All of them went extinct in the wild — and all of them came back, thanks to reintroduction programs.
Conservation scientists use translocation and captive breeding to re-establish animal populations that have died out in the wild — either entirely or in certain areas. Reintroducing extinct-in-the-wild animals to their native territories can be a double win: helping to restore degraded ecosystems, as well as increasing population numbers.
But setting a species loose in the wild is a precarious balancing act. Reintroductions often take years and involve multiple phases, says Natasha Robinson, an ecologist at the Australian National University who specializes in threatened wildlife.
Before bringing back a species, conservationists have to evaluate the threat level — both to and from the animal — and the role it played in the ecosystem, says Robinson. In places where wild populations have died out more recently, there’s a better chance of success, she says.
“The less time that has passed, the more likely that environment is the same as when the species went extinct,” she says. “But you still need to address the reason why it went extinct in that environment to begin with.”
Predators tend to be reintroduced slowly and carefully. While they can be useful for managing pest species, conservationists have to ensure they don’t overhunt or threaten other vulnerable animals, says Robinson.
Scroll through the gallery above to see animals that have been saved from extinction and successfully reintroduced to their native habitat.