On May 21st, communities from around the world celebrate the 16th Annual “Endangered Species Day,” – an important date on the environmental calendar for learning about, and taking action to protect, threatened species that call our planet home. Many conservation groups, zoos, and wildlife organisations will be holding online events (make sure to follow along using #EndangeredSpeciesDay).

Along with the ongoing efforts of environmental organisations and the positive impacts of the Endangered Species Act, individuals and their everyday actions can help make a difference when it comes to the conservation of imperilled animal populations. It is up to all of us to ensure the survival of our wildlife and wild places; here are some ways you can help:

  • Don’t buy illegal wildlife products (e.g. ivory, turtle shells, pangolin scales)
  • Avoid unsustainable food products (e.g. unsustainable seafood or palm oil)
  • Educate yourself on endangered species (Edge of Extinction is a great place to start)
  • Learn more about the Endangered Species Act (US Fish & Wildlife covers it nicely)
  • Donate to a conservation group or wildlife organisation whose mission you support

There have been many success stories of species recovering. Here's a rundown of five initiatives that are helping save vulnerable wild animals:

Building Overpasses for Lorises
Classified as critically endangered by the IUCN, Javan slow lorises have declined in number by at least 50% due to persecution and the illegal pet trade. Image © Dr. K.A.I. Nekaris

Researchers from the Little Fireface Project have built a network of mid-air walkways made from pipes to help endangered Javan slow lorises (Nycticebus javanicus) move between treetops, across land that has been cleared for farming. Before these “overpasses,” the lorises would have to climb down to ground level where they were frequently attacked and killed by dogs. These pipes are also filled with water that the farmers can use on their crops.

Javan slow lorises are endemic only to the western and central parts of the island of Java, Indonesia. These small, fuzzy creatures are omnivores but spend most of their time eating nectars. Fun fact: the loris is the only existing venomous primate species!

Classified as Critically Endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, they were also listed as one of "The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates". Javan slow loris populations have declined by at least 50% due to increased persecution and the illegal pet trade.

In Vitro Fertilisation Gives Toads Fighting Chance
This unassuming amphibian hasn't been recorded in Houston since 1975. Image © USFWS

The Houston toad (Anaxyrus houstonensis, formerly Bufo houstonensis) is an endangered species of amphibian that is endemic to Texas, with fewer than 400 remaining in the wild – they haven’t actually been recorded in the wild in Houston since 1975! Preferring to live in piney loblolly forests, they have been pushed towards the brink of extinction due to a lack of reproduction, rapid urbanisation, drought, poisons, and wildfires.

The Fort Worth Zoo has stepped in to champion the Houston toad’s recovery, and recently produced the first toads that came from in vitro fertilisation using frozen sperm. From the time the sperm and eggs mix together until they transform into fully fledged toads takes about a month. The researchers hope this is the first step in truly helping grow the dwindling Houston toad population.

Leonardo DiCaprio Pledges To Help The Galápagos

Actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio has announced a $43M pledge to restore wildlife to the Galápagos Islands, through collaborations between his conservation charity (Re:Wild), Galápagos National Park Directorate, Island Conservation, Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment and Water, Charles Darwin Foundation, and local communities. DiCaprio hopes to enact a broad conservation initiative across the islands, including reintroducing multiple species that have gone locally extinct (like the Floreana mockingbird) and funding captive breeding for other animals (like the pink iguana and Floreana giant tortoise).

(Want an update on the work? DiCaprio's Instagram and Twitter accounts will be taken over by wildlife veterinarian and island restoration specialist Paula Castaño!)

Using Cutting-Edge Technology To Save Turtles
A new conservation initiative is using drones to assess the world's vulnerable population of olive ridley sea turtles. Image © Michael Klotz

In India, a conservation collaboration between the Goa Forest Department, WWF-India, and Technology for Wildlife has resulted in using drones to assess the world's vulnerable population of olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea). The team acquire aerial images and video footage to create a 3-D model of a beach, and a 360° aerial panorama as a starting point for future drone work. Conservationists hope the data from this project will be used for policy, advocacy, conservation planning, and community engagement.

Scotland Loves Nature Reserves
Hen harriers are among the many species that stand to benefit from a recent land buyout in Scotland. Image © Dibyendu Ash

Under the Langholm Initiative charity, a Scottish community has crowdfunded £3.8m to buy 5,200 acres of land from the Duke of Buccleuch to create the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve. This is one of the biggest grassroots land buyouts in the country’s history! The donations – from over 4,000 people worldwide as well as large sums from the South of Scotland Enterprise, John Muir Trust, The Carman Family Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation and The Bently Foundation – will help restore the native woodlands to their former glory, creating a haven for multiple species such as hen harriers (Circus cyaneus), which are known as “one of the most persecuted birds of prey in the UK.” The reserve hopes to also implement nature-based tourism.