Saving animals from extinction in Florida

Published: January 24, 2023 4:06 PM EST
Updated: January 24, 2023 5:24 PM EST

From the ivory-billed woodpecker to the Carolina parakeet, countless animals are now extinct.

FGCU’s Billy Gunnels knows that’s part of earth’s history.

“Some of these mass extinctions have been terrible when we’ve lost more than 90% of the organisms on the planet,” said Gunnels, professor and chair of the Biological Sciences program at FGCU. “Things do recover. But we’re talking millions upon millions of years before we see the life, kind of, reemerge across the planet.”

But Gunnels believes this sixth mass extinction currently underway is different than the first five.

“It’s the first one, that’s not being caused directly by some abiotic climate event. This is a human event,” he said. “It started really with our hunting pressures and our movement across the landscape maybe 10,000 years ago.”

There have been some success stories when it comes to saving animals from extinction. (CREDIT: WINK News)

But FGCU graduate student Ella Guedouar says it’s not all doom and gloom.

“We can work together to bring these numbers back up so we can start to right those wrongs,” she said.

Some of the “rights” include the American alligator.

“In the 1950s, we had probably about 100,000 alligators range-wide,” Guedour said.

Then there’s the American bald eagle.

“We had one point, just a few 100 nesting pairs of bald eagles,” Gunnels said. “Since we outlawed DDT, since we protected the eagles, we’ve seen those populations rebound tremendously to include tens of thousands of animals just in the state of Florida.”

There have been some success stories when it comes to saving animals from extinction. (CREDIT: WINK News)

And the Florida panther.

“It got down to 19 animals in the 1990s. Really good conservation, really good attention to the genetics, really good preservation of the landscape has really brought back those animals,” Gunnels said. “When we have these animals and these plants with us, we have a more rich life.”

The key is wise development and building in a way that allows humans and animals to not only coexist but also thrive alongside each other.