Hello all, While we all have had a (in some cases very) rough year, I would like to pause for a moment and offer a tiny bit of hope. While I cannot comment on everybody's individual lives, I know for certain that the one thing we all care about is wildlife, and so I have decided to share this (heavily edited) article from a recent BBC Wildlife article. While the pandemic has had an unequivocally adverse effect on wildlife conservation around the world, there is cause for hope. While this post will inevitably be quite UK-centric, I've tried to edit it so that it is more all-encompassing. So here we go: (If you have limited time, I would recommend reading the following numbers: 1, 3, 12, 14, 21, 28, 35, 39 and 42) 1. Elephants recovering in East Africa: Following the poaching crisis in East Africa in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the elephant population there has been increasing steadily, with tagged elephants travelling huge distances to repopulate areas once devastated by the ivory trade. Notably, in 2020, a matriarch made a 77km journey with her family to an area which had, a decade before, been the focal point of the poaching trade in Africa. It shows that, across Africa, huge swathes of possible elephant range still exist - elephant populations just have to be left to prosper long enough for them to re-colonise these areas. 2. Dimming lights in Texas: This autumn, the 'Lights Out, Texas' campaign asked Texans to dim their lights between 11pm and 6am. This is because every year, billions of migratory birds pass through the state on their way South. The campaign was put forward to allow these birds to pass safely through without colliding with houses or veering off course. The campaign was largely successful, dramatically reducing the number of vagrants and avoidable deaths, while also making environmental and fiscal sense. 3. Conservation in the Choco: As the Earth warms, many species are moving to higher altitudes to maintain optimum temperature for their bodily processes. Fundacion Jocotoco in the South area of Ecuador's Choco rainforest has bought up 230km2 of forest from a logging company and plans to connect up a network of over 3000km2 of pristine forest, forming a safe corridor for the thousands of species that inhabit it. Furthermore, the forest is sloped, meaning that species that move further up the mountains are still protected. It is hoped that this protection will allow the hundreds of endemic species there to recuperate in numbers. 4. Rewilding Cetaceans: A number of open ocean sanctuaries are being constructed for previously captive beluga whales so that they can take part in rewilding efforts in the next few years. One such sanctuary is called the Klettsvik Bay sanctuary, located in Iceland and holding up to 10 whales. Numerous other sanctuaries are in the pipeline and hope to be completed and ready by 2021. The hope is that these cetaceans can all be returned to the wild when they are ready. 5. Help for European landscapes: The European Landscapes Programme offers £30 million to large-scale restoration projects across Europe. Ecosystems affected include the Carpathians and an important wildlife corridor in Portugal's Coa valley. The programme represents a major philanthropic investment in reversing biodiversity declines and in protecting and rejuvenating ecosystems affected by human development. 6. Fish swimway: A conservation group is getting closer to the finalization of the protection of a 700km corridor between Cocos Island NP (off Costa Rica) and the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Thousands of species travel between the two protected areas but their populations are affected by illegal fishing. Species whose numbers could be boosted by the protection include Scalloped Hammerheads and Whale Sharks, especially pregnant whale sharks travelling to the Galapagos to give birth. The measures could also conserve fish stocks and capture carbon. The director of the initiative hopes it will serve as a blueprint for the safeguarding of similar 'swimways' across the globe. 7. Red and Green Macaw and Giant otter reintroduction: The Rewilding Argentina association recently began an operation to reintroduce the nationally extinct Red-and-Green macaw to Ibera NP. The bird's extinction has led to a deficit in seed dispersing animals, so its return will allow native plant species' numbers to recuperate. As well as this, the vibrant species will make a valuable ecotourism attraction. Right now, 15 birds are living free in the park, with several having paired up. One of these pairs produced three chicks, the first chicks in the country for over 150 years. The population, conservationists hope, so 8. Red Squirrel populations in Scotland stabilising: Saving Scotland's Red Squirrels is an initiative to allow the native species' numbers to recover while also culling invasive grey squirrels. There is hope that the native species' populations will increase within the next few years and that grey squirrels can be entirely removed from Aberdeenshire, where their presence has affected red squirrel numbers. 9. Trout bypass: A $34 million fish bypass system around the Truckee River's Derby Dam in Nevada. The structure pushes fish through a side channel along with other debris, allowing them to migrate further up the river then they have since the dam was built in 1903. The hope is that the largest subspecies of cutthroat trout, the now endangered Lahontan cutthroat, will be able to migrate up 2500m all the way up to Lake Tahoe in California. This should increase their numbers dramatically, and it is hoped that similar projects can solve similar situations in other countries. 10. Javan Rhino Recovery: The rhino population of Ujung Kulon NP, the last place in the world where one can see a live Javan Rhino, has increased from a mere 45 to 74 in 20 years, owing to increased protection. 2020 saw an increase in the efforts to help the species recover - a new marine based protection unit was introduced and efforts were redoubled to eradicate the invasive Arenga palm which stifles the rhino's foodplants. As a result, it is hoped that the population will continue to a stable level. Furthermore, conservationists are working with the Indonesian government to find another location to form another population of Javan Rhinos on the island. 11. Persian Leopard reintroduction: WWF has successfully reintroduced 4 endangered Persian leopards back into the Caucasus Biosphere Reserve (the largest protected area in Russia), adding to the 4 leopards already living there. It is hoped that this comparatively small reintroduction will have large and positive repercussions for the species' populations across Asia. 12. Chameleon species assumed to be extinct rediscovered: The Voeltzkow's chameleon, a species endemic to a small area of North Western Madagascar, was rediscovered this year in a hotel garden. It is thought to live in the mangrove forests on the island's coast, and the hope is that the species can be protected and its numbers can increase again. 13. Loa Water frogs produce offspring: A species of frog whose last 14 remaining specimens were evacuated by scientists from the Atacama desert recently reproduced. Over 200 tadpoles were produced thanks to a careful breeding programme by the National Zoo of Chile. The next step is to hopefully reintroduce the species into the wild, although the previous range of the species has all but vanished due to extensive water extraction for mining and development in the area. 14. Europe's largest marine area comes into force: 100,000 sq km of sea off Scotland's West Coast has been protected. The area encompasses vulnerable underwater volcanoes (seamounts), slow-growing coral reefs and productive mud habitats, but most importantly protects a surprisingly diverse array of deep sea habitats as deep down as 2,500m below the surface. It contributes to a large network of Marine Protected Areas around the UK Coast, which should hopefully support a healthy marine environment in the future. 15. Blue whales recovering around South Georgia: Blue whales appear to be returning ton South Georgia where they were heavily exploited by commercial whalers in the 1900s. The leviathans remained rare visitors to their summer feeding grounds until 2020, when 58 sightings were recorded off the island, reinforcing other indications that the species is recovering in the South. Antarctic blue whales form their own subspecies. 19. Empowering conservation in Africa: Young people in Africa are now at the forefront of a movement encouraging the now rapid changing perspective on wildlife in African communities - with the environment now recognised as a fundamental part of their identities and livelihoods. This has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of young people in Africa wanting to contribute to conservation and the fight against, in particular, poaching. Recent demonstrations have highlighted wildlife's role in African countries' economies. This change suggests that 2021 could be a turning point in the fight against habitat encroachment and poaching in Africa. 20. Large scale divesting from fossil fuels: Many large organisations have decided to divest from fossil fuels and invest put their money into more ethical and environmental industries and methods of energy production. 21. CO2 levels drop: Energy-related Carbon Dioxide emissions dropped by 7% in 2020 - the largest drop since records began in 1900. This is due to the dramatic decrease in travel (in particular flights) but also an increase in people buying vegan products instead of farmed meat and dairy. Furthermore, our reliance on paper decreased as multiple sectors moved to online platforms to continue to function. Overall, this year has shown that we can do without extensive travel, animal products and such a volume of paper. 22. Report suggests a possible increase in Biodiversity: A report published in October this year found that rewilding a third of the Earth's most degraded landscapes could prevent about 70% of predicted biodiversity loss from happening and sequester about half of the additional Carbon Dioxide emitted by humankind since the Industrial Revolution. These findings sparked political leaders from 64 countries to pledge to reverse biodiversity loss in the next decade by protected 30% of land and ocean by 2030. 23. Conservation projects in India redoubling: Plans to build a highway and railway through Mollem NP near Goa have met considerable opposition and may well have to be discarded. In Assam, people are coming together to oppose the coal mining in Dehing Patkai (the 'Amazon of the East'). Plans have been abandoned to develop the forest of Aarey Colony in Mumbai - one of the last green spaces in the city and a stronghold for Indian leopards. 24. Prize for Innovation relating to reparation of damage to the Earth introduced: The Earthshot Prize is a new accolade designed to encourage people to think up innovative new ideas to repair the damage done to the earth. 5 prizes of 1 million pounds each will be awarded every year for the next ten years in the categories of climate, oceans, waste, nature and air. It begins in 2021. 25. Hope for the Hirola: The members of the Ishaqbini community in Kenya approached the Northern Rangelands Trust for support in establishing a protected population of Hirolas in the community's land in 2012. Since then, the population of hirolas in that area of land has increased from 48 to 130. The hope is that this number will continue to increase while also encouraging other communities to do the same, potentially connecting the currently isolated pockets of land in which the hirola still lives. 26. Great Green Wall: We are now a decade into the Great Green Wall initiative - a project aiming to grow a 8000km wide belt of trees across Africa, revitalising the continent's degraded landscapes and encouraging endangered species to enlarge their ranges to encompass previous areas they inhabited. The project is 15% complete, having restored and protected an area equivalent to that of 265,000 football pitches, with 22 million trees grown. Most importantly, local people have been empowered to take part in the project and hopefully the project will continue to gather steam with the increasing awareness of environmental problems in Africa. 27. Restore Australia: An initiative called the Restore Australia project has been established by the Global EverGreening Alliance (a Global NGO). It is the largest grassroots initiative ever established in Australia and brings together 200 different organisations to work directly with farmers and companies across six key regions of Australia devastated by the wildfires of this year. The initiative aims to restore over 13 million hectares of land and recapture atmospheric carbon while restoring biodiversity. 28. Recovery in Vietnam: Four critically endangered species of monkey in Vietnam have recovered in numbers significantly. Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys numbers have increased from 50 individuals to around 160. Delacour's langur numbers have increased from 40 to around 80. Cat Ba langurs are also showing strong signs of recovery with a spate of births, and finally plans are being put through to protect a large tract in which the last 500 Grey-shanked douc langurs can live safely. 29. Pangolin rescue centers opening: A dedicated pangolin rehabilitation centre was opened in 2018 in Gorongosa NP in Mozambique with aim of rewilding pangolins captured for the illegal wildlife trade. In the past two years, over 40 pangolins have been saved, also seizing dozens of tusks and leopard skins, resulting in the prosecution of numerous traffickers and poachers. 30. Marine protection in Turkey: The Turkish government recently expanded a marine protected area to include important areas for highly endangered species such as the Mediterranean monk seal in the area. There has also been a reported recovery in fish stocks in the area in recent years, suggesting a more balanced ecosystem due to a decrease in fishing in the area. The protected area could also safeguard endangered populations of Mediterranean sandbar sharks. 31. Reduction in elephant-human conflict in India: A new initiative begun by the Hathi Sathi foundation in India is educating the farmers in the area, especially on tea plantations, to coexist safely with elephants. There has been no loss of life, crops or property on either side on plantations where the foundation has made changes. 32. Rewilding in Australia: The largest ever rewilding project in New South Wales is taking place to safeguard endangered populations of mammals affected by invasive species and wildfires. Stage one includes the eradication of feral cats and foxes over an area of 9500 hectares. At least 10 locally extinct mammal species will be reintroduced into the area. First to arrive will be Greater Bilbies and Great Stick-nest rats. Then will come other species like bandicoots and bettongs. nearly all of the species are threatened with extinction. 33. Tiger numbers in Central India increasing: In six years, the population of tigers in the Satpuda region of India has doubled. Local tiger ambassadors are dispatched to schools and communities to teach locals about the tigers and stop their persecution. A mobile education unit travels tirelessly from school to school to encourage the younger generations to coexist with the iconic cats. Numbers have jumped from 264 to over 500 in only six years thanks to these efforts. 34. Saiga numbers increasing fast: In 2020, 530 saiga calves were born to just a single saiga population on the Ustyurt plateau, boosting the desperately low populations. Five years ago, a mass mortality event occured when a bacterial disease killed off 60% of the saiga population - a disaster for an already highly endangered species. However, there is now hope for its recovery across its range. 35. Hookpods proving to be effective: The hookpod is a device that ensures that seabirds are not caught as bycatch by pelagic long-line fishermen. The pod encloses the hook until a certain depth beyond that that seabirds can dive to, then releasing the hook so that fish can be caught. In 2020, the New Zealand government purchased a sufficient number of Hookpods to equip 15 of the 27 longline boats that fish in their waters with the devices. To date, not a single bird has been snared as a result on these boats. If 2021 sees the wider use of hookpods, thousands of seabirds could be spared. 36. Nuthatches back in Missouri: 46 Brown-headed nuthatches have been released in Mark Twain NP in Missouri, seeing the species return to the state for the first time in a hundred years. The species is one of the few avian species known to use tools and vanished from the state in the early 1900s due to widespread habitat loss. 37. Project Pine Marten: In 2015, the Vincent Wildlife Trust began a project to translocate pine martens to mid-Wales. Over three years, 51 martens have been brought to Wales, and data shows they are clearly thriving, with successful breeding levels every year. In the Forest of Dean of England another reintroduction is underway and further projects are in the pipeline for Southern Britain in the coming years. It is hoped that the martens could help eradicate invasive grey squirrels. 38. Whales in Tenerife: In February 2021, the water around south Tenerife will become Europe's first Whale Heritage Site, boasting 28 species of cetacean, including a resident population of Short-finned pilot whales. 39. Loris hosepipe network: In Java, a team of conservationists devised a way to connect up patches of loris habitat over large tracts of agricultural lands. Since Javan slow lorises need a joined up canopy to move about. They set up a network of connected hosepipes which irrigated the agricultural land while connecting up loris habitat and allowing them to move from place to place. 20 other threatened species have also been spotted using the network. 40. Stand for Swans: A group of conservationists has come together across Russia to educate the locals about Bewick's swan's who migrate across the vast country to get to Europe. It was found that a shocking one third of live swans examined were found to be carrying shotgun pellets despite being protected in Russia. 41. Saving falcons in India: In 2013, hundreds of thousands of migrating Amur falcons were snared in nets cast across their roosting sites in Nagaland, India. The community nearby has come together to condemn these actions and this outcry led to action further up the governmental ladder. Today, the birds enjoy safe passage through the entire country thanks to these efforts. 42. Gough Island mice to be eradicated: Gough island, located in the South Atlantic, is home to over 8 million breeding seabirds from 24 different species, including several critically endangered species (Tristan albatrosses, etc.). However, mice introduced to the island in the 19th Century result in the death of 2 million birds every year. The RSPB has teamed up with several other organisations to eradicate these mice completely from the island, and the efforts to do so will begin next year. 43. Universities fighting for hedgehogs: Over 80 UK universities have come together to form hedgehog-friendly campuses. This includes installing nestboxes and signs as well as organising litter picks and surveys to increase hedgehog numbers in the area. This initiative is set to be roll out to schools and colleges in the future to increase awareness among the younger generations. 44. First Nation Conservation: In 2019, an agreement was reached between the Canadian government and the Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation to create a vast swathe of protected land called the Thadene Nene (Land of the Ancestors). It marks a different pathway for conservation - one led by the indigenous people. The National Park encompasses 25000 sqkm of boreal forest and tundra, relied on by over 10 million birds. More land is being considered for protection in Canada - including the Seal River watershed in Manitoba, a 12 million acre piece of land (approx 12 million football pitches if it is easier to picture). 45. Community in Scotland comes together to buy Moor: A Community in Scotland came together to raise a total of £3.8 million to buy Langholm Moor, a 5000 acre plot of land. This purchase paves the way for the formation of a new nature reserve, offering ecotourism opportunities across the area. 46. Somali sengi rediscovered: The Somali Sengi was recently rediscovered in Djibouti, 50 years after it was last sighted in the Horn of Africa. The rediscovery offers hope that the species might still be able to recover in Djibouti as well as nearby Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea. 47. Angolan government saving species: The Angolan government has recognised the importance of the country's wildlife and is working with ZSL to monitor the populations of cheetahs and african wild dogs across 15 African countries. The findings are positive - for the first time in 50 years, wild dogs have been sighted in Bicaur and Mupa NPs. The focus on conservation by the Angolan government has been dubbed 'astonishing', with one survey even uncovering the first evidence of a cusimanse in the country in more than 100 years. 48. Publicity campaign saves Yellow-eared parrots: In the space of less than 15 years, the Yellow-eared parrot has gone from all but extinct to a population 1000-strong. This change was almost entirely due to a widespread and effective publicity campaign and a well-funded conservation programme working hand in hand to empower the people and save the birds simultaneously. The recovery shows the effectiveness of a large PR campaign on the local people and could offer a blueprint for future rescue operations. 49. Big names help Devils: For the first time in 3000 years, the Tasmanian Devil is back on the Australian mainland - the species having succumbed to competition with introduced dingos and retreated to Tasmania. 26 individuals were 'released by' Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky, two famous actors. It is hoped that the reintroduction will help to rebalance Australian ecology. 50. Support for the Red Siskin: In 2003, a population of endangered Red Siskins were discovered by a local community in Guyana. The Community has since become guardians of the rare bird and accumulated 15 years of data on their populations. They have also launched an education programme destined to reach 1,500 students by 2023. In conclusion, there is undoubtedly cause to be hopeful for wildlife in 2021. The sheer volume of good news cannot be ignored, even among all the hardship the Earth has been through this year.