Extinction is a natural process. Our world has experienced different waves of mass extinctions, the most widely known being the extinction of the dinosaurs. But now, due to extensive human activity and destruction, species are rapidly blinking out of existence, and extinction rates have increased to about 1000 times their expected amount.
But conservation biologists around the world have dedicated their lives to keeping as many species as possible on the planet. In a recent study published in Conservation Letters, a group of these scientists joined forces to assess if their work was paying off.
They focused on 73 species, 48 birds and 25 mammals, which were well documented by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), and estimated the probabilities that these species would have disappeared forever without any conservation actions.
They calculated that between 21 and 32 bird species and 7 to 16 mammal species had been saved from extinction from 1993 to the present — with nine to 18 bird species and two to seven mammal species saved over the past decade. Since 1993, 10 bird and five mammal species are known to have gone extinct, so the researchers estimated that without conservation intervention the extinction rate for birds and mammals would have been up to 4.2 times higher since 1993, and 12 to 26 times higher since 2010.
Contrary to many conservation stories these days, the message of this study was clear and optimistic: conservation actions are working. With more focused efforts between governments, NGOs, zoos/aquaria, and other stakeholders, we can save even more species from extinction in the future.