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Navigating a Conservation Crossroads

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Over the course of eons, species have come and gone. We’ve all heard the story of the passenger pigeon, a bird that disappeared during the early 20th century after flourishing in abundant flocks. We also know the story of the American bison—a species that came dangerously close to suffering extinction. WCS and the Bronx Zoo have been working for more than a century to preserve this incredible animal, now poised to become the country’s “National Mammal.”

With countless species facing extinction, WCS is more determined than ever to conserve wildlife and wild places with a seasoned strategy. We’re calling it the Three Rs Approach, and it boils down to: Recognition; Responsibility; and Recovery.

WCS leaders have taken the three Rs to Jeju, South Korea, where they are currently attending the World Conservation Congress. By sharing the success story of bison—decimated by overhunting but subsequently restored to more than 30,000 wild animals—WCS emphasizes the importance of human action.

Dr. Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO, explains the importance of “recognizing the problem, taking responsibility for solving it, and putting species back on the path to recovery.”

It isn’t difficult to recognize the problems facing our world’s largest feline.

Tigers have diminished from an estimated 100,000 in 1920 to a number now thought to be as low as 3,200, placing these cats at the conservation crossroads that separate bison from passenger pigeons.

Fortunately, success in India suggests that these regal cats can go the way of bison. In 1972, India announced “Project Tiger,” signaling its intention to provide a future for its iconic felines. India’s almost unprecedented commitment led to one of the few examples of a major Asian species enjoying a sustained recovery. Though challenges persist, India remains committed to conserving tigers within its boundaries, and the Thai government has undertaken similar responsibilities in the Western Forest Complex in Thailand.

In addition to tigers, WCS has identified a number of additional Asian species that require urgent attention. Among the list are: orangutans, Mekong giant catfish, Asian rhinos, Asian giant river turtles, and Asian vultures. Although these animals suffer from habitat loss, illegal hunting and trade, and other factors, WCS is confident that Asian governments have the resources to turn the tides of extinction.

To learn more about our Three Rs Approach, read our press release.