What is de-extinction?

You must have heard of the term extinction. A species is declared extinct when the last member dies and no individual from that species exists anywhere on our planet. Local extinction refers to a species disappearing from one region, including a country. But have you heard of de-extinction? Come let's find out what it is and what its implications are also known as resurrection biology, de extinction refers to the process that attempts to recreate extinct species through technology. Since these species no longer exist the new ones will be "new versions of the species. For the last few years, one of the main species in the news for de-extinction has been the woolly mammoth. A project seeks to create "a cold-resistant elephant with all of the core biological traits of the woolly mammoth, and will use the African elephant as the host. With the creation of this new version, the project also hopes the ecosytem that the animal inhabited can be improved - the Arctic tundra, now dominated by the threat of melting permafrost. Many view de-extinction as an opportunity to right the wrong humanity has meted out to wildlife. It is also seen as a first step towards safeguarding endangered species and those on the brink of extinction. The process can also be a chance for humans to learn about the crucial role wildlife plays in our planet and be sensitive towards them. But, de-extinction is not without concerns. The chief worry is the question of ethics - the new versions of species will be a product of humans and not nature. Also, if humans start creating plants and animals, is it far-fetched to think they could end up creating even humans in the future? And, there's the financial aspect. Bringing back an extinct species costs money-a lot of it. It could rather be spent on safeguarding threatenend species, educating people on wildlife protection, creating a greener planet, etc.

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What extinct species came back 2022?

The year 2022 has seen quite a number of species getting reintroduced into the wild while some were discovered. Here are a few animals and birds that made to our list of animals in spotlight.


The 1930s saw the marsupial Tasmanian Tiger go extinct. Now efforts are being taken to resurrect the animal using gene-editing technology. The $15-million project hopes to reintroduce the animal to Tasmania, its native place. This attempt is expected to bring back the ecological balance in the region. Seen here is a stuffed Tasmanian tiger which was declared extinct in 1936.


A huge collapse in the population of snow crabs was found after 11 billion snow crabs disappeared off the coast of Alaska. The crabs are disappearing in the Bering Sea and scientists believe that global warming could have resulted in the vanishing of these crabs. The sea was warmer in the previous years and this could have been the reason for the mass die-off. The decline in the numbers were noted when the survey was conducted in 2021. The survey result was confirmed this year too and it was ascertained that the crabs didn't move to any other place, but disappeared. Their total numbers fell to about 1.9 billion in 2022, from 11.7 billion in 2018.


The last cheetah died in India in 1947. And over 70 years after the animal was declared extinct in India, the country launched its ambitious programme "Project Cheetah to reintroduce cheetahs into the wild. Eight cheetahs including five females and three males were introduced as they were brought in from Namibia, southern Africa to Kuno National Park, Madhya Pradesh. Seen here is a cheetah after being released inside a special enclosure of the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.


For long researchers believed that the ivory-billed woodpecker got extinct. But this year, a few researchers have claimed that the very bird which was declared extinct by the U.S. government was spotted in the forests of Louisiana. The researchers have claimed its spotting based on a series of grainy pictures and observations of the bird. Once relatively common, the numbers of ivory-billed woodpeckers started dropping with habitat loss due to human intervention and hunting. It is the largest woodpecker in the U.S.


Did you know that the last time a honey bee species was discovered in India was in 1798? And now, after a gap of 224 years, a new honey bee species endemic to Western Ghats has been discovered. Named Apis Karinjodian, the species has been classified as 'near threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). With the new addition, now we have a total of 11 species of duster honey bees in the world.


The year saw the wild bison get reintroduced to the U.K. for the first time in thousands of years. The species classified as near threatened was introduced into a woodland in Kent. The bison is being reintroduced as part of the Wilder Blean project. The idea for the reintroduction of the species is to restore natural landscapes. It is also a rewilding attempt to check if the animal's behaviour can help transform a commercial pine forest into a natural forestland.


The Great Indian Bustard (GIB) came into focus once again this year when the Supreme Court of India asked if a Project GIB on the lines of Project Tiger could be launched to protect the bird. Found mainly in Rajasthan and Gujarat, the GIB has been labelled as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The SC bench asked this whilst hearing petitions on the situation of the bird and their deaths in large numbers due to electrocution from high-transmission power lines.

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Why are anteaters going extinct?

As their name suggests, giant anteaters are large. Like so many large mammals the world over, these creatures too are facing rising extinction risk, especially in Brazil. What are the reasons for this? Come, let's find out.

Giant anteaters are native to Central and South America. In 2020, the Pantanal region of South America witnessed fires that destroyed about a third of the area. It proved to be injurious or fatal for wildlife such as jaguars inhabiting the region. According to a report, the fires killed "an estimated 17 million animals". The numbers are not available for those injured or displaced. But among those that suffered are giant anteaters. Apparently, "more than 50 giant anteaters injured or displaced by the Pantanal fires were taken in by state rescue projects - a leap from 13 the previous year". In 2021, Pantanal witnessed fires again, though on a scale smaller than the previous year. However, reports suggest that a few areas from 2020 suffered in 2021 too - this could spell disaster for the species there since they'd be denied time for recovery. Several animals are also indirectly affected by such fires. For instance, young animals could be orphaned and ones trying to escape such fires could get involved in accidents or end up in the hands of poachers. As for giant anteaters, some tried to escape the fire in 2021 and got hit by cars; they were rescued.

But, fires are not the only reason for falling giant anteater populations. A report says "Brazil's anteater populations have fallen 30% over 26 years". As solitary creatures, they require a large range for habitation. But this is becoming more and more difficult due to land seizures, expansion of farming, ranching, and mining "in the Amazon and the Brazilian savanna". Further, the animal also has "a low population growth rate due to its life history of long gestation periods and single offspring".

The giant anteater plays a significant role as both predator and prey. While it is consumed by jaguars and pumas, the mammal consumes large quantities of insects, especially ants and termites. Given this interconnectedness, the extinction of this insectivore can have unimaginable impacts on its ecological range.

Fires are not the only reason for falling giant anteater populations. As solitary creatures, they require a large range for habitation. But this is becoming more and more difficult due to land seizures, expansion of farming, ranching, and mining "in the Amazon and the Brazilian savanna". Further, the animal also has "a low population growth rate due to its life history of long gestation periods and single offspring".

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What has caused the decline in grey whale numbers?

Often, conservation stories underline the importance of the role of all creatures-big and small-for balance in ecosystem. For instance, krill crustaceans barely two inches long are a huge link in the global food chain. If such a small organism can have a telling impact on the food chain, one can only imagine the kind of effect larger animals have in an ecosystem. So, when the population of a large animal plunges, it is always a cause for concern.

Grey whales are among the largest animals on Earth- nearly 50 feet long and weighing over 40 tonnes. These giants are known for their long annual migration of more than 15,000 km "between feeding grounds in the Arctic and breeding grounds in Baja Mexico" Recent research has revealed that the number of these fascinating creatures is witnessing a worrying slump- by nearly 40% in just six years. From 27,000 whales in 2016, the number stands at a concerning 16,650 today. Several factors are attributed to this decrease. One of them is the increase in strandings in 2019, when about 600 of these creatures washed up dead along the west coast of North America Though boat collisions and killer whale attacks caused a few of these deaths most of the dead whales were malnourished which takes us to n crucial of interconnectedness in an ecosystem. It is believed that the malnourishment could be the result of "the whales’ food sources of tiny crustaceans and other invertebrates they prey on in the Arctic shifting due to environmental changes. Further, the overall population among West Coast grey whales "coincides with diminished reproduction" While there were 383 baby whales during the calf production season last year, there have been a mere 217 newborns this year - "the lowest number since such counts began in 1994"

Grey whales were close to extinction several decades ago due to commercial whaling before their population improved due to timely conservation efforts. Even then, the 80s and 90s saw a plunge of about 40%, and eventually they rebounded. It is important for this whale population to recover too because they keep the population of certain other creatures in the food chain in check. Even in death-as carcasses- these large marine mammals help feed several other organisms.

Often, grey whales are washed up dead along the U.S. west coasts. Though boat collisions and killer whale attacks cause some deaths, researchers say malnourishment is a major reason. With tiny crustaceans and other invertebrates shifting due to environmental changes, the grey whales are left without food.

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Is our world undergoing the sixth mass extinction?

There's proof we are increasingly losing species, and this is not good for us humans

What is mass extinction?

To be classified as a mass extinction, at least 75 % of all the species on Earth must go extinct within a short geological period of less than 2.8 million years. That timeframe seems long to us because modern humans have only existed for about 2,00,000 years so far.

Mass extinction is not new

Extinctions and speciations (species evolving over time) do not happen at uniform rates through time; instead, they tend to occur in large pulses interspersed by long periods of relative stability. These extinction pulses are what scientists refer to as mass extinction events. The Cambrian explosion was a burst of speciation some 540 million years ago. Since then, at least five mass extinction events have been identified in the fossil record (and probably scores of smaller ones). Arguably the most infamous of these was when a giant asteroid smashed into Earth about 66 million years ago in what is now the Gulf of Mexico. The collision vapourised species immediately within the blast zone. Species were killed off later by resultant climate change and volcanic activity too.

Are humans responsible for the current crisis?

Humans have been implicated in smaller extinction events going back to the late Pleistocene (around 50,000 years ago) to the early Holocene (around 12.000 years ago) when most of the megafauna, such as woolly mammoths, giant sloths. diprotodons, and cave bears, disappeared from nearly every continent over a few thousand years. Much later, the expansion of European colonists throughout the world from about the 14th Century precipitated an extinction cascade first on islands, and then to areas of continental mainland as the drive to exploit natural resources accelerated. Over the last 500 hundred years, there have been more than 700 documented extinctions of vertebrates and 600 plant species. These extinctions come nowhere near the 75 % threshold to include the modern era among the previous mass-extinction events. But those are just the extinctions humans have recorded. In fact. many species go extinct before they are even discovered- perhaps as many as 25 % of total extinctions are never noticed by humans. But it's not the total number of extinctions we should focus on; rather, it's the extinction rate. Even the most conservative estimates place the modern era well within the expected range to qualify as a mass extinction. If the current rate of extinction continues we could lose most species by 2200.

When species disappear

One may think that so long as the species that provide resources for modern societies survive, there's no reason to consider extinction a problem. The evidence suggests otherwise. Species loss also erodes the services biodiversity provides us. These include reduced carbon removal from atmosphere (which climate change), reduced pollination and increased soil degradation that compromise our food production, poorer water and air quality, more frequent and intense flooding and fires, and poorer human health. Even human diseases such as HIV/ AIDS, Ebola, and COVID-19 are the result of our collective indifference to the integrity of natural ecosystems.

There's still hope

We could potentially limit the damage if societies around the globe embraced certain fundamental, yet achievable, changes. We could abolish the goal of continuous economic growth, and force companies to restore the environment. We could limit undue corporate influence on political decision-making. Educating and empowering women would also help stem environmental destruction.

Did you know?

  • In the timeline of fossil evidence going right back to the first inkling of any life on Earth- over 3.5 billion years ago - almost 99 % of all species that have ever existed are now extinct. That means that as species evolve over time, they replace other species that go extinct.
  • When the giant asteroid hit our planet, about 76 % of all species around at the time went extinct, of which the disappearance of the dinosaurs is most well-known. But dinosaurs didn't disappear altogether-the survivors just evolved into birds.

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What killed off billions of Alaska's snow crabs?

Alaska's snow crabs are named so for their love of cold water, which they inhabit. But, due to the heatwaves in 2018 and 2019, their habitats were not cold enough, and this is suspected to be the "key culprit in the mass die-off. The warmer are believed to have affected the species in more ways than one.

Recently, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced that the Bering Sea snow crab season will stay closed for catching during 2022-23 to conserve and rebuild the species. (Though they are found in a couple of other places too, it is in Bering Sea that these crabs are abundant and also grow to reach "fishable sizes".) The announcement follows an annual survey by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which discovered that the crustacean numbers "fell to about 1.9 billion in 2022, down from 11.7 billion in 2018", a reduction of nearly 85%. What caused this dramatic loss, and how will closing the season help the species? Come, let's find out.

Alaska's snow crabs are named so for their love of cold water, which they inhabit. But, due to the heatwaves in 2018 and 2019, their habitats were not cold enough, and this is suspected to be the "key culprit' in the mass die-off. The warmer temperatures are believed to have affected the species in more ways than one. For instance, studies "have pointed toward a higher prevalence of Bitter Crab Disease as the temperature heats up". Further, unlike in cold waters, these crabs "need more energy to stay alive" in warmer waters, causing them "metabolic stress", which likely led to limited movement, and eventual starvation. Apart from this, young crabs require low temperatures of water where their mobility is high, helping them evade predation. When the waters warm, they slow down, and their chances of being targeted by their major predator- the Pacific cod - are higher. 5

However, it is interesting to note that a marine biologist has said that the current predicament was linked more to climate change rather than to overfishing because fishing "removes only large adult males" but the decline in population appears across all sizes of snow crabs. If that's the case, what explains closing the area for catching these crabs?

Because, the temperature of the water has now returned to normal; closing will help the reproduce and recover. Comfortingly, "this years survey saw significant increases in the immature crabs compared to last year".

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Do penguins face threat of extinction?

As much as 98% of colonies of this penguin species is at risk of extinction by 2100. So, the U.S. has listed the bird as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. There's still hope to save them.

Where do emperor penguins live?

Different species of penguins are found in different parts of the Southern Hemisphere. The emperor penguins are found only in Antarctica, where they live and breed. Emperor penguins thrive on Antarctica's coastlines in icy conditions any human would find extreme. The penguins breed on fast ice, which is sea ice attached to land But they hunt for food within the pack ice-sea ice floes that move with the wind or ocean currents and may merge. Sea ice is also important for resting, during their annual moult, and to escape from predators.  

The U.S. lists them as "threatened".

If current global warming trends and government policies continue, Antarctica's sea ice will decline at a rate that would dramatically reduce emperor penguin numbers to the point that 98% of all their colonies would become quasi-extinct by 2100, with little chance of recovering, a new study has shown. That's why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalised a rule listing the emperor penguin as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act, effective November 25, 2022. The director of the service said the listing "reflects the growing extinction crisis". The U.S. Endangered Species Act has been used before to protect other species that are primarily at risk from climate change, including the polar bear, ringed seal, and several species of coral, which are all listed as threatened.

But, these penguins don't even live in the U.S.!

Sure, these penguins don't live on US. territory, so some of the Endangered Species Act's measures meant to protect species habitats and prevent hunting them don't directly apply. Being listed under the Endangered Species Act could still bring benefits, though. It could provide a way to reduce harm from U.S. fishing fleets that might operate in the region. And, with expected actions from the current administration, the listing could eventually pressure U.S. agencies to take actions to limit greenhouse gas emissions. However, the Bureau of Land Management has never acknowledged that emissions from oil and gas extraction on public lands and waters could harm climate-imperiled species. It issued more than 3.500 oil and gas drilling permits in New Mexico and Wyoming on public land during the first 16 months of the Joe Biden administration.

What's harming the birds?

The greatest threat emperor penguins face is climate change. It will disrupt the sea ice cover they rely on unless governments adopt policies that reduce the greenhouse gases driving global warming. If there's too much sea ice, trips to bring food from the ocean become long and arduous, and their chicks may starve. With too little sea ice, the chicks are at risk of drowning. Climate change is now putting that delicate balance and potentially the entire species at risk. Emperor penguins are adapted to their current environment, but the species has not evolved to survive the rapid effects of climate change that threaten to reshape its world. Major environmental shifts, such as the late formation and early loss of sea ice on which colonies are located, are already raising the risk.

How can we save them?

Decades of data since the 1960s are now helping scientists gauge the effects of anthropogenic climate change on the penguins, their sea ice habitat and their food sources. Meeting the Paris Agreement goal could still save the penguins. The results of the new study showed that if the world meets the Paris climate agreement targets, keeping warming to under 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F) compared with pre-industrial temperatures, it could protect sufficient habitat to halt the emperor penguins decline. But the world isn't on track to meet the Paris Agreement goals. The future of emperor penguins, and much of life on Earth, including humanity, ultimately depends upon the decisions made today.

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Why are dugongs extinct in China?

A gentle giant, the dugong is functionally extinct in China. Dugong, a gentle marine mammal related to the manatees that lived in China's southern waters for hundreds of years, has been declared functionally extinct - so few in number that it cannot recover - in the country.

Weighing almost half a tonne, the ocean's most gentle giant is the only vegetarian marine mammal. Its diet consists mostly of seagrass. Despite having an appearance similar to the manatee, it is different due to its dolphin fluke-like tail and gentle disposition. Some people believe that it inspired ancient tales of mermaids and sirens.

Commonly known as "sea cows", dugongs are usually found in the coastal waters from East Africa to Vanuatu and even Japan. They are found in 37 more tropical regions in the world, especially in the shallow coastal waters of the Indian and western Pacific Oceans.

The creature is listed as vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.

According to research by the Zoological Society of London and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, fishing, ship strikes, and human-caused habitat loss have resulted in the rapid decrease in the number of dugongs since the 1970s.

The mammal had been sought by hunters in the 20th Century for its meat, skin, and  bones. With a significant decline in the population, the mammal has been declared a Grade 1 National Key Protected Animal since 1988 by the Chinese State Council. There has been no verified dugong sightings by scientists since 2000.

The research was done by a team of international scientists who conducted interviews in 66 fishing communities across four Chinese provinces along the coastal region of the South China Sea.

Fishing, ship strikes, and human-caused habitat loss have resulted in the rapid decrease in the number of dugongs since the 1970s.

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Are Tasmanian Tigers coming back from extinction?

Researchers are working to bring back Tasmanian tiger, the marsupial that went extinct about a century ago.

After almost 100 years since its extinction, the world may get to see the Tasmanian tiger once again. Researchers in Australia and the U.S. have embarked on a multi-million dollar project to revive the striped carnivorous marsupial, officially known as a thylacine, which used to roam the Australian bush.

Genetic blueprint

The scientists will be using advances in genetics, ancient DNA retrieval, and artificial reproduction to bring the marsupial back from extinction. The marsupial raises its young in a pouch.

The project will involve several measures incorporating cutting-edge science and technology such as gene editing and building artificial wombs. The scientists plan to take stem cells from fat-tailed dunnart, a living marsupial species with similar DNA. They will then use gene-editing technology to "bring back the extinct species- or an extremely close approximation of it.


The ambitious project is a joint venture with Colossal Biosciences founded by tech entrepreneur Ben Lamm and Harvard Medical School geneticist George Church. The company is also working on a $15-million project to bring back the woolly mammoth which vanished 4.000 years ago, in an altered form.

Last of the species

About the size of a coyote, the thylacine vanished about 2.000 years ago from everywhere except the Australian island of Tasmania. The last thylacine living in captivity named Benjamin died in 1936 at Tasmania's Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart. This was shortly after the tiger was granted protected status.

It was the only marsupial apex predator that lived in modern times. It also played a key role in its ecosystem.

 The European settlers on the Australian island in the 1800s had accused thylacines for the loss of their livestock. This resulted in the shy semi-nocturnal Tasmanian tigers being hunted down to the point of extinction.

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Elusive hummingbird species spotted in Colombia

An elusive and rare hummingbird has been rediscovered in Colombia by a birdwatcher. The hummingbird Santa Marta sabrewing has been spotted years after it was first recorded in 2010. The news has sent ornithologists across the world into a state of excitement as they celebrate the find.

This is the third time that the species has been documented. It was first documented in 1946 and later in 2010 when the researchers captured pictures of the species in the wilderness.

The bird was spotted by Yurgen Vega during a survey of the endemic birds in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The researcher said that the sighting was a complete surprise and that he was overwhelmed with emotion when he first spotted the bird.

The hummingbird Santa Marta sabrewing, which is only found in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains of Colombia was thought to have gone extinct by many ornithologists. This species of hummingbird has been listed on the IUCN red list of threatened species 'as critically endangered'. The bird also figures in the Top 10 'most wanted' list of the 'Search for Lost Birds' initiative of conservation organisations.

The hummingbird spotted by Yurgen Vega was male. The bird is identified by its emerald green feathers, bright blue throat and curved black bill The bird was spotted to be singing and vocalising. Scientists associate this behaviour to either courtship or defending territory.

John Mittermeier, director of threatened species outreach at the American Bird Conservancy has likened the rediscovery to "seeing a phantom".

The species is believed to live at an altitude of 1200 to 1800 metres in the neotropical forest. During the rainy season, they are known to migrate in search of flowering plants.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in northern Colombia is rich with wildlife and home to 24 bird species that aren't found anywhere else. Yet, according to scientists, only 15 per cent of the habitat is intact. The spotting of the hummingbird has further intensified the call to protect these forests which can solely aid in the conservation of the rare species dwelling there.

Armed with this information, the scientists will now focus on identifying stable populations of this species which can help them come up with conservation strategies and learn more about the bird.

What's the IUCN Red List?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species is an indicator of the health of the biodiversity in the world. The global conservation status of animals, plant species and fungi are covered under this. The list indicates the conservation status of the species and helps in formulating conservation plans. It gives information such as the habitat, population size, ecology, threats the species faces and so on. At present, there are more than 147,500 species on the IUCN Red List of which more than 41.000 species figure under the "threatened with extinction" category.

What's 'Search for Lost Birds'

A joint initiative of conservation organistaions Rewild', 'American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and ‘Bird Life International’, the Search for Lost Birds' attempts to find 10 species that haven't been observed in the wild for over a decade but do not figure in the extinct category of IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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1 in 5 reptiles worldwide is threatened with extinction

A fifth of reptile species is threatened with extinction, with those living in forest habitats (27%) in greater danger than those inhabiting arid areas (14%).

Out of 10,196 reptile species examined, around 2,000 species are critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable to extinction as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Australia's saltwater crocodile, the world's largest reptile, is listed in the category 'least concern', but its cousin, India's gharial, is 'critically endangered'. Indonesia's Komodo dragon, the world's largest lizard, is 'endangered'; the King Cobra, the world's longest venomous snake; the leatherback, the largest sea turtle, and the Galapagos marine iguana, are all 'vulnerable'; and the various Galapagos tortoise species range from vulnerable to extinct.

Many reptiles are being pushed towards extinction by deforestation for agriculture, logging and development, urban encroachment and hunting by people, while climate change is a looming threat.

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The International Union for Conservation of Nature says these wildlife species found in India are facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

FEW LEFT: The Gundia frog (Indirana gundia) is a resident of a patch of forest in the Western Ghats. As forests are cut down to make way for construction, this frog is slowly losing its home.

DOWNWARD SPIRAL: The population of red-headed vultures has decreased by over 90% in just 10 years. Most of the birds died after feeding on the carcasses of livestock treated with diclofenac, a non-steroid painkiller used by farmers and veterinarians.

POSITIVE NOTE: The gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) was once found across Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan. It currently survives in several severely fragmented populations in India and Nepal. Conservation programmes in India are slowly improving numbers.

DEEP TROUBLE: The Indian swellshark (Cephaloscyllium silasi) is found in the western Indian Ocean. Their numbers are falling due to overfishing.

LOST RODENT: Sightings of the Large Rock Rat, also known as the Elvira Rat, are so rare that there are few photographs of them. This is an illustration of the species (Cremnomys elvira) by the Zoological Survey of India.

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Often, within the pages of wildlife conservation stories lies that one spark, idea, or action that spawns dramatic positive changes. Here's one such story on how one decision has resulted in a huge impact, practically bringing back a key species from the brink of extinction.

The recent filming of southern fin whales in Antarctic waters thrilled scientists, researchers, and conservationsists  no end.  And, why not? It's a deeply encouraging sign that not only have these marine mammals returned to their historic feeding grounds but their numbers have increased too, albeit gradually. The species was earlier reduced to less than 2% of its original population, thanks to the usual suspect-unsustainable hunting for decades. And then came the whaling ban towards the last quarter of the 20th Century, positively impacting the course of the animal's fate over decades. Slowly but surely fin whales have rebounded; slowly because fin whales give birth to only one calf at a time.

Over the last few years, researchers have recorded a hundred groups of these whales, including large ones comprising up to 150 animals. "Using data from their surveys, the authors estimate that there could be almost 8,000 fin whales in the Antarctic area." Listed as "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, fin whales have a tremendous impact on the environment. In fact, they are called "ecosystem engineers" because after consuming iron-rich krill, they excrete nutrients that help the "growth of tiny phytoplankton, the foundation of the marine food web". In addition, the increasing number of this marine mammal - the world's second largest animal-is also an indicator of the ocean's good health.

While other threats cannot be ruled out for these ocean giants, the "increasing numbers of southern fin whales is an encouraging sign that conservation measures can work".

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