Smiley Movement logo

The animals returning from near extinction

Words by Smiley Team

Climate anxiety is real – and it comes for all of us eventually.

But here at Smiley Movement, we know there’s always hope. We've rounded up four animals that have been making a comeback in recent months, plus ways you can help the species thrive. 

Fin Whales

Fin whales have recently been seen feeding off the coast of Antarctica. They're the second largest whale in the world, and were once abundant in the Southern Ocean. After commercial whale hunting took off in the late 19th and 20th centuries, these creatures were decimated down to 1 or 2 percent of their population size.

Now, a study has been conducted in the last few years investigating the species, where they observed over 100 different groupings of fin whales. In 100 cases, the groups sat at around one to four whales - but there were eight different groups which researchers observed that reached as high as 150 whales.

“I’d never seen so many whales in one place before and was absolutely fascinated watching these massive groups feed,” said Professor Bettina Meyer of the Alfred Wegner Institute, co-author of the study. 

Spix Macaws

Now, I know what you’re thinking: "Isn’t this the parrot from the animated film?" Yes, yes it is – and that’s sort of the point.

The Spix macaw was brought to the brink of extinction thanks to its habitat, the thorny forest and shrubland known as the Caatinga in Brazil, being turned into farmland. The land was overgrazed by livestock, leaving no space for these majestic birds, making them a rarity in the wild.

Unfortunately, this led to them becoming collector's items - and soon, there were even fewer birds in the wild than before, after mass capture, instead decorating private collections. Then, Blue Sky’s ‘Rio’ was released in 2011, the story of a Spix macaw named Blu who is entered into a breeding program to help return the species to their home. The film was incredibly successful and gave a huge amount of publicity to the plight of this species.

In 2018, Michel Temer, at the time the president of Brazil, established a macaw sanctuary, which included a breeding programme using macaws from private collections to help the population. Since then, a flock has been released into the skies above its old homeland, with plans to release more birds later this year. 


After 40 years of being extinct in the area, rhinos have finally been returned to their home in Mozambique. Black and white rhinos are once more roaming the wilds of Mozambique, thanks to rangers who captured and relocated rhinos over 1,000 miles into Mozambique’s Zinave National Park.

This relocation is part of an attempt, not only to boost the populations of rhinos, which have taken a large hit over the last century but also to help the ecosystem in a much wider way. By introducing these megaherbivores into the park, the environment in Mozambique will benefit right from the top of the food chain, all the way down to the bottom.

The Peace Parks Foundation (PPF) is aiming to introduce another 40 rhinos to the Mozambique Zinave National Park over the next two years, to help boost the population, and fight climate change while they’re at it.

Western Monarch Butterflies

Western Monarch Butterflies have declined since the 1990s when between 3 million and 10 million monarch butterflies would migrate from the northwestern United States to California. That went down to a terrifying two thousand by 2020, but for some unknown reason in 2021 and 2022, the population has soared upwards again.

In 2022, an incredible 250,000 Western Monarch butterflies were seen migrating across the United States - though this is still only 5% of what the numbers were in the 1980s, it is a huge increase from only two years ago.

The population of Western Monarch butterflies has been doing some really strange things over the last four decades and, because of that, scientists are trying to remain realistic about this sudden jump. Despite this, the increase is incredibly hopeful - and with scientists so dedicated to protecting these incredible little butterflies, it will be wonderful to see how the population continues to improve in future years.

Inspired to act?

WHALES: To help the population of fin whales grow even further, donate to The Whale and Dolphin Conservation charity which is working to protect these wonderful marine animals.

MACAWS: Get involved with the Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots to help bring even more of these macaws back into their natural habitat.

RHINOS: Get involved with Save The Rhino, to help protect the rhinos living in the wild and keep them thriving.

BUTTERFLIES: The Xerces Society works to protect these incredible creatures, along with many others, and you can help them by donating or getting involved.


This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

You might also like…