These tiny creatures aren’t just amazing to see. Experts say they represent one of the country’s greatest conservation success stories – because about six decades ago, America’s national icon was on the brink of extinction.
“We have restored bald eagles in every state in the country,” said Brett Hartl, director of government affairs at the Center for Biodiversity. “This is perhaps the most geographically extensive recovery effort of any endangered species.”
Federal law plays a huge role in bird recovery and is credited with helping to keep hundreds of other species alive since then, with the help of federal protection agencies.
“It’s a fact that the human population continues to grow and we’re forcing wildlife into smaller and smaller areas to live, but in species like the bald eagle, we’ve shown that we can live side by side as long as we’re simple, says Hartl.
Here’s what experts say we can learn from the iconic bird’s success story and how Americans can help these animals now in danger.
What are the biggest threats to the species?
As the federal government moves to protect the bald eagle, the species has faced a number of serious threats, including habitat destruction, shooting, DDT, and lead poisoning. when eating animals that have been killed with lead bullets or contaminated with dangerous pesticides.
DDT, or dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, was developed in the 1940s and is used to control mosquitoes and other insects. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this chemical has been classified as a probable human carcinogen and correlates with liver tumors in animals.
“This is where science meets policy,” said John Horning, chief executive officer of WildEarth Guardians. “As a society, we realized that a particular human action was threatening this iconic species, so we started phasing out DDT and that, combined with protecting habitat and even stopping hunting, are the main reasons bald eagles have done so well.”
“EPA is concerned about manatee deaths and is committed to working with Florida and other partners to implement nutrient reduction strategies,” an EPA spokesperson told CNN in a statement. “We have received the notice and are currently reviewing it.”
Jacob Malcom, director of the Center for Conservation Innovation at Defenders of Wildlife, told CNN that pollution is one of the main drivers of the extinction crisis.
Malcom said: “Manatees show an expression of what happens when we don’t take the actions we know need to be taken.
“The birds basically started to disappear on those islands,” Hartl said.
How do we pull a species from the brink of extinction?
The good news is that federal safeguards usually work.
“The fact that almost every species that has been listed is still on Earth today, most of them not yet extinct, is a success,” said Malcolm, of Defenders of Wildlife.
Measures commonly taken to protect species and prevent them from becoming extinct include prohibition measures. These include a ban on hunting in the case of the alligator or a ban on DDT that has contributed to the bald eagle’s recovery.
Another important measure is habitat restoration.
“To make sure that every species has a place to live, that is the single most important intervention to keep something from the brink of actual extinction,” says Hartl.
But removing species from the list too quickly can have devastating consequences.
Wildlife Conservation announced in a news release Friday that 20 gray wolves from the park were shot dead by hunters after leaving park boundaries – 15 in Montana, and five in Idaho and Wyoming. Foundation President Jamie Rappaport Clark has called on the government to restore federal protections.
What can you do
While the practice is still widespread and largely successful in helping species recover, there is still plenty of room for improvement, experts say.
There are also things Americans can do to support conservation efforts, Horning said, including volunteering with environmental groups as well as reaching out to legislators to show support for these initiatives. conservation ant.
“Elected officials respond to the voices they hear, so if you’re quiet on these issues, they’ll respond to the loudest voices,” says Horning.
Showing support for local leaders and legislation promoting conservation can go a long way, experts say.
“We needed that kind of movement,” says Malcolm. “We need that support that says, ‘this is a national priority,’ because these species depend on it and ultimately, humans depend on it. We all depend on nature. .”
CNN’s Talib Visram contributed to this report.