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8 animals coming back from brink of extinction

Words by Smiley Team

We often read disheartening news stories about how wild animal populations around the world are decreasing, but today we're celebrating species that are slowly increasing.

Thanks to conservation efforts across the globe, species that were once in danger are starting to make a comeback from the brink of endangerment or extinction.

Most recently, the International Rhino Foundation announced that the one-horned rhino population had reached a new high. There are now over 4,000 one-horned rhinos, a number that is only possible due to the tireless efforts of campaigners and conservationists. The population has increased by 167% since the 1980s, when habitat loss and illegal poaching threatened their survival. 

Thanks to strict protection and conservation measures enacted by regional and national-level governments in India and Nepal, the greater one-horned rhino’s recovery provides a blueprint – and hope – for other rhino species.

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Here are 8 other animal species that are making a comeback. 

Black rhinos in Namibia

In March 2020, the southwestern black rhino was reclassified from “vulnerable” to “near-threatened” after its population increased more than 11%. Although the species overall faces persistent threats from poaching and is still classified as critically endangered, its population has climbed steadily since 2012.

Steller sea lion

Overfishing of the Gulf of Alaska led to a severe decline in the population of the Steller sea lion, in addition to increased predation. But the population has increased substantially, and the species was taken off the endangered list in 2013.

American Alligator

By the 1950s, the American alligator had been hunted and traded to near-extinction. Captive breeding and strong enforcement of habitat protections and hunting regulations have contributed to its comeback. Alligators now total around 5 million from North Carolina through Texas, with the largest populations in Louisiana and Florida.

Green sea turtle

Possibly the greatest conservation success story of all time: the green sea turtle has made a remarkable return from less than 50 recorded turtles in 1990 to more than 10,000 in 2013.

Humpback whale 

Another sea success, where commercial whaling nearly drove humpback whales into extinction, slashing their population from around 125,000 individuals to a mere 1,200, these whales have now recovered dramatically to more than 21,000 today.

Mountain gorillas 

At the end of the 20th century, mountain gorillas were thought to be entirely extinct. But the species caught everyone by surprise by re-emerging. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda, and the Sarambwe Nature Reserve, Democratic Republic of the Congo, are two places on Earth where mountain gorillas still exist with a population of 459 individuals.

Snow leopards 

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


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

Inspired to act?

ADOPT: The WWF works to preserve wildlife across the globe. You can learn how to adopt an animal to support their work

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This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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