conservation short essay

Senior Research Scientist, Canadian Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation, Carleton University

Disclosure statement

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Carleton University provides funding as a member of The Conversation CA.

Carleton University provides funding as a member of The Conversation CA-FR.

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Global biodiversity is declining , and human activities are mainly to blame.

Indeed, 96 per cent of the world’s total remaining mammalian biomass — the combined weight, or mass, of mammal organic life — consists of either humans or our domesticated animals .

Every day across the world, conservation organizations, community members, conservation scientists and law enforcement authorities work tirelessly to counter this biodiversity decline. These actions can take the form of community-based patrols or enforcing regulations, such as in the case of preventing illegal harvest or patrolling efforts to deter or arrest poachers .

At the more extreme end, law enforcement officials and investigative journalists have even worked to break-up a global ring of individuals who paid to take part in the torture, and eventual murder, of baby monkeys .

These actions are broadly called counter-wildlife crime interventions .

Read more: Why the British Columbia Conservation Officer Service should be designated as a provincial police service

Given the rapidly narrowing window to reverse dramatic biodiversity declines around the world, and the finite resources available to conduct conservation activities, it is important to know what types of conservation interventions work and which don’t work.

Our work at the Canadian Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation (CEBC) — in collaboration with staff from the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and colleagues with experience in wildlife crime and conservation — uses a mixture of evidence synthesis and “ systematic mapping ” to provide these vital insights.

Our work used a systematic mapping approach to summarize current research addressing the effectiveness of counter-wildlife crime interventions for conserving African, Asian and Latin American wildlife directly threatened by exploitation.

The effectiveness of interventions was viewed in terms of whether they could be linked to biological recovery (such as in increased abundance or biomass) or to threat reduction outcomes (such as fewer poaching incidents). Below we share our findings.

Where are counter-wildlife crime actions taking place?

From our synthesis of 530 studies, we found that most (81 per cent) concerned Africa and Asia, with relatively fewer (13 per cent) in Latin America. This geographical imbalance may be due, in part, to a language bias on our part, as we only considered English language articles, and not Spanish ones.

A group of men stand and salute.

However, other studies have also noted a lack of funding and data for counter-wildlife crime investigations and interventions in Latin America .

In addition, most studies focused on the most popular and charismatic species, such as African and Asian elephants (16 per cent) and wild cats (14 per cent), followed by turtles and tortoises (11 per cent).

Evaluating interventions

Put simply, the effectiveness of most counter-wildlife crime interventions have not been rigorously evaluated.

We found that around 90 per cent of studies evaluating counter-wildlife crime interventions only measured outcomes after an intervention was implemented. This is realistic, considering the way conservation operates in the real-world with funding often providing for a short time frame to operate. However, it is also largely ineffective in determining a causal relationship.

Read more: Pangolins in Africa: expert unpacks why millions have been traded illegally and what can be done about it

We found several knowledge gaps that would benefit from more attention and research.

More efforts are required to understand the effectiveness of counter-wildlife crime interventions in Latin America. Additionally, we found that current research on the topic is lacking for plants, birds, and reptile species.

Moreover, research into the effectiveness of interventions that aim to protect wildlife before they are exploited, rather than interventions aimed at detecting or disrupting illegal wildlife trade, are sorely needed.

Finally, there are critical gaps in our knowledge on the outcomes of counter-wildlife crime efforts at the population and species level (for example, ultimate conservation targets such as wildlife abundance and biomass).

A group of men ride an elephant through a field.

Why is this research needed?

Our work highlights where current research efforts have been focused. We also show where we need to direct future research attention. The bottom line is that we need to improve testing of what conservation tools are most effective.

Ask yourself, would you swallow a pill if you knew that medicine hadn’t been clinically tested for safety and effectiveness? Probably not! And why should wildlife conservation be any different?

Our findings force us to confront some difficult questions about the assumptions made when investing in a counter-wildlife crime intervention. Chief among these is just how unreliable the evidence is that routinely applied interventions actually work. That is not to say that counter-wildlife crime interventions don’t work, but rather that we’re working off rules of thumb instead of evidence, which risks us investing in ineffective interventions.

Jen Miller, a program officer with the USFWS’ Combating Wildlife Trafficking Program and a co-author on the study , said to the Canadian Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation:

“These findings are invaluable feedback to donor agencies like USFWS that contribute to projects combating wildlife trafficking. This flashing red light of alarm could lead us to a transformational moment. This isn’t just a call for more research — it’s a wake-up call to roll out a different model of conservation, where we implement interventions while simultaneously testing their effectiveness.”

Our research suggests it’s time we start rigorously testing our conservation tools to ensure we’re responsibly applying solutions that protect wildlife, people and the planet we all call home.

  • Climate change
  • Conservation
  • Biodiversity
  • Biodiversity loss
  • anti-poaching
  • Wildlife Crime

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A river is lined with mangrove trees with their distinctive aboveground roots projecting into the water.

Watery, Peaceful, Wild: The Call of the Mangroves

On Curaçao, visitors can explore the trees’ habitat, where colorful birds roost on tangled branches and trunks, and small paths through the greenery beckon.

The Curaçao Rif Mangrove Park offers guided tours, elevated boardwalks, programs for local schoolchildren and a tiered entrance-fee system for residents and overseas visitors. Credit... Frank Meyer for The New York Times

Supported by

Elisabeth Goodridge

By Elisabeth Goodridge

Elisabeth Goodridge is the deputy editor for travel at The New York Times.

  • May 8, 2024

It was a sunny afternoon in February at the height of the high season on the Caribbean island of Curaçao, but my partner, Aaren, and I were far from lounging on a white-sand beach, snorkeling over a coral reef or strolling among the Easter-egg-colored buildings of Willemstad, Curaçao’s capital and a UNESCO World Heritage site — typical activities for travelers to this former Dutch colony.

Instead, on a kayak tour with Serlon St Jago, a guide from the Curaçao Rif Mangrove Park , we were learning about the country’s mangrove restoration, and the vital role mangrove habitats play in coastal resilience, protection for marine and bird species, and fighting the effects of climate change.

In a lush green mangrove forest, a bird roosts on a branch surrounded by aerial roots of mangrove trees.

No poisonous snakes, alligators or large predators live on Curaçao, Mr. St Jago said, reassuring information as we paddled toward a forbidding wall of mangroves lining Piscadera Bay. Up close, the trees were magnificent and cheerful. Colorful birds roosted on tangled branches and trunks, and small paths under the green and occasionally yellow leaves beckoned us to explore. With our kayaks beached, Mr. St Jago pointed out fiddler crabs and mussels, and described differences of the local mangrove species — the red, white and black — and how they adapted to live and propagate where water meets land.

“There’s so much life here,” he said with infectious enthusiasm.

We were the only tourists on the water, but getting more visitors like us interested in mangroves, perhaps even persuading them to replant some of the vital trees themselves, has been a priority of scientists, activists, park rangers and tourism operators on Curaçao in recent years.

The island isn’t alone in its efforts: Similar mangrove-focused work has started around the world, in places like Indonesia , Australia , Belize and Florida , as fragile destinations balance tourism’s growth with the conservation — and restoration — of the natural resources that captivate visitors.

“Coral reefs get all the attention. But mangroves are probably a lot more important,” said Gabby Ahmadia , a vice president with the oceans program at the World Wildlife Fund who oversees the organization’s mangrove science and restoration programs. “My favorite analogy about mangroves is that they are Swiss Army knives, because they do provide so many different benefits and they can do so many different things.”

Though these forests are one degree of separation from the sights and the activities that traditionally draw visitors to the ocean, changing perceptions might be hard. To protect the environment, mangrove kayak tours can be — as are most snorkel, fishing and bird-watching tours offered in other destinations — limited by number, and visitors must be interested in the first place. With their summer reads and beach toys, family traditions and limited vacation days, most tourists might simply agree with the old saying “Life is better at the beach.”

A foundation of life

The twisty branches, trunks and distinctive aboveground roots of mangroves are a stark, complex repudiation of how a child’s drawing portrays a common tree. The roots can arch up, pop up spikelike from the water or form stilts above and under the surface. Adapted to oxygen-poor soil, high salinity and the ebb and flow of an intertidal zone, coastal mangroves thrive where other trees and shrubs would perish. Unless they are yellow, the leaves are green, and some, if you lick them, taste salty.

Mangrove forests can appear impenetrable, muddy, smelly and swampy. For centuries, they have been cleared for firewood, farmland, urban development, aquaculture and, yes, tourism. On Curaçao, mangroves are now found on only 0.012 percent of the island. Globally, more than half of the mangrove forests have been cut down or otherwise destroyed in the past 50 years. Deforestation has slowed — but not stopped — in recent years, and rising sea levels and increased storm activity have done further damage.

But coastal mangroves — there are some 60 species worldwide — are the foundation of life above and below the water. With intricate root systems, they act as nurseries for juvenile fish and other marine life. Mangrove branches and trunks make safe feeding and nesting sites for yellow warblers , tricolored herons and other bird species, reptiles like iguanas, and insects aplenty.

Those strongly anchored roots also protect from flooding, erosion and tidal surges by slowing down seawater and trapping dirt and debris. More crucially, mangrove forests are extraordinary for decreasing the effects of global warming, by absorbing and storing carbon annually at a rate 10 times as great as tropical rainforests. Mangroves, along with other coastal wetlands, “sequester enough carbon each year to offset the burning of over one billion barrels of oil,” according to the Nature Conservancy .

Surreptitious beginnings

Ryan de Jongh, a 53-year-old Curaçao native, activist and tour guide, is the living embodiment of regenerative tourism. He’s an important reason we encountered a lush, thriving ecosystem in Piscadera Bay, and demonstrates how one person can make a difference.

Mr. de Jongh grew up swimming in the bay and watched the area’s mangroves being cleared for fuel and construction. In 2006, he surreptitiously planted the first mangrove tree — a single seedling can mature in around 15 years and lead to an entire thicket — and now, he said, more than 100,000 trees are growing. He made similarly stealthy plantings at other inlets and bays, making himself a local hero in the process.

Mr. de Jongh, who gives kayak tours himself , now works on widespread government-sanctioned restoration projects.

His aim is to eventually plant 1.3 million trees on the island. “I have to transform literally a desert back to green,” he said.

The interior of Curaçao certainly looks like a desert, with a dry, dusty landscape of cactus and other succulents. Along with its closest island neighbors, Aruba and Bonaire, Curaçao is outside the Caribbean’s hurricane belt and receives minimal rainfall. People on the island drink desalinated seawater.

The trade winds bring cooler temperatures. In the 16th century, they also brought Europeans who enslaved and deported the Indigenous population and turned Curaçao into a slaving port. The colonists also planted oranges, sugar cane and other nonnative species, with varying degrees of success, and developed giant salt pans for export, but it was the construction of an oil refinery in 1918 and growing tourism that finally brought widespread jobs. The refinery shut down in 2019 — nine years after Curaçao voted to become a semiautonomous nation from the Netherlands — an event that only emphasized tourism’s importance for Curaçao’s economy. Last year, the island, only 40 miles long, welcomed 1.3 million visitors .

Aaren and I gladly did our part to support the economy: In Willemstad, that meant eating at Plasa Bieu , the Old Market, where individual vendors cook and sell local cuisine. We fought with each other over the fried wahoo and an arepa di pampuna — pumpkin pancake — but we were warned off the cactus soup. “I live here,” said another diner, “and I don’t even eat that.” We also snapped photos, like so many other visitors, while crossing the floating Queen Emma Bridge , and watched it open and close for marine traffic.

We waited in an hourlong, locals-heavy line at De Visserij Piscadera Seafood restaurant (“slaying and filleting” since 2017), where diners choose and purchase their fish fillets before sitting down; we drank oregano punch for the first time (think mint ice tea, but oregano and oh so refreshingly delicious); and we inhaled grilled shrimp and raw fresh tuna.

Further north, we ate “williburgers” — goat burgers — at Marfa’s GoodHangout in Sint Willibrordus, which overlooks an old salt pan that, sadly, the resident flamingoes absented that day, and delighted upon coming across a coral nursery while scuba diving right off the jam-packed Kokomo Beach.

Coral reefs are crucial to Curaçao’s tourism and fishing industries and valued at more than $445 million annually, according to a 2016 economic assessment published by the nonprofit Waitt Institute. And coral reefs, which support roughly 25 percent of all marine life, are enduring cataclysmic bleaching and disease brought on or compounded by climate change.

In the last 10 years, scientists have better understood the symbiosis between coral reefs and mangroves: They don’t need each other to exist, but proximity brings benefits to both ecosystems.

“Working in this field of conservation, you might come in from one entry point and then you realize everything is connected,” said Dr. Ahmadia of the W.W.F. “We can work on coral reefs, but we should be thinking about sea grass beds and mangroves, because they are all really connected. And then of course, they are connected to the human environment.”

One morning, Aaren and I walked through the 30-acre Curaçao Rif Mangrove Park , a short stroll from the center of Willemstad and a shorter one from the island’s cruise ship terminal. Open since 2022, the park offers guided and audio tours, elevated boardwalks, programs for local schoolchildren and a tiered entrance-fee system (guilders and U.S. dollars accepted) for residents and overseas visitors. Some 17,766 people came in 2023, an increase of 14,687 from 2022.

Manfred van Veghel is the new director of the Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity Foundation, which oversees the mangrove park and five other national parks. Working with the government of Curaçao, local travel operators and activists like Mr. de Jongh, Dr. van Veghel aims to expand park access, construct an elevated bridge and add a visitor center, among other goals. The efforts are part of his desire to transform Curaçao into more of a nature-based tourist destination.

“We had a record last year and they are pushing to get more,” Dr. van Veghel said of Curaçao’s number of annual visitors. Yet, he said, the beaches are getting full. “So we need to get activities other than going to the beach — and the mangrove park is an excellent activity.”

Mark Spalding is a senior marine scientist with the Nature Conservancy and lead scientist of the Mapping Ocean Wealth initiative , an online tool that applies economic value to coastal ecosystems.

Dr. Spalding said a draw of mangrove activities, like boating and hiking, is that “without having to trek through the Amazon for hours and hours, you can get that sense of wilderness and experience, and also the peace and tranquillity very quickly and very easily.”

“It might only be two hours of your entire holiday,” he said, “but it’s the thing you take home with you — the story you tell.”

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram and sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to get expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places to Go in 2024 .

An earlier version of this story misidentified an nongovernmental organization. It is the World Wildlife Fund, not World Wildlife Federation.

How we handle corrections

Elisabeth is the deputy editor for the Travel Desk at The New York Times. More about Elisabeth Goodridge

Open Up Your World

Considering a trip, or just some armchair traveling here are some ideas..

52 Places:  Why do we travel? For food, culture, adventure, natural beauty? Our 2024 list has all those elements, and more .

Mumbai:  Spend 36 hours in this fast-changing Indian city  by exploring ancient caves, catching a concert in a former textile mill and feasting on mangoes.

Kyoto:  The Japanese city’s dry gardens offer spots for quiet contemplation  in an increasingly overtouristed destination.

Iceland:  The country markets itself as a destination to see the northern lights. But they can be elusive, as one writer recently found .

Texas:  Canoeing the Rio Grande near Big Bend National Park can be magical. But as the river dries, it’s getting harder to find where a boat will actually float .


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Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy celebrates 50th anniversary

Published 12:34 pm Wednesday, May 15, 2024

By Contributed Content

wildlife conservation short essay

This year the nonprofit Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) celebrates 50 years conserving clean water, plant and wildlife habitat, farmland, scenic beauty, and places for all people to enjoy outdoor recreation in the mountains of NC and TN. The 50 th anniversary will be marked with a special celebration event on Friday, May 31 – “Rooted in the Past, Growing for the Future” – at the TN Welcome Center on I-26 near the NC/TN border. The location overlooks the 10,000-acre Rocky Fork watershed, one of SAHC’s keystone conservation success stories.

“SAHC has grown from a small group of dedicated volunteers into a sophisticated, multi-state organization at the forefront of nationally recognized conservation efforts,” says Carl Silverstein, SAHC’s executive director.

The celebratory event will highlight milestone achievements of the past 50 years and announce major projects for the future of conservation. Special guest speakers include Dr. Mamie Parker, ground-breaking biologist and former Head of Fisheries for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and New York Times best-selling author Wiley Cash. The event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required.

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Welcome music will be supplied by the East Tennessee State University’s Old Time Band, and the celebration will be followed by an optional guided group hike at TN’s Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park.

“We look forward to sharing stories, reminiscing with friends, and soaking in the beauty of protected land,” says Kristy Urquhart, SAHC’s associate director. “We hope SAHC members and folks new to the organization will all savor the benefits conservation in the Southern Appalachians and be inspired by epic conservation plans on the horizon.”

Milestone achievements of SAHC’s 50 years of conservation include protecting:

– Rare plant and animal habitat in diverse locations, from the Highlands of Roan to the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

– Ongoing land protection and active land management efforts with a broad coalition of partner – Headwater streams in the Nolichucky/Cane/Toe, French Broad, Doe, Catawba, and Pigeon River systems

– Farmland in both TN and NC

– Myriad places for people to enjoy outdoor recreation, including an expansion of Roan Mountain State Park, areas in Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests, Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area, along the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway, future Pisgah View State Park in NC, and many more!


Dr. Mamie Parker, Former Head of Fisheries for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), has been breaking barriers as a professional fish and wildlife biologist, success coach and principal consultant at Ecologix Group, Inc. She spent a successful 30-year career as a biologist and senior executive in the federal government as the FWS Chief of Staff, Assistant Director of Habitat Conservation/Head of Fisheries. Dr. Parker made history serving as the first African American FWS Regional Director of the 13 Northeastern states after working in the Great Lakes and Big Rivers regions and in the southeastern United States. While serving as board chair of Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries Commission, the board passed a diversity resolution that’s become a model for other states, changed the board name from “game” to wildlife, and protected migratory birds threatened by major bridge construction. Instead of “rubber-stamping” a project that would have displaced many birds (allowed under the weakening of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act), the Department drafted regulations to protect migratory birds across Virginia.

Wiley Cash is the New York Times bestselling author of four novels – When Ghosts Come Home, The Last Ballad, A Land More Kind Than Home, and This Dark Road to Mercy – and the founder of This Is Working , an online creative community. He’s been a fellow at Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony, and he teaches fiction writing and literature at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, photographer Mallory Cash, and their daughters. Cash’s short stories and essays have appeared in The Oxford American, Garden & Gun, Our State Magazine, and other publications, and his fiction has been adapted for the stage and film. He has taught creative writing and literature at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Bethany College, the University of North Carolina-Asheville, and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. He holds a Ph.D. in American Literature from UL-Lafayette, an M.A. in English from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, and a B.A. in Literature from UNC-Asheville.  

SAHC Executive Director Carl Silverstein joined the SAHC staff in 2000. He graduated from Stanford University in 1984 with a BA in History, and the University of Alabama Law School in 1988. Carl practiced law in Seattle before moving to Asheville in 1995. Carl serves on the Claims Committee of Terrafirma Risk Retention Group. Terrafirma is a charitable risk pool created by the national Land Trust Alliance to insure its members against the legal costs of defending conservation interests. With 24 years of experience as Executive Director of SAHC, Carl has guided staff through countless obstacles and navigated successful conservation outcomes for some of the most exciting and worthwhile projects in our 50-year history.

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Safe Boating Week will be celebrated May 18-24

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Local senior center will have pancake breakfast fundraiser

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Dallas Danger featured at Maker’s Market event May 19

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