Welcome to the twenties. Boy, what a decade it’s been…
Well here it is. 2020. You made it. You’ve endured the horrendously named “teenies” and I’m sure you’ve picked up a few stories along the way. For those of us in the conservation game, it’s been ten years punctuated by happiness and heartbreak – and here’s the rundown:
For me, the stand-out was a tragedy. Having flown four rhinos – the last of their kind – from captivity in Europe to the African savannah, we dared to dream that the northern white rhino had a future. Hundreds of people put thousands of hours into snatching an unlikely conservation victory from the jaws of defeat.
Those hopes have been dashed. Despite our best efforts, the elderly rhinos failed to breed. Now two are dead, and the last two survivors are female. Their chances of natural reproduction are as over as the decade. In this case, the conservation world simply did too little, too late.
It hasn’t all been bad news – far from it. What’s happened with mountain gorillas is enough to put a smile on anyone’s face. They were once down to just a few hundred individuals, clinging on desperately in their shrinking forests.
And for these remarkable creatures, we were able to act in time. It’s been a decade of success. They’ve had big win, after big win, after big win. Today, they number more than 1,000, and their survival chances are improving with each passing year.
Meanwhile Sumatra’s tigers have faced ten years of clinging on. When the decade began, their situation seemed relatively stable thanks to the sterling work of our tiger protection teams. But a new crisis was just around the corner. A massive spike in demand for tiger parts led to a blitz of poaching that threatened to annihilate these big cats.
But in Sumatra, we held the line.
Throughout the decade we kept numbers stable – repelling wave after wave of poaching. The heroes in the field have weathered the latest storm and they’re incontestably stronger for it – entering the twenties as one of the most impressive conservation forces on the planet.
In Eurasia a very different story was unfolding. We had to witness over 200,000 saiga suddenly dying from a bacterium that no modern medicine could cure. The scenes of mass graves and entire herds vanishing were truly sickening.
But in Kazakhstan, we’ve helped engineer a dramatic recovery. In just two years, the saiga population has more than doubled. After a decade of total turbulence, and thanks to better protection from poachers, they are bouncing back with a vengeance.
At the start of the decade, the country of South Sudan didn’t even exist. Within just two years of gaining independence in 2011, it had fallen into bloody civil war.
Despite the raging conflict, we’ve maintained a presence in the country, protecting a unique forest corridor and the elephants, chimps and pangolins that depend on it. We’re bringing communities and government rangers together, relieving tension and reducing threats to wildlife in areas so wild we don’t even know what’s out there.
We’ve worn out untold pairs of boots patrolling and saved the lives of countless pangolins, tapirs, turtles, crocodiles, elephants, snakes, magnolias, mangroves, snails, baobabs, butterflies, geckos, gibbons and far more species than I could fit in an email – more than I could fit in ten.
So, we’ll leave it there, and get cracking with the work we’ll need to do in the twenties. Have no doubt, there are going to be bigger challenges, harsher conditions and more disasters coming than we’ve ever faced before.
So let’s get it done.
Honestly, if you’ve made it this far down the email, then I have to recommend you buy our book. It tells the story of at an entire century of conservation, and every penny goes to our work.