Bald eagle landing on stone by water.

24 Animals Saved From Extinction

Our planet is home to an incredible variety of life, yet many species teeter on the brink of extinction due to human activity, climate change, and habitat destruction. But there's hope.

Dedicated conservation efforts around the globe have managed to pull some species back from the edge, giving them a second chance at survival. Take a look at some of these amazing animals.

1. Scimitar-Horned Oryx

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The Scimitar-horned Oryx, a majestic antelope with long, curved horns resembling a scimitar sword, once roamed the Sahara Desert in large numbers. They have a white coat with a reddish-brown chest and black markings on their face and legs, making them a stunning sight against the desert backdrop.

However, by the 1980s, they vanished from the wild, primarily due to overhunting and habitat loss. Thanks to captive breeding programs and careful reintroductions, these magnificent creatures have begun to make a comeback in their native habitats.

2. Pere David’s Deer

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Père David’s deer, a unique species with its horse-shaped head, giant antlers, and webbed hooves for swimming, was once extinct in the wild. Miraculously saved on a British duke's estate after disappearing from its native China, the species is now flourishing back in its homeland. 

Despite doubts about their survival due to a limited gene pool, the initial group of 38 has grown to 600 in a central Chinese reserve. 

3. Mountain Gorillas

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Mountain Gorillas live in two foggy forests in the heart of Africa, with a population of around 1,000. This is actually an improvement from the 1980s, thanks to hard work in protecting and restoring their habitats. This effort also helps the local economy through tourism.

These great apes split their home between the Virunga Massif's volcanic landscape, crossing into Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Despite growing numbers, they still face big challenges like unrest, changing climates, and sickness, keeping them on the endangered list.

Efforts to bring back their natural environment have been successful in places like Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, where over 1,000 hectares have been cleared of non-native trees to let the original forest flourish again, with more restoration projects on the horizon.

4. Przewalski’s Horse

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Przewalski's horses, the last truly wild horses, stand out with their small, sturdy build, large heads, and distinctive dun coloring with dark, zebra-like stripes. These horses, which reach about 4.3 to 5 feet tall at the shoulders, once roamed across Europe and Asia. Due to human competition, environmental changes, and loss of habitat, they were pushed to the brink of extinction, surviving only through reintroduction programs in Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan.

Distinct from feral horses found elsewhere, Przewalski's horses were critically endangered. All present-day horses descended from just 14 individuals captured in the early to mid-20th century. Conservation efforts, including breeding programs and legal protections in Mongolia, have been vital in preventing their complete disappearance. 

Around 1,900 Przewalski's horses exist today, thanks to the dedication of zoos and conservationists worldwide.

5. Antiguan Racer

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Island species like New Zealand's giant moas or the dark flying fox found in Mauritius face a high risk of extinction. However, islands offer unique opportunities for reviving endangered species. A prime example is the Antiguan racer, a non-venomous snake native to Antigua and Barbuda. Its population dwindled to just 50 by 1995 due to non-native mongooses that were originally introduced to curb the rat population but ended up preying on the snakes.

The Antiguan racer is a slender snake with a smooth, light brown or grayish body and subtle darker markings along its back. 

Thanks to dedicated restoration work, which included eradicating invasive predators from several islands, the Antiguan racer's habitat has begun to return to its natural balance. Today, there are more than 1,100 across four locations. The efforts have also benefited bird populations on these islands, which are now flourishing without the threat of non-native predators.

6. Saiga

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The saiga antelope, with its distinctively oversized nose and size comparable to a goat, was once a common sight across the vast grasslands stretching from Europe to China, numbering in the millions. However, threats such as excessive hunting, habitat destruction, and disease outbreaks have dramatically reduced their numbers, confining them to smaller populations in Kazakhstan, Russia, and Mongolia.

Efforts to revive their numbers, such as the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative in Kazakhstan, have made significant strides in conserving and rehabilitating approximately 7.5 million hectares of their natural habitats, ranging from steppe to semi-desert and desert regions. Despite facing a devastating loss of 200,000 individuals in 2015, the saiga population in Kazakhstan has shown remarkable resilience. From a precarious count of fewer than 50,000 in 2006, their numbers have surged to over 1.3 million

7. Black-Footed Ferret

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The Black-footed Ferret, with its distinctive black mask, legs, and tail tip, is a small carnivore once thought to be globally extinct. Habitat loss and disease decimated their populations, but a small group was discovered in Wyoming in 1981. This finding kicked off a conservation program involving captive breeding and reintroduction across the American West. Today, there are around 300 of these remarkable little critters in the wild, and captive breeding programs continue to boost their numbers. 

8. Red Wolf

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The red wolf is a slender canid with a reddish-tan coat and long, pointed ears. This unique species, native to the southeastern United States, was once declared extinct in the wild. Aggressive predator control programs and habitat loss wiped out red wolf populations by the 1980s. 

However, a remnant population in captivity allowed for a successful reintroduction program in North Carolina. Today, the red wolf faces ongoing challenges, including interbreeding with coyotes and human-wildlife conflicts, but the effort to maintain and expand their populations continues and as their numbers have increased significantly, there’s hope of meaningful population recovery. While there are only a handful of red wolves left in the wild, there are almost 300 captive animals as part of breeding programs, and there’s a detailed and hopeful release plan for 2024. 

9. Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat

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The Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat is a large, nocturnal marsupial with a broad head and a short, furry tail, distinct for its softer, silkier fur compared to other wombats. Once teetering on the brink with only 35 left, there are now over 300 in two safe wild refuges in Queensland. Plus there are captive breeding programs underway to try and boost numbers further and reintroduce populations to other suitable locations. 

10. Iberian Lynx

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With its spotted coat, tufted ears, and short tail, the Iberian Lynx is the world's most endangered feline. Just two decades ago, its numbers were so low that extinction seemed imminent due to a decline in their main food source, the rabbit, and loss of habitat. Conservation efforts focused on habitat restoration, rabbit population management, and a successful breeding program have significantly increased their numbers to over 400 in the wild, as well as many others in captive breeding programs. 

11. Jaguars

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While much attention is rightfully given to the Amazon, the neighboring Atlantic Forest, a once vast expanse along Brazil's coast stretching into Paraguay and Argentina, has seen over 80% of its area disappear due to agriculture, logging, and development. Many species are threatened by this terrible habitat destruction, including the jaguar. 

In response, restoration efforts are in full swing to mend the severe fragmentation of this crucial biodiversity haven. These include regrowing forests on unused lands and creating wildlife corridors to link protected areas. These are vital moves for the survival of species like the near-threatened jaguars and margays.

Thanks to conservation efforts, including the reforestation of key parts of their former range, wild jaguar numbers have increased by an estimated 160% since 2005, to around 173,000 individuals

12. Cat Ba Langur

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The Cat Ba Langur is known for its striking golden-yellow fur and long, slender tail. This critically endangered monkey, found only on Vietnam's Cat Ba Island, was facing extinction due to habitat destruction and poaching. There are only 80 animals left in the wild, and there’s a small captive breeding program trying to boost numbers. It’s also now illegal to kill these little primates, and there, thankfully, haven’t been any confirmed poaching deaths since 2001. There’s also habitat restoration and protection programs, genetic diversification programs, and tighter security measures to help keep the langurs safe as their population slowly increases. 

While 80 is not very many, the increased protection and conservation efforts have let the wild population grow from fewer than 50 individuals in 2016 to 80 in 2023. So recovery is slow, but moving forward. 

13. Vancouver Island Marmot

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The Vancouver Island Marmot is one of North America's most endangered mammals. It has a distinctive white muzzle and a brown body. By the late 1990s, there were less than 100 of these little marmots left in the wild.

Conservationists began captive breeding programs at four locations to give the species a chance at survival. They kept human contact to a minimum and provided large pens in areas of the marmoset’s preferred habitat. Each year, they release around 20 marmots back into the wild from these programs to help diversify the gene pool and bolster their numbers. There are now over 300 Vancouver Island Marmots living in the wild.

14. Pygmy Hog

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The pygmy hog, the world's smallest pig, has dark brown fur, small, rounded ears, and a slender snout. It has a more delicate frame than other hog species. This tiny porcine was thought to be extinct in the 1970s due to hunting and habitat destruction. Although their original range spanned from the Himalayan foothills of Uttar Pradesh, through Nepal, and northern Bengal, there are now only a few known populations.

They are under protection against habitat loss, intensive agriculture, livestock grazing, and poaching in Manas National Park, which is the last remaining wild population, although even here, the breeding program has regularly reintroduced captive-bred pygmy hogs to increase the chances of survival of the wild population. Reintroductions also happened at three other sites between 2008 and 2023, including Orang. There are an estimated 280 pygmy hogs in the wild, plus another 80 in captivity to maintain the breeding and release programme. 

15. Peregrine Falcon

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The Peregrine Falcon, or Falco peregrinus, is the world's fastest animal, diving at speeds over 200 miles per hour to catch its prey. These impressive birds of prey have a global presence, inhabiting coastlines, deserts, mountain ranges, and even busy urban areas. However, despite their wide range and remarkable adaptability, they faced endangerment in the 1970s.

The use of DDT, a synthetic pesticide, along with hunting, habitat loss, egg collection, trading, and various human interferences, caused a significant and rapid decline in numbers worldwide. The tide began to turn for the Peregrine Falcon following the 1972 DDT ban in the United States, combined with dedicated conservation efforts, including captive breeding programs and the protection of nesting sites.

There are now over 340,000 of these amazing raptors in the wild, and they’re a species of least concern. 

16. Mallorcan Midwife Toad

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The Mallorcan midwife toad (Alytes muletensis) has a unique parenting style. After females lay a string of 7 to 12 eggs, males wrap these eggs around their legs, carrying them until the tadpoles are ready to emerge.

Originally believed to be extinct, this species was joyfully rediscovered in the 1970s in Mallorca. However, their survival is challenged by habitat changes and the introduction of non-native predators like the viperine snake.

Thanks to focused conservation efforts, including captive breeding programs, there's been a promising turnaround. The Mallorcan midwife toad is the first amphibian to have its International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) status improved from critically endangered to vulnerable.

17. California Condor

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The California Condor, a huge, majestic bird, faced near extinction, with a population dwindling to just 27. In a bold move to save the species, conservationists captured all the birds, with the last one being bought into captivity in 1987, for a specialized breeding program. Thanks to the unwavering commitment of conservationists at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo, it worked! There are now at least 541 California condors, although just under half of those are still in captive breeding programs to help with long-term survival.

18. Golden Lion Tamarin

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The Golden Lion Tamarin, with its vibrant orange fur and expressive face, once faced extinction due to deforestation in Brazil. During the 1970s there were only 200 of these beautiful little creatures left. Reforestation efforts and breeding programs have been really successful, and there are now more than 2,500 golden lion tamarins, most of which are in the wild. 

19. Louisiana Black Bear

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The Louisiana Black Bear, recognizable by its shiny black coat and slight hump on its back, once inspired the creation of the teddy bear. In 1992, it was listed as a threatened species. But, thanks to habitat restoration, legal protection, and public education, the population bounced back enough that it was removed from the threatened species list in 2016. 

20. American Bison

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The American Bison, with its massive frame, shaggy brown coat, and iconic humped back, symbolizes the American West's untamed nature. Before 1800, there were an estimated 100 million of these huge animals. But by the 1890s, there were fewer than 1,000 left. Unregulated hunting, mass culling by the US government, and habitat loss nearly drove them to extinction.

But, eventually, sense prevailed, and these animals were protected. Today, there are around 31,000 wild bison, and around half a million in commercially managed herds.

21. Bald Eagle

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The Bald Eagle, with its striking white head and tail against a dark brown body and massive wingspan, is America's national symbol. Four decades ago, the bald eagle faced the threat of extinction across much of its territory. This dire situation was the result of habitat destruction, illegal hunting, and contamination of its food supply, notably from DDT. 

Thanks to the protective measures of the Endangered Species Act, the ban on DDT by the federal government, and the concerted efforts of the American public, the bald eagle has experienced a stunning recovery. By August 2007, the eagle was so successfully recovered that it was removed from the endangered species list, and its numbers have continued to rise.

22. Rodrigues Fruit Bat

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Rodrigues fruit bats, once inhabitants of several Indian Ocean islands, now find their sole refuge on Rodrigues. These sociable bats cluster together in the island's dense forests for protection against frequent severe weather.

Crucial to their ecosystem, they pollinate plants and disperse seeds by feeding on fruits and flowers. Deforestation has dramatically threatened their survival, with habitat fragmentation leaving them vulnerable to tropical cyclones, food scarcity, and loss of roosting sites, sometimes even resulting in them being swept out to sea.

Thankfully, a global effort involving captive breeding programs across 46 zoos, alongside initiatives in habitat conservation, watershed protection, and local education, has led to a growing bat population. Despite these gains, their status remains endangered by the IUCN, largely due to their restricted habitat.

23. Whooping Crane

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The Whooping Crane, North America's tallest bird, has striking white plumage, a red crown, and a long, elegant neck. With numbers dwindling to just a few dozen individuals in the 1940s, locally extinct everywhere apart from a small flock in Texas, it looked like extinction was certain. But captive breeding initiatives, legal protection, and habitat preservation have had gradual success. There are now 600 whooping cranes, 440 of which are in the wild, while the remainder stay in captive breeding programs. 

24. Panamanian Golden Frog

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The Panamanian golden frog, with its vibrant yellow and black skin, is considered a symbol of good luck in Panama. Sadly, a mix of habitat loss, pollution, and a devastating fungal disease have brought this beautiful little amphibian to extinction in the wild, but several thousand are in managed care and conservation facilities across North America and the rest of the world. While there are no immediate plans to release them, eventually it’s hoped that they can be successfully reintroduced to their natural habitat.

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