The business of recovering endangered species is often a bleak one. After all, a staggering 150 to 200 plant and animal species go extinct every 24 hours, according to a rough estimate by the U.N. Environment Programme. That's 1,000 times the rate of natural extinction processes!
Despite these troubling numbers, it's not all doom and gloom. In recent years, there have been many success stories involving critically endangered species that have been brought back from the brink. In the U.S., the Endangered Species List has guided conservationists and governmental agencies in their journey to undo (or at least lessen) the damage wrought by habitat loss, overhunting, invasive predation, hybridization, disease, pollution and countless other ecological threats.
The fruits of these labors have been especially exciting over the past seven years, during which 19 plant and animal species have been successfully removed from the Endangered Species List.
As Nature reports, "more species protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) have recovered during President Barack Obama’s administration than under all other presidents combined. [...] And 2016 marks a record high for species recovery, with six so far officially ‘delisted’ from ESA’s roster."
One of the most impressive success stories belongs to California's Channel Island foxes (pictured at the beginning of this story).
There are actually four subspecies of this adorable island fox — all of which were classified as a critically endangered species in 2004 as a result of predation by non-native golden eagles and introduced diseases for which they had no immunity. To save the foxes, the federal government and the islands' conservancy organizations teamed up to implement a comprehensive recovery plan. As a result, three of the island fox subspecies were removed from the list in 2016.Continue below to learn about just a few more of the formerly endangered species that made serious comebacks in the past decade.
Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolus)
This creature was once found in abundance throughout Louisiana and its surrounding states, but after enduring decades of overhunting, the species' numbers dwindled to a dismal 80 individuals by the early 1990s. To recover this rare creature, federal officials added the species to the Endangered Species List in 1992. It worked. Today, the formerly beleaguered bear now stands at about 1,000 strong — an estimate that earned its removal from the list in March 2016.
Delmarva fox squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus)
Native to the eastern United States, this silver furred rodent was listed as endangered in 1967 due to widespread habitat loss and overhunting. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, only 10 percent of its historical range remained at this date. Several decades after implementing a recovery program, the Delmarva fox squirrel was taken off the Endangered Species List in November 2015.
Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus)
Steller sea lion populations were added to the Endangered Species List in 1990 after enduring a 70-80 percent drop population over just 20 years. Many researchers suspect the decline was caused by overfishing of the sea lions' major sources of food such as Alaska pollock and herring. Thanks to a major boom in population in the past several years, the species was released from the Endangered Species List in 2013.
Oregon chub (Oregonichthys crameri)
This small, unassuming minnow made history after it became the first fish to be recovered and removed from the Endangered Species List. When the chub was first added to the list in 1993, there were fewer than 1,000 individuals. By the time it was taken off the list in 2015, its numbers had blossomed to an astounding 140,000.
Island night lizard (Xantusia riversiana)
Those adorable foxes mentioned above aren't the only conservation success stories to come out of California's Channel Islands. The island night lizard was first added to the Endangered Species List in 1977 due to threats from non-native species like cats and goats. These interloping animals were recently expelled from the island, which allowed the lizard to finally be removed from the list in March 2014.
Gray wolf (Canis lupus)
Gray wolves and their associated subspecies can be found throughout the world, but the populations spanning the Rocky Mountains were granted protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1978. After spending more than three decades recovering their numbers, the species was officially released from the list in 2011.
Morelet's crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii)
Native U.S. animals aren't the only creatures that have spent time on the Endangered Species List. Morelet's crocodile, which is mainly found in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, was added to the list in 1970 due to poaching and habitat loss. The species eventually recovered enough to be removed from the list in 2012.