If you log in to social media today then I'm willing to bet you'll be repeatedly told 2016 is the worst year ever. Prophets of unending pessimism will announce that the end is nigh, that the world is ending and that frankly you'd have been much better off if you'd stayed in bed. Well, pedlars of doom and gloom, I have some news for you; 2016 has been a pretty damn good year if you're a giant panda. Or a tiger. Or a Rhino, an Albatross, a Lynx, a Pangolin or a Humpback Whale. In fact 2016 has been a pretty fine vintage for wildlife all round and to prove it here's a list of 10 fantastic conservation success stories from 2016.
1. Giant Pandas are no longer endangered
Giant Pandas are a symbol of wildlife conservation and now thanks to a sustained effort from conservation organisations, the Chinese government and donations from the public they have been downgraded from endangered to threatened. As John Robinson, a primatologist and chief conservation officer at the Wildlife Conservation Society puts it: "When push comes to shove, the Chinese have done a really good job with pandas.
2. Wild Tiger numbers have increased for the first time in 100 years
2016 saw tiger numbers rise for the first time in living memory. The world can now boast 600 more wild tigers than it could in 2010. There's a long way to go to reach the target of doubling tiger numbers by 2022 but its a hugely important first step.
3. Canada Lynx is under increased protection
A court in Idaho ordered officials to put in place restrictions to prevent trapping from doing further harm to populations of this rare and beautiful cat. This is a victory not just for lynx but for bobcats, wolves, fishers, coyotes, foxes, and a suite of other forest animals as well,Ken Cole, Idaho director for Western Watersheds Project.
4. Role with the Pangolins
Pangolins are not the most well-known family of animals but they are one of the most interesting. Not only are they the world's only scaly mammal, they also have tongues longer than their body (used to collect the ants they feed on). As if that wasn't enough their name is derived from the Malay word 'penggulung' meaning 'animal that roles'; most people assume this is because pangolins role up into a ball when threatened but I think it is because they're just so damn cool. Hopefully we'll be seeing a lot more of the Pangolin as they are now under the protection of CITES Appendix I, which means the international trade of pangolins is banned. This should help save a family that is currently the most trafficked on earth.
5. Blowing the trumpet for Trumpeter Swans
Thanks to the money given by residents of Minnesota in the USA trumpeter swans are making a remarkable comeback in the state. The funds have been raised using the innovative system of tax-deductible donation using the Nongame Wildlife checkoff on tax returns (a tick box on tax returns encouraging citizens to donate to this specific project). These donations account for an impressive 80 percent of the funding for Nongame Wildlife programs run by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The population is now over 17,000 swans.
6. A second year of zero rhino poaching in Nepal
As a direct result of action from the Nepalese government and the conservation community it has now been two years since a Rhino has been poached from anywhere in Nepal. "It takes a whole country to achieve conservation success like zero poaching and Nepal has just done that one more time", says Shubash Lohani, deputy director of World Wide Fund for Natures Eastern Himalaya Ecoregion program. "This rare success gives us a hope for a better future for rhinos".
The country's success is put down to a cunning mixture of improving protection not just in national parks but also the surrounding buffer zones. A new piece of software has also helped rangers not just improve rapid response measures and analyse poaching hotspots, but also understand the effect of impact of anti-poaching measures.
7. A decade of Albatross Protection
In 2006 the RSPB formed its albatross task force in an effort to reduce the huge number of albatross deaths that were caused each year by fishing boats. Before 2006 an estimated 100,000 birds were dying after being caught in fishing nets or on lines every year. As a result of the RSPB program and the public donations that have made its operations possible, albatross deaths as a result of fishing have been reduced by 99% in the South African hake trawl fishing industry and around 85% in other methods of fishing.
8. Humpback Whale conservation pays off
As of September 2016, 9 out of 14 Humpback whale population segments have now recovered so successfully that they don't warrant listing under the endangered species act. This is a result not only of conservation efforts but also a reduction in the level of hunting by humans. "Today's news is a true ecological success story," said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries .
9. Planet Earth 2 transfixes public
Ok so perhaps not quite a conservation story per se but undoubtedly a positive sign for global conservation efforts, Planet Earth 2 has broken records to become the most watched natural history program of at least the last 15 years, possibly ever. Whilst this might not directly help conservation it proves that the public still love wildlife and should go a long way to inspiring the conservationists of the future!
10. The future?
All these cases I've included and the many hundreds that I haven't show that wildlife conservation has got a lot to be proud of coming out of this year. Whilst it's true that not all news from 2016 has been positive and more work is undoubtedly needed to protect the worlds wildlife, I believe that these case studies show that with the right combination of public engagement, action from governments, and brilliant ideas from the conservation community 2017 could be a fantastic year for this planet's wildlife.