Island foxes are back to being a surviving species after nearly going extinct. They showed a record-breaking fast recovery after human interventions were made for the sake of their rehabilitation.
The Channel Islands lie near the coast of Southern California. They are the habitat of a species of tiny fox that look so cute and adorable that you cannot help wanting to pet them.
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The exact manner through which they found themselves on this island is a controversial topic. They are an offshoot of mainland gray foxes though.
Along their evolutionary ladder on the island, they made it to being four pound balls of fur. Their size shows that they are better suited to living on the small island where food sources are few and far between.
These foxes are about the size of a domestic cat and they were the kings of their castle on the island. They fed on lizards, birds, deer mice and even a variety of flora.
The decimation of these foxes began when settlers brought pigs with them on the island in the 19th century. A few of these pigs escaped and became feral in the process.
Their piglets attracted golden eagles which also took the foxes to be perfectly attractive meals. These foxes had never really evolved any natural defenses against predators. They thus made for easy pickings by the golden eagles. For the first time, the hunters became the hunted.
Island foxes have an innocent nature seldom found in animals. They are also comfortable with humans and do not show much fear around them. Another island which served as the foxes’ home, was devastated by canine distemper.
In this ecology-gone-wrong scenario, the fox populations began their downward spiral. By the time the millennium was about to arrive, the foxes had been mown down to 200 in number. This was a decimation of 90% and was catastrophic.
By 2004, these foxes were declared to be an endangered species. Yet just a dozen years later, the wildlife authorities announced that these foxes were being taken off the endangered species list.
“The Island Fox recovery is an incredible success story about the power of partnerships and the ability of collaborative conservation to correct course for a species on the brink of extinction,” said U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who visited Channel Islands National Park in March with fourth graders participating in the Every Kid in a Park program to witness fox conservation efforts.
“The Endangered Species Act is an effective tool to protect imperiled wildlife so future generations benefit from the same abundance and diversity of animals and plants we enjoy today. What happened in record time at Channel Islands National Park can serve as a model for partnership-driven conservation efforts across the country.”
Their populations had bounced back from sheer extinction. These foxes take the cake when it comes to fastest recovery from an endangered species status. This shows that the impossible is possible.
“It’s remarkable to think that in 2004, these foxes were given a 50 percent chance of going extinct in the next decade. Yet here we are today, declaring three of the four subspecies recovered and the fourth on its way,” said Service Director Dan Ashe.
“That’s the power of the ESA – not just to protect rare animals and plants on paper, but to drive focused conservation that gets dramatic results. More than 300 experts, non-profit organizations, state and federal agencies came together to not only prevent the extinction of Channel Island foxes, but to fully restore them in record time. That’s something to celebrate!”
“The decline of the island fox, one of America’s rarest mammals, was rapid and severe,” said National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis.
“Captive rearing, an unprecedented emergency action was critical to saving the species. Efforts to restore balance to the island ecosystem ensured their survival.”
“The remarkably rapid recovery of the island fox shows the power of partnership, focus, and science,” said Scott Morrison, Director of Conservation Science at The Nature Conservancy.
“Many aspects of this recovery effort – from its scientific rigor to the collaborative enterprise that drove it – can serve as model to advance conservation elsewhere.”
Via hard work and conservation efforts, whole species could be brought back from the brink of extinction. The foxes were caught and bred in captivity. Also the feral pigs were killed off.
The golden eagles thus changed their diet to piscean species instead. Today there are over 6000 foxes on the islands off the coast of Southern California.
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