2019 was a landmark year, and it's all thanks to you! You, our friends and donors, made critical conservation work possible in 52 countries around the globe. You’ve rescued animals and plants, returned endangered species to the wild, protected their habitats, and so much more. As we welcome a new year and close out the old, we celebrate everything you’ve done to help save wildlife from the brink of extinction. We can’t thank you enough.
Back in the Wild
After being rescued, hand-raised, and rehabilitated at an elephant sanctuary that we support in northern Kenya, six calves have been released back into a protected wild area. They’re the first to be released since the orphanage opened in 2016! Because of you they’re thriving, and we will continue monitoring them as we help other sick and injured calves at the sanctuary.
Keeping An Eye Out
You funded hundreds of digital trail cameras around the world. They’re an essential part of the conservation tool kit. This year, photos and videos collected by trail cameras led to new discoveries about Andean bears in South America, black leopards in Africa, polar bears in the high Arctic, and countless other endangered species around the globe.
Those trail cameras also kept an eye on burrowing owls right here in San Diego County. Because of your support, the Burrowing Owl Recovery Program hit major milestones this year, hatching 19 chicks for release into the wild! We also celebrated when one of the released birds successfully reproduced—the program’s first chicks to hatch in the wild.
50 Years of Conservation
Cocha Cashu Biological Station, located in Peru, celebrated 50 years of preserving pristine habitat in the heart of the Amazon rain forest. San Diego Zoo Global operates this carbon-neutral site, studying little-known species like giant otters, jaguars, and tapirs in their natural habitat, undisturbed by human activity. Your support is helping preserve these species and their homes for generations to come.
Homes for Penguins
African penguins live on the sunny beaches of South Africa, and are endangered due to habitat loss and food shortages. This year, you helped fund efforts to rescue, rehabilitate, and release hundreds of ill and injured African penguins back into their native habitat. You also built artificial nest boxes for these dapper birds, providing them with desperately needed homes.
You made a lifesaving difference for endangered mountain yellow-legged frogs. Tiny microchips now enable field teams to closely track these little camouflaged amphibians and see how they use their habitat to hibernate. This critical data informs future conservation efforts—like the best places to release the frogs in the future.
You reached new heights for giraffes. Volunteers just like you became citizen scientists, identifying species in over 1 million trail camera images from Kenya. Because of these efforts, the Wildwatch Kenya project completed 10 years’ worth of work in less than 2 years—a huge accomplishment in giraffe conservation at a critical time.
Thanks to the support of donors like you, another group of ‘alalā (Hawaiian crows) were released into their native forest habitat, bringing the total wild population up to 20. These birds were declared extinct in the wild in 2002, and were reintroduced in 2017. They’re hitting all the milestones we hope to see, and were even observed building nests in the wild—behavior not seen in over 20 years. Here’s hoping for wild ‘alalā chicks in 2020!
You helped protect one of the most endangered animals on Earth, the hirola antelope. Fewer than 500 of these shy, beautiful antelope remain on the entire planet. They live in a protected wild area in northern Kenya, alongside nomadic people and their herds of livestock. You helped vaccinate 63,000 cattle, sheep, camels, and goats in this shared habitat. This critical effort prevents transmission of disease between livestock and the hirola, while preserving the livelihoods of local people.
You made miracles happen. Edward and Future joined our family at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center this year. Their unforgettable arrivals prove that, together, we can save these gentle giants from extinction. Your support runs this one-of-a-kind sanctuary 365 days a year—and it’s now home to 10 rhinos and counting!
You also funded a state-of-the-art camera system so animal care staff can check in on these adorable and important calves 24/7, from anywhere in the world. Your support makes this groundbreaking science possible and is changing the future for rhinos.
You made it possible to reintroduce a rare and endangered plant to its native home for the first time. After years of preparation, wildlife conservationists planted Dudleya brevifolia on the sandstone bluffs at Torrey Pines earlier this year because of your help. This tiny local succulent helps stop erosion and supports local pollinators. Much was learned from this first-ever effort.
One of a Kind
With their long snout resembling a duck’s bill, a beaver-like tail, webbed feet, and dense fur, it’s clear at first glance that platypuses are unusual. But the differences don’t stop there: they are also one of the world’s only egg-laying mammals.
You're helping conservationists save these intriguing animals through field studies of their native Australian freshwater habitats. Using innovative technology, scientists test water samples for environmental DNA (eDNA)—genetic material left behind by animals—to track how and where platypuses are using their habitats. Understanding a species is the first step to saving it, and we are committed to preserving this one-of-a-kind animal.
Researchers and botanists discovered 30 plant species not previously known to live in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Biodiversity Reserve. This included rare local plant Campo clarkia, seeds of which were collected for the first time in 16 years. They are preserved along with hundreds of other species in the Native Plant Seed Bank.
Animals Helping Animals
Tracker dogs are incredibly effective tools for wildlife security, often deterring poachers from even entering an area. We have provided support to our partner, the Northern Rangelands Trust, to enhance both their human and canine capabilities in anti-poaching efforts across northern Kenya.
With the addition of the canine unit, their successes have multiplied. There have been zero incidences of poaching in the area over the past five years, in part because of this brilliant team.
Following in Their Footsteps
Scientists are racing against the clock to save threatened giraffes. This year we worked with partners on the largest giraffe collaring project ever, placing GPS tracking units on 28 endangered reticulated giraffe in Kenya. Every bit of information is a game-changer for this iconic yet misunderstood species. So far, over 115 giraffes in 6 African countries have been tracked this way. The goal is to tag 250 giraffes by the end of 2020.
Increasing the Population
You’re saving Hawai’i’s rare birds. Six critically endangered palila hatched and raised at our Keauhou Bird Conservation Center were released into protected forest, increasing the population of this critically endangered finch relative. Many of Hawai’i’s native plants and animals are endangered, with some gone forever.
Threatened by invasive species, habitat loss, and land development, unique Hawaiian birds are especially at risk. The Hawai’i Endangered Bird Conservation Program operates the Keauhou (Big Island) and Maui Bird Conservation Centers, where we breed and care for endangered Hawaiian forest birds.
Your support helped hatch 9 California condors, destined for eventual release into the wild, adding to populations of this critically endangered species. When our program to save them began, only 22 birds remained. Today, because of the support of friends like you, hundreds of California condors fly free.
You make hope possible for species in California, and around the world. We can't thank you enough for your dedication to saving wildlife from the brink of extinction. These are just a few incredible highlights you made happen this year. To learn more about how you helped animals and plants in 2019, and to stay updated in 2020, be sure to follow the Wildlife Conservancy blog all year long!
photo credits | giant river otter: OSTILL/iStock/Getty Images via Getty Images | hirola: Juliet King