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It's not all bad...

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Mark Carwardine Mark Carwardine | 11:46 UK time, Monday, 5 October 2009

I hope I haven't been sounding too negative in these blogs, because it's certainly not all bad news in the world of conservation. And thank goodness - we need success stories, proving that we really can make a difference, to keep us all going.

Here in Britain, one high profile conservation achievement is the return of the beautiful red kite. Almost wiped out by widespread killing in Victorian times, its population had plummeted to just ten pairs by the beginning of the Second World War. Hiding in a remote corner of Wales, they survived against all the odds - with a little help from their human friends. Thanks to ongoing reintroductions, and the dedication of so many conservationists, farmers, landowners and committed individuals, now there are more than 1,200 pairs right across Britain. 

It just shows that a species on the brink can recover. 

One of the biggest success stories from Last Chance to See is the kakapo, the subject of the latest programme. This wonderful parrot with a song like a Pink Floyd studio outtake was once counted in millions. People used to claim you could shake a tree and three or four of them would fall out. But when Douglas and I went to look for this charismatic creature in 1989, the population had reached an all-time low of just forty birds. Many people had pretty much given up hope. 

Now the kakapo population stands at 124. It's still teetering on the brink but, thanks to New Zealand's Department of Conservation and literally hundreds of volunteers, it has more than trebled in 20 years.

Do you notice the common factor? Dedicated people. One thing that struck me more than anything else while filming Last Chance to See was that Stephen and I were able to meet up with the very same people Douglas Adams and I had met 20 years earlier. They are still out there in the field devoting their lives (and, in many cases, risking their lives) in their sheer and utter determination to protect the animals they care about so much. They are the ones who are standing between endangered species and extinction.
When the going gets tough, it's these people, who have dedicated their lives - to the red kite, the kakapo and the likes of gorillas, robins, rhinos, turtles and lemurs - that give me so much cause for optimism. 


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