Tim has worked closely with FFI since 1999. He has edited &FFI (formerly Fauna & Flora magazine) since its inception in 2001 and is the author of With Honourable Intent - A Natural History of Fauna & Flora International, published in 2017.
’Tis the season to be jolly and, in that festive spirit, we want to share some of the conservation success stories that Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and our partners have witnessed during the past 12 months. From exciting new discoveries to heart-warming tales of landscapes restored and species brought back from the brink, here are ten reasons to feel positive about the planet.
Popa langur, a new species of monkey for Myanmar. Credit: Aung Ko Lin/FFI
FFI and our in-country and international partners have discovered no fewer than 100 new species in Myanmar since 2010, including dozens of karst-dependent geckos and, most recently, a mystery monkey now known as the Popa langur. The discoveries underline how little we still know about the biological riches of this troubled country.
“This country has an amazing range of species in its varied landscapes, including ones we have not yet uncovered. It is vital that we protect Myanmar’s precious forests, caves, wetlands and all the creatures they harbour.”
Ngwe Lwin, Acting Country Director, Myanmar
Head community warden Sim Khmao releasing a Siamese crocodile at Chhay Reap, Cambodia. Pablo Sinovas/FFI
FFI and our partners in Cambodia completed the biggest ever release of captive-bred Siamese crocodiles into the wild, boosting the survival chances of a critically endangered reptile that was feared extinct until its rediscovery by an FFI-led survey team in the remote Cardamom Mountains.
“This is a major step forward in our efforts to boost the recovery of this critically endangered species in one of its last remaining strongholds. It’s an exciting moment for conservationists but also for all of Cambodia. Step by step, one of the world’s rarest reptiles is being brought back from the brink of extinction.”
Pablo Sinovas, Flagship Species Manager, Cambodia
A watchful male lion resting in deep cover. Credit: Richard Du Toit/NaturePL
Camera-trap snapshots of a male lion carrying a warthog kill have provided the first concrete proof of the presence of this iconic and increasingly threatened big cat in Southern National Park, the cornerstone of FFI’s locally led conservation programme in South Sudan.
“Confirmation of the presence of lion in Southern National Park re-emphasises the importance of this area for lion recovery. Lion populations and range are declining rapidly across Africa, but this discovery offers a glimmer of hope that we can reverse the trend.”
Cath Lawson, Senior Programme Manager, Eastern Africa
One of the world’s rarest orchids, Dendrobium azureum, in full bloom. Credit: Yanuar Ishaq DC/FFI/BBKSDA
A spectacular blue orchid known only from museum specimens has been rediscovered by an expedition team including FFI staff in a remote forest in West Papua, close to the site where it was originally recorded almost a century ago by an intrepid English explorer.
“This endemic species has a population of fewer than 100 individuals in the wild. With this valuable information, it can be proposed to change the conservation status from ‘Not Evaluated’ to ‘Critically Endangered’ so that future protection efforts will increase.”
Yanuar Ishaq DC, Biodiversity Coordinator, Indonesia
The Sombrero bee is found only on the island after which it is named. Credit: Toby Ross/FFI
The tiny and remote Caribbean island of Sombrero, home to globally important seabird colonies and native wildlife found nowhere else on Earth, has been rescued from the brink of ecological collapse after invasive mice were removed by an Anguillan-led alliance of local and international conservationists.
“It was probably the most challenging restoration project we’ve been involved in. We were really lucky to have a great group of individuals who were willing to put in the necessary time and effort. I’m extremely proud of the team. It is incredible to think that we are literally saving species from potential extinction.”
Farah Mukhida, Executive Director, Anguilla National Trust
A healthy batch of rosewood seedlings. Credit: Ya’axché Conservation Trust
After ten years of trying, FFI’s long-standing partner in Belize, Ya’axché, has succeeded in collecting viable seed and germinating seedlings from the Honduran rosewood, a critically endangered tree that has declined dramatically as a result of illegal and unsustainable harvesting for its valuable timber.
“Continued support from FFI has helped us maintain persistent seed monitoring efforts that ultimately paid off in the production of new seedlings for this important timber species.”
Elizabeth Dorgay, Science Director, Ya’axché
The asprete is a valuable flagship species for the conservation of its freshwater habitat. Credit: Alex Găvan
A series of surveys led by the Alex Găvan Foundation in partnership with FFI recorded unprecedented numbers of one of the world’s rarest fish in its last refuge, Romania’s Vâlsan River. The discovery of 58 individuals offers renewed hope that the critically endangered asprete can be brought back from the brink.
“Every species has the right to survive and thrive. Having this endemic fish only in Romania makes it, in my opinion, a national symbol, something that our country can be recognised for worldwide in the biodiversity sector.”
Mircea Marginean, Field Biologist, Romania
A diminutive Union Island gecko in the hand. Credit: Jenny Daltry/FFI
Thanks to a suite of protection measures ranging from on-the-ground surveillance to stronger legislation, one of the world’s most threatened reptiles has staged a spectacular comeback. The latest survey revealed that numbers of the critically endangered Union Island gecko – a miniature gem in lizard form – have almost doubled since 2018.
“It is truly a testimony to the determination of the Forestry Department – and the amazing community wardens on Union Island – that this gecko has become one of the best-guarded reptiles in the world. This is something the whole community of Union Island can be rightly proud of.”
Jenny Daltry, Caribbean Alliance Director
Coastal development poses a serious threat to the Mediterranean monk seal. Credit: Zafer Kizilkaya
A cave monitoring system installed by FFI’s partners in Turkey, Akdeniz Koruma Derneği, to check on occupancy and potential breeding activity of the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal captured footage of a mother and her recently born pup. This is uplifting news for a species that struggles to find suitable undisturbed breeding sites.
“With approximately 600-700 Mediterranean monk seals worldwide, and only around 100 in Turkey, evidence of the species breeding in the project area is highly significant and shows conservation efforts are paying off.”
Zafer Kizilkaya, President, Akdeniz Koruma Derneği
Saiga herd on the move, Kazakhstan. Credit: Albert Salemgareyev/ACBK
An ambitious landscape restoration initiative, in which FFI and local partner the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) play a pivotal role, has won a prestigious UN award. This locally led success story has seen numbers of the critically endangered saiga bounce back from fewer than 40,000 individuals in 2005 to a heart-warming 1.3 million antelope carpeting the steppes of Kazakhstan today.
“At ACBK, the only national conservation organisation in Kazakhstan, we recognise the immense support we receive from international partners and our close collaboration with the government of Kazakhstan, and it is so inspiring to see our initiative share a stage with the world’s most ambitious conservation projects.”
Vera Voronova, Executive Director, ACBK
As we look ahead to 2023 and the challenges posed by the interwoven climate and biodiversity crises, one thing is crystal clear. FFI’s locally led approach to conservation has repeatedly shown itself to be extremely effective – and cost-effective. In this sector, past performance does guarantee future success. We have big ambitions for our conservation programmes across the globe in the coming year and beyond. With your support, there is no limit to the impact we can achieve together.
It’s the best New Year’s Resolution you’ll ever make.