And yet it's not too late. In just a few recent examples, humans brought the black-footed ferret back from just seven left. Condors have been nursed back through vaccinations and raising by hand. Salamanders have been restored. According to another new study in Science, people have physically moved 424 species of plants and animals to protect them from extinction.
For such efforts to succeed, careful attention must be paid both to genetics and habitat. There is no point in bringing back the baiji dolphin, for example, if the Yangtze River in China remains polluted and overfished. But conservation efforts can work. Fishes can bounce back when we stop overfishing. Both the Maine haddock and Washington state coho salmon have. The reforesting of the East Coast of the U.S. shows that when farms go away, woodlands return. Then coyotes, deer, turkey and other wildlife move back in. The animals and plants of the Amazon rain forest have benefited from Brazil's efforts to stop deforestation.
And amazingly, paleoecologists have shown that 20 out of 21 large mammals in India — from leopards to muntjac deer — have survived there for the past 100,000 years. All that time, they've lived alongside one of the largest human populations on the planet.