In the 2010 update of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, 17,315 species were listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. That's out of 1,740,330 described species (which is probably only a fraction of the number of species actually in existence). While threatened species make up only about one percent of the total, don't let it fool you. Not every species can be evaluated each year.
In 2010, a total of 47,978 species were evaluated, so let's break it down a little further. Most mammal, bird and amphibian species were completely or almost completely evaluated. According to the results, birds are doing the best: only 12 percent of them are vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. Mammals come in next at 21 percent. Amphibians are struggling the most: 30 percent are in trouble.
With enough public action and intervention, some endangered species have been returned from the brink of extinction. When the bald eagle was designated as an endangered species in 1967, it provided an acknowledgement that the bald eagle was in danger of extinction. This designation also provided that the land that was the habitat of the bald eagle could not be developed within 330 feet (100 meters) of a nest [source: Slevin]. It also made it illegal to kill the birds. As a result of this designation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service started an effort to repopulate the birds. One example of this is the breeding colony in captivity at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, located in Maryland [source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service]. They also divided the U.S. into five regions where they could manage the revitalization of the bald eagle population [source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service].
Another high-profile example of a species making a comeback is the American alligator, which inhabits the Southeastern U.S. It had lost so much habitat and been so widely hunted that many thought its population could not make a recovery. Like the bald eagle, the gator was declared endangered in 1967, and decades of strict no-hunting laws turned its fate around. The reptile was removed from the Endangered Species List in the late 1980s, and today its populations are strong enough to warrant limited hunts.(Hemera/Thinkstock)
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