The 12 Most Dramatic, Disturbing and Inspiring Wildlife Stories of 2010

There were thousands of wildlife stories in the news over the past year but some stand out as being particularly dramatic, sobering and even inspiring.

1. The Great Gulf Turtle Rescue

In April we saw the beginning of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf.  By the time it was contained, more than 200 million gallons of oil had poured out and coated hundreds of square miles.  The toll on wildlife of all species and sizes was profound as evidenced from these National Wildlife Federation maps. Certainly one of the most inspiring events around the Gulf disaster was the relocation of thousands of sea turtle hatchlings from the sands of Gulf beaches to the sands of the Atlantic with the help of effective organizations such as  the Sea Turtle Conservancy.

2. The Amazing New Census of Marine Life

The Census was released in 2010.  It is a collaboration among 80 nations over 10 years.  Thousands of new species were discovered and cataloged.  Take a look at the  gallery of unbelievable and brilliant deep sea life:

3. The Sad Tale of Little Brown Bats

A devastating bat plague called white nose syndrome still stymies animal researchers as millions of bats have succumbed to a fungal attack that restricts their ability breathe.  Bat caves in the East have been closed to visitors and there are signs the plague is moving to the West:

4. Moving Tigers From the Brink of Extinction

In the past few decades the number of wild tigers shrunk from 100,000 animals to some 3,000.  A recent international conference hosted in Russia came out with a plan to double their numbers. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio personally made a $1 million gift to help jump-start the plan’s implementation.

5. The Loss of a U.S. wildlife hero

In 2010 we saw the untimely death of Sam Hamilton (54) the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Sam was a respected 30-year professional dedicated to species protection.

6. Discovery of 1,200 New Amazon Species

Our colleagues at the World Wildlife Fund demonstrated to people everywhere how much there is to learn about our natural world when they released their report on the discovery of over one thousands new species in the Amazon via a decade of study:

7. Wolf Protection Debate in the Northern Rockies

The Department of the Interior and the States of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have been in extensive discussions in a quite heated political setting over whether wolves reintroduced to the Northern Rockies in the mid 1990s still merit endangered species protection:

8. The Continuing Struggle Against Illegal Wildlife Trade

The battle continued in 2010 to cut down on wildlife poaching and trade in endangered animals.  There were increases in the number of apprehensions and arrests but, as the smugglers become more devious and the poachers become more aggressive, the overall signs are not good.  Wildlife smuggling seems to be on the rise and is an international black market rivaling illegal drug imports.

9. Polar Bears Stuck on Shore

This year polar bears in the Arctic region were delayed several weeks from making their winter trip out onto the Arctic Sea ice for their annual seal hunting.  Warm weather caused to ice to be late in forming and the bears were stuck on land, some in emaciated condition.

10. Walrus Exodus Onto Land

A mass Alaskan exodus of 10,000 to 20,000 walruses to land was an highly unusual event this Fall that also reflects the loss of sea ice in the arctic.   This mass exodus was a new one on the Chukchi sea coast and wildlife experts see it as a sign of global climate change:

11. Japanese Whale Hunt in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary

As summer begins in the southern hemisphere, Japanese whalers and environmentalists are converging again in Antarctic waters for another stand-off and possible battle over their intense differences concerning the legality of whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.  Both whale and human lives will be on the line:

12. Mountain Gorillas Making a Comeback

Ending on a more promising note, 30 years ago the mountain gorilla population was down to 250.  This year 782 were counted between two locations.

Bottom line: Wildlife conservation has unbelievable and daunting challenges ahead but, despite the overwhelming odds there are may glimmers of hope that remind us that staying with the fight to protect species, habitats and stop global warming are more important than ever.