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The Living Desert helps to save endangered island fox

The Living Desert helps to save endangered island fox

PALM DESERT, Calif. - One less animal is on the endangered species list thanks to the efforts of conservationists at The Living Desert. The removal of the island fox from the list is being called one of the fastest successful recovery for any animal under the Endangered Species Act.

This fox is native to California's Channel Islands, located just off our coast. At one point on one of the islands their population dropped from thousands down to just 15.
 
It may not look threatening, but the Island Fox is the biggest predator on the Channel Islands. But back in the '90s it was this fox that was being threatened. Their population dropped by 90 percent over 10 years.

"Golden eagles predation. It's a very complicated ecological story having to do with why were golden eagles are there. They didn't used to be there. And the other fox subspecies was endangered due to canine distemper," said Peter Siminski, the director of Conservation at The Living Desert.

Siminski was part of a group of conservationists that fought to get this fox off the endangered species list. Little was known about the captive care and breeding of these animals. But one of the organizations that knew more was The Living Desert.

"With our expertise in captive fox management and that we were there when the foxes had to come in to captivity, we worked a lot with that," Siminski said.

Siminski said with the help of the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife, they were able to get rid of their threats, breed them in captivity and release them when they're ready. Being called the fastest recovery for any animal under the Endangered Species Act. Taking less than 10 years to recover the population.

"This shows the power of the Endangered Species Act and how it's our most powerful conservation regulation in the nation. And it has been very successful with keeping these animals on the list from going extinct," Siminski said.

Now thousands of these foxes inhabit four of the six islands. With the exception of  the Santa Catalina Island fox which is downgraded from endangered to threatened. But Siminski said he's proud of his team's efforts saving an important species which completes the islands ecosystem.

The total number of de-listings under the endangered species act stands at 37, with 19 of those overseen by the Obama Administration. In the act's 43-year history, more recoveries have been declared  under the current administration than all the past administrations combined.


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