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10 Encouraging Conservation Stories from 2015

These days, stories about conservation seem to be mostly bad news, and 2015 certainly had its share. But there were some good ones too. 

With the media blasting a never-ending deluge of tragedies like the overheating climate, disappearing rainforests, and the perilous fate of endangered species, it’s tempting to simply throw up your hands and await doomsday.

But there have also been plenty of stories about nature that make conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts a little more optimistic about the world we live in. So when things look hopeless, remember the stories below and try to keep your head up –  there just may be better days ahead.

Diego the Anti-Poaching Dog

diego

Diego loves his job, and it’s just plain fun to see him go to work.

This clever canine, trained to track down and apprehend poachers, is a crucial tool in the ongoing war against poachers, and some compelling footage from National Geographic captures Diego on his daily mission to protect endangered species.

Ivory Use in China Plummets

ivory
Wikimedia Commons

For years, conservationists blamed the elephant poaching epidemic on the Chinese’s fervent demand for ivory, but it seems the tide may finally be turning.

After an aggressive campaign by the government and celebrities, the ivory market in China has taken a huge hit, signaling that there may be a recovery for elephants on the horizon

Eagle Gets Brand New Beak

beak
Reddit

They can rebuild him…they have the technology. Ok, it’s no “Six Million Dollar Man,” but the process of outfitting a bald eagle with a metallic replacement beak is even more entertaining to watch.

With the help of some skilled and altruistic dentists, American’s national symbol got a high-tech makeover that renewed his ability to hunt and eat and made him all the more fierce-looking to boot.

Poachers Won’t Get Off So Easy

poaching
Time

One major flaw in the war against poachers was that it was so hard to prosecute them.

Despite threatening the survival of an entire species and netting millions in illicit profits, poachers often got off scot-free. No longer, with new legislation that would equate poachers to drug and gun smugglers, ensuring their punishments finally fit their crimes.

Unforgettable Run-in with a Whale

whale

Encountering a whale on the ocean’s surface is a moving experience enough, but a team of deep sea explorers was especially thrilled to run into a titan of the deep thousands of feet below sea level.

The enthusiasm of these scientists is downright contagious – just try not to smile as they excitedly witness this close encounter with the gigantic sperm whale.

Kenya Winning the War against Poachers

kenya
Wikimedia Commons

It may often seem that Africa is helpless to stop the onslaught of poachers responsible for killing thousands of elephants and rhinos each year, but Kenya stands out as a rare success story.

The country has almost completely eliminated the loss of endangered elephants from poaching, providing a lesson that could help turn things around for its neighbors.

Former Rhino Poacher Makes Good

rhino
Blogspot/North East India

It’s the ultimate redemption story – a rhino poacher who spent years killing the endangered species for profit now works for the animal’s survival.

While most poachers may not have the fortitude to make the same decision, it’s nevertheless an inspiring story showing that second chances can sometimes make all the difference.

Drones Guard Animals from the Sky

drone
Facebook/Air Shepherd

Drones were all the rage in 2015, for better or worse. But in African game reserves, the flying robots are an invaluable tool, allowing conservationists to keep an eye on endangered species and ward off poachers.

So while you probably abject to the drone hovering in your neighborhood, there are plenty of rhinos and elephants that may owe their lives to their airborne guardians.

Bald Eagles in the Big Apple

eagle1
Wikimedia

The slow but steady recovery of the bald eagle has been good news for the past few decades, and the species recently hit another milestone with a pair nesting down outside of New York City.

So, not far from the Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty, you may soon catch a glimpse of another American icon above the Big Apple’s skyline.

More Trees in America

forest
Wikipedia

You’d be forgiven for thinking there are fewer and fewer trees every year, but as it turns out, things are very much the opposite.

Thanks to a national conservation plan, there are actually even more trees than there were a century ago. So rest assured that your great grandkids may still get to enjoy the experience of exploring a forest.

Whether it was a species fighting back from the brink of extinction, humans committing anew to creating a better world, or simply an up-close encounter with a rare animal, 2015 had plenty of stories that proved not everything about the environment had to be doom and gloom.

2016 remains a make-or-break year for the environment, but the past 12 months show that there’s still plenty of hope for the future.

NEXT: GLOWING GREEN EEL IS THE FIRST FLUORESCENT FISH EVER RECORDED IN THE WILD

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10 Encouraging Conservation Stories from 2015