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Sumatran tiger close up. © Ondřej Prosický / Adobe Stock

Sumatran tiger close up. © Ondřej Prosický / Adobe Stock

Saving threatened species

A legacy of success

With well over a century of conservation activity behind us, it is no surprise that Fauna & Flora has played a pivotal role in safeguarding the future of an incredible variety of species in all corners of the globe, from British bats to Mexican cacti, iguanas in the Bahamas and tree snails from Tahiti.

Our 100% Fund, for example, which was launched in 1971 and ran for three decades, supported over 700 small-scale but no less crucial conservation projects in almost 150 countries, enhancing the survival chances of hundreds of the world’s most endangered plants and animals.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction

Some of Fauna & Flora’s achievements are more familiar than others: the eleventh-hour rescue and subsequent reintroduction of the Arabian oryx is widely regarded as a classic example of captive breeding success; the collaborative International Gorilla Conservation Programme partnership that had its origins in our Mountain Gorilla Project has seen numbers of this critically endangered primate increase to an estimated 880 individuals even in the face of intense pressure on its habitat; thanks to locally-led tiger protection teams, Sumatran tiger numbers in Kerinci Seblat National Park held firm despite an alarming spike in poaching activity; at the time of its rediscovery in 1995, the Antiguan racer was almost certainly the rarest snake in the world, but against the odds Fauna & Flora and our partners have brought about a twentyfold increase in its population and transformed this Caribbean serpent into a national icon.

We don’t adhere to a set formula. Experience tells us that, while a scientific grounding is important, species conservation also requires flexibility, a degree of improvisation, imagination and broad collaboration. The emphasis may be on habitat protection or restoration, law enforcement, eradication of invasive species, or changing human behaviour, but is more likely to require some combination of these. We tailor our approach to the specific needs of a species and the nature of the crisis it is facing, but always with one eye on the needs of the communities who share its habitat or have an influence on its survival.

Standing up for neglected flora

Our species focus also extends to flora and, perhaps most notably, tree species – which do not necessarily benefit from a broad forest or landscape-level approach. Consequently, many species – even magnolias, giant conifers, monkey puzzles and baobabs – are in danger of falling through the cracks. We have worked to safeguard tree species in 24 countries to date.

Southern Brazil’s Araucaria forest is one of the world’s most degraded ecosystems, with less than 1% of its primary forest remaining. Over 20% of its 352 described tree species are threatened and, in many cases, their long-term survival will depend on targeted restoration to boost numbers and reconnect remaining populations. Unfortunately, tree planting and land restoration initiatives in the area have tended to focus on a narrow range of common species.

Fauna & Flora decided to take a different approach; together with our partner, Sociedade Chauá, we sourced seeds from 27 of the most threatened species in the ecosystem, learned how to cultivate them and planted out more than 15,500 seedlings – survival rates are above 90%. We are also working to influence tree nurseries and tree planting initiatives in the area to grow and plant out these threatened tree species, to magnify the impact of our work. All of this is helping to secure a long-term future for valuable species such as imbuia, a beautiful timber tree that was heavily exploited in the 20th century to supply furniture markets.

In 2005, the number of Magnolia sinica trees surviving in their native habitat in China was thought to be down to single figures. Natural regeneration was inhibited by over-collection and competition from invasive species. With Fauna & Flora support, surveys identified additional trees, mature specimens were actively protected, habitat was restored through the removal of competing alien plants, and additional seedlings were planted. There are now some 134 trees under protection. More significantly, the species is now legally protected and, as a result of our in-country capacity-building efforts, conservation activity is now led and funded by Chinese institutions and is being rolled out at additional sites.

Rosewood is the world’s most trafficked wildlife product, generating more revenue than ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts combined. High international demand for this luxury timber led to huge spikes in illegal logging. In Belize, where Fauna & Flora supports its partner Ya’axché Conservation Trust, this had a severe impact on Honduran rosewood, which lost 18% of its population during a five-year logging spree (from 2008-2013 more than 200,000 trees were cut down). Ya’axché’s advice to the Belize government led to a proposal to include rosewood on CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). This was accepted in 2013 and provides a legal framework to control international trade in the species. On the ground, Ya’axché’s patrols have helped to reduce rosewood losses to zero in two key protected areas, Golden Stream Corridor Preserve and Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve.

Wild flower habitat. © Olivia Bailey/FFI

Wild flower habitat. © Olivia Bailey/FFI