Today I visited the new California Academy of Sciences. The rainforest exhibit and the aquarium are both very cool. Personally I am a little freaked out by taxidermy animals so I was not too into those sections. I didn't get to make it up to the roof which I was really excited to see, but unfortunately it was closed by the time we got out of the planetarium. I was excited to see that they had Warhol's Endangered Species Prints on display. Warhol's prints were all created in 1983 and I thought it'd be interesting to look at there conservation status again, twenty five years later.
The Bald Eagle is one of the few endangered species stories with a happy ending. In the 1950's there were less than 500 nesting pairs in the continental US. With increasingly strict conservation efforts throughout the 1900s they were able to remove the Bald Eagle from the endangered species list in June of 2007.
The pine barren's tree frog was originally thought to only live in the pine barrens of NJ and listed as endangered between 1977 and 1983. But in late 1983 when they found additional populations in Florida, it was relisted as not threatened.
The black rhino was once the most prolific of all rhino species, with several hundred thousand living throughout Africa in the early 1900s. By the late 1960s that number was down to about 70,000 and was even more drastically reduced to about 10,000 in 1983 when Warhol created the print. By the 1990's the number dipped to below 2500. With severe conservation efforts the overall African population had a very slight recovery to about 3500 animals. However in July 2006 a report of the west African subspecies showed that there were only 4 remaining and that subspecies was listed as extinct. The black rhino remains critically endangered.
This is a sweet story. When conservationist Rusell Burnham noted there were less than 150 Big Horned Rams remaining in Arizona the Arizona Boy Scouts took notice. Nearly 10,000 boyscouts started a state wide campaign to save the animal. These efforts lead to protecting 1.5 million acres of their Arizona habitat. This with the combination of reintroduction programs have allowed the big horned ram to make a comeback. Big Horned Ram is now listed as 'slight concern'.Grevy's Zebra is still listed as endangered. With only 1500-2000 animals remaining their numbers are only 17% of what their population was 3 decades ago, when Warhol made this print.
While Orangutan numbers may seem high in comparison to some of the other endangered animals, the rate of destruction of the forest homes is growing so rapidly that at current rates orangutans will be extinct in the wild as early as 2012. The Sumatran Orangutan is listed as critically endangered with less than 8,000 animals remaining. The Borneo Orangutan numbers are very hard to determine. The last estimates were taken between 2000 and 2003 and were thought to be between 40,000 and 60,000 but with rapidly declining habitats due to palm oil in recent years these numbers are thought to be significantly lower. While some data from the early 90s showed that there was less than 30,000 orangutans remaining, people may be lead to believe that orangutan populations are in fact improving, but unfortunately this is not true. Earlier estimates were due to insufficient data. The Borneo orangutans remains on the endangered list and are of critical concern.
The African elephants numbers had decreased from 5-10 million in the early 1900s to only 1.3 million in 1979. In the next ten years that number rapidly declined to only 600,000 in 1989. In 1989 they finally decided to put strict bans on hunting and poaching African Elephants but poaching is still a very serious problem. And with continued pressured on their habitat the African elephants population are still being threatened. The last estimate taken in 2006 showed between 400,000 and 500,000 African Elephants still remaining.The Siberian Tiger also known as the Amur Tiger has only 400 - 500 animals remaining the wild. And even scarier is the Amur Leopard has less than 40 individuals remaining in the wild. Due to the ridiculously low numbers of both animals serious conservation efforts are finally taking place, hopefully it is not too late.
The Giant Panda has been the face of conservation efforts for nearly two decades, sadly however less than 3,000 pandas remain in the wild. Their numbers are under stress due to continued habitat loss and fragmentation. In good news, there are 40 reserves to protect Panda habitat today as opposed to the only 13 twenty years ago.
The San Francisco Silverspot Butterfly was once widespread throughout the San Francisco bay area. Most of its population has been lost to urban development. The silverspot is thought to be extinct in San Francisco. Only two of the fourteen populations remain and only one of those is in a protected area. Even with the protected area the future of the Silverspot looks bleak. The impacts of urban development still affect remaining populations even with in protected areas.
A few important things to take away from these stories. First, there is hope, a few of these animals were nearly extinct and with extreme conservation efforts we were able to save them. It is important to note that the success stories were all of conservation efforts were started in the early 1900s when humans demand on our natural resources was not nearly what it is today. So we will have to work much harder to save the many more species under threat today.
Another thing that I think is important to note is the terrible effects of habitat fragmentation. So yes, there are 40 nature reserves protecting Panda populations today. These reserves are not connected. This is essentially like putting the worlds remaining pandas on 40 different islands. They cannot breed between isolated populations, if they run out of resources they cannot roam to other areas to find more food. Fragmentation of habitat, especially in Pandas seriously effects there already slow reproductive rate. The orangutans and tigers and many other species are facing the same problems.