LAST year on March 21st, a group of volunteers engaged in the Versova beach clean up in Mumbai stumbled upon at least 80 olive ridley sea turtle hatchlings for the first time in 20 years! 

Many attributed this comeback to the sustained efforts of lawyer-activist Afroz Shah. Versova had been known as one of the most polluted beaches in Mumbai. Over a period of 127 weeks, Shah and other members of Versova Residents Volunteers (VRV)  removed 13million kg of plastic and other garbage from the beach.

We are happy to report conservation efforts around the world have shown some inspiring results this year.

Great ape

 Earlier this month, the population of one of the world’s most endangered species, the mountain gorilla, increased to 1,063 – a slow and steady rise year on year since Sir David Attenborough flagged up the number of great apes as “dreadfully small” in 1979.

“Slowly but surely a solid future for mountain gorillas is emerging, proving that long-term, collaborative conservation efforts can pull species back from the brink of extinction,” said Anna Behm Masozera, director of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) coalition.

Golden masheer

Another species saved from certain obsolescence is the golden masheer, India’s ‘tigers of the water’. Due to pollution, loss of habitat and over-fishing, their population had declined in recent years and were declared as endangered by the Washington-based International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Found in the rivers and reservoirs of Himachal Pradesh, the numbers of this fish, popular with anglers, have increased dramatically following a conservation plan. In a statement earlier this month, the government said that an estimated 10-12,000 hatching was expected this year of the 41,450 eggs.

Humpback whale

In October 2019, a new study found that the Southwest Atlantic humpback whales have bounced back from near extinction. Before whaling began in the early 20th century their population was about 27,000. By the mid-1960s, it had diminished to just 450. Now, as per the study, the humpback whale population is an estimated 25,000, almost back to its original numbers. 

This was achieved after their whaling was stopped and treaties were signed to prevent their killing. Now, they are listed as of ‘least concern’ on the IUCN Red List of endangered species.

Conservation efforts also boosted England’s pine marten population as it doubled overnight because of the country’s reintroduction programme which is part of the British Government’s 2025 wildlife manifesto. 

Pine marten

Pine martens – belonging to the same family of the better-know badger – were almost extinct in England due to hunting and destruction of their woodland habitats. In recent years, only 20 pine martens were left – now they are set to double. 

A spokesperson of the UK government’s forestry commission said, “We are delighted be involved with the return of the pine marten, a charming, but highly elusive mammal that was once widespread throughout England.”

Snow leopard

In a unique move, at Russia’s Sailugemsky National Park the snow leopard population has increased thanks to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) project which started in 2015  – with the help of former poachers. 

In the project, the hunters’ knowledge about animal’s movements and trap-setting ability were utilised to monitor their population in the Park. Snow leopards have now been reclassified from “Endangered” to “Vulnerable” in the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. 

The continuous efforts of conservationists around the world have been the driving factors for these wins this year – efforts that need to be lauded.

-by Aisiri Amin

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