The devastating impact of Covid-19 has inevitably had serious repercussions for Fauna & Flora International (FFI), as it has for almost everyone on the planet, but as we gratefully consign 2020 to the history books, there is still a great deal to celebrate.

As CEO Mark Rose was quick to remind us when Covid-19 struck, resilience is a part of our DNA. Even in the face of adversity, FFI and our partners have continued to fly the flag for conservation. Here are ten reasons to be cheerful as we look back on some of the most memorable stories of the past 12 months.

Asia-Pacific

Siamese crocodile
A juvenile Siamese crocodile. Credit: Bianca Roberts/FFI

A patrol team discovered a wild Siamese crocodile nest in one of the last known strongholds of this critically endangered species – just three months after a record number of baby Siamese crocodiles were spotted in the very same wetland – a sure sign that conservation efforts are having a real impact on a species once believed to be extinct in the wild.

“The Covid-19 restrictions have inevitably had an impact on this year’s monitoring, so under the circumstances the discovery is a real cause for celebration.”
Pablo Sinovas, FFI Flagship Species Manager, Cambodia

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sunda pangolin endangered
A vanishingly rare Sunda pangolin triggers a camera trap at a secret location in Vietnam. Credit: FFI

A programme of camera trapping at secret locations in Vietnam, gathering evidence needed to support designation of new protected areas, revealed the presence of numerous threatened species – including critically endangered Sunda pangolin – that were believed to have been virtually obliterated by poaching.

“After recent sensationalist headlines regarding Vietnam’s ‘empty forests’ it’s deeply satisfying to prove that it isn’t true. The challenges are immense, but most wildlife is resilient and, given the chance to recover, will rebound.” Josh Kempinski, head of FFI’s Vietnam programme

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snub-nosed monkey
A young Myanmar snub-nosed monkey. Credit: Shaohua Dong

The fortunes of the critically endangered Myanmar snub-nosed monkey received a boost after its habitat was declared a protected area by the Myanmar government. The new protected area is home to the entire population – fewer than 330 individuals – of this distinctive-looking primate, which an FFI-led team discovered in 2010.

“We have spent over four years consulting with local communities on the protection and management of this important area, and we are delighted to have achieved what is a milestone for conservation in Myanmar.” Ngwe Lwin, Northern Programme Manager for FFI in Myanmar

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Africa

African wild dog South Sudan
African wild dog’s are one of Africa’s rarest carnivores. Credit: FFI

Images captured on camera traps installed in South Sudan’s Southern National Park included an African wild dog, one of the continent’s rarest carnivores, providing further evidence that South Sudan is a potential treasure trove of threatened species whose populations are in steep decline elsewhere in Africa.

The early camera-trap images have come up with some thrilling results and we expect more exciting discoveries the longer the cameras are out in the field. FFI’s team had to adapt operations when the Covid-19 restrictions came into force, only making the challenge more interesting.” Benoit Morkel, FFI Landscape Manager, South Sudan

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forest elephants Africa
The two forest elephant brothers trekked around 200 kilometres across the country. Credit: FFI

The vital importance of a groundbreaking transboundary agreement between Guinea and Liberia, brokered by FFI and partners, was brought into sharp focus after two forest elephants left the sanctuary of the Ziama Massif and went walkabout in West Africa.

“This was a rare opportunity to raise awareness about the importance and plight of the African forest elephant and wildlife as a whole. We perceived a glimpse of hope these last few days that wildlife can be appreciated alive in Liberia.” Mary Molokwu, FFI Country Manager, Liberia

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mountain gorilla uganda
In total, seven babies have been born in Bwindi since January this year, more than double the number recorded for the whole of 2019. Credit: Juan Pablo Moreiras/FFI

The birth of five baby mountain gorillas within the space of just a few weeks in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lifted the gloom that had descended on the region earlier this year after these great apes suffered a series of setbacks.

“After a challenging start to the year for mountain gorillas, particularly in Uganda, the baby boom in Bwindi is incredibly encouraging. We hope to see these magnificent great apes continuing to thrive next year.” Alison Mollon, FFI Director of Operations, Africa

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Lemon sharks Cape Verde
Lemon sharks are a threatened species found in Maio’s waters. Credit: Alex Mustard

The future of marine biodiversity in the remote archipelago nation of Cape Verde is looking rosier after the island of Maio was officially designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, ensuring that the country is now well and truly on the conservation map, thanks to the efforts of FFI’s in-country partner.

“This is a day to remember in the history of FMB, Maio and Cape Verde. It’s an amazing end to the year that demonstrates the hard but productive work done by the FMB team and its partners.” Dr Rocio Moreno, Director of Fundação Maio Biodiversidade

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Americas & Caribbean

grey-breasted parakeet Brazil
A grey-breasted parakeet fledgling. Credit: Fábio Nunes

A decade after it appeared doomed to extinction, one of Brazil’s most threatened parrots is back from the brink thanks to the single-minded dedication of a team of local conservationists supported by the Conservation Leadership Programme.

Through a combination of scientific research, teamwork and innovation, this team has proved that it really is possible to bring species back from the brink. The future of the grey-breasted parakeet is in very good hands.” Stuart Paterson, Executive Manager, Conservation Leadership Programme

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Eurasia

endangered ship sturgeon georgia
Conservationists had expressed fears that the critically endangered ship sturgeon might have already become extinct. Credit: Tamar Edisherashvili/FFI

Two juvenile specimens of the critically endangered ship sturgeon – an extraordinary, other-worldly fish that was feared to be extinct in the wild – were plucked from the Rioni River in Georgia within the space of less than a month.

The discovery of the ship sturgeon in the Rioni is an excellent example of how fishers can become crucial partners in conservation. We are hoping to convince all fishers in the region to become sturgeon supporters, and are well on our way to achieving this goal.” Fleur Scheele, FFI Programme Manager, Caucasus

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Young saiga antelope
The 530 calves born to the Ustyurt Plateau population of saiga represents the largest number of calves recorded in recent years. Credit: Bakhtiyar Taikenov/ACBK

Conservationists had cause for cautious celebration after the smallest and most threatened population of saiga antelope in Kazakhstan experienced its largest mass calving in recent years, with over 500 calves recorded.

“As the smallest saiga population in Kazakhstan, the Ustyurt population is at heightened risk of extinction. The discovery of this mass calving is therefore very encouraging.” Bakhtiyar Taikenov, Head of ACBK Ustyurt ranger team

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Imagine if all conservation news were this positive?

Let's make good news like this a regular occurrence. We're calling on the UN to invest an initial $500bn a year for nature, to protect and restore our planet for future generations.

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