Eight species making a comeback

Banke Nepal camera trap

Species recovery is an essential part of any ecosystem's long-term resiliency and health. And there are some key species making a comeback and playing a pivotal role in their ecosystems.

Sumatra’s Thirty Hills is one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth, where WWF has been focusing ecosystem restoration efforts for the past few years. A recent biodiversity monitoring survey in the region revealed many iconic species from tigers to Sumatran elephants, Sunda pangolins, Malayan tapirs, Sunda clouded leopards, and more, all of which are benefiting from conservation efforts.

Recovering species is essential for effective wildlife conservation and critical to the work WWF does around the world. Here are just a few of our favorite, recent recovery stories:

Black-footed ferrets in the Northern Great Plains

For the last 30 years, concerted efforts from many organizations have given black-footed ferrets
—one of North America’s most endangered mammals—a second chance for survival. Declines in the habitat of prairie dogs, the main prey species for black-footed ferrets, and non-native disease led to their extinction. Today, recovery efforts have helped restore black-footed ferrets to around 300 animals across North America; the goal is to reach 3,000. Their recovery in the wild signifies the health of the grassland ecosystem which they depend on to survive.

Black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) kicking up dust at sunset, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Black rhinos in Namibia

In March 2020, the southwestern black rhino, one of three black rhino subspecies, was reclassified from “vulnerable” to “near-threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) after its population increased more than 11%. This status change parallels a hopeful trend for all of Africa’s black rhinos. Although the species overall faces persistent threats from poaching and is still classified as critically endangered, its population has climbed steadily since 2012.

Greater one-horned rhino in India

In 2020, Manas National Park, located in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, saw a significant growth in its greater one-horned rhino population. Thanks to conservation efforts, such as rhino translocations, Manas is now home to 47 greater one-horned rhinos!

Humpback whales in oceans 

After significant efforts to reduce present-day threats of fisheries bycatch and ship collisions with wildlife, humpback whales have been on a steady road to recovery in several of the world’s oceans. In Australia alone, data shows that both east and west coast populations have been rapidly recovering and are now 50% larger than their pre-whaling numbers.

Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Uganda

Mountain gorillas in Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo

Recent research revealed that an increasing number of mountain gorillas—a species once thought to be extinct by the end of the 20th century—now reside in a large swathe of protected forest in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The 83,840-acre Bwindi-Sarambwe ecosystem that runs from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda, through the Sarambwe Nature Reserve, Democratic Republic of the Congo, is one of two places on Earth where mountain gorillas still exist with a population of 459 individuals, up from an estimated 400 in 2011.

Snow leopards in Mongolia

Mongolia’s first-ever national snow leopard survey in 2021 showed that the country’s snow leopard population is stable with approximately 953 individuals—an exciting discovery that indicates current conservation efforts are working to protect this charismatic and elusive big cat.

Swift foxes in Montana

In 2020, after a 51-year absence, swift foxes returned to the grasslands of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana, joining other prairie wildlife found within these Native nation-owned lands. Twenty-seven swift foxes were brought to the area from Wyoming in September, marking the beginning of a five-year reintroduction program led by the Nakoda and Aaniiih Nations of Fort Belknap. One litter of kits was documented, and an additional 48 swift foxes were released in 2021, both of which are helping to establish a sustainable population on the Reservation.

Tigers in Nepal

In 2018, Nepal announced that the country’s tiger population estimate had increased to 235, nearly doubling a 2009 baseline of just 121 individual tigers. Nepal is on track to become one of the first countries to double its country’s wild tiger numbers since the ambitious TX2 goal – to double the world’s wild tiger population.