Oakland Zoo continues fight against animal extinction

A 2019 United Nations report on species extinction estimated that 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction within decades — more than ever before in human history.

Saving them is possible but, given humanity's general indifference, the number is overwhelming.

The Oakland Zoo and the state of California have become worldwide leaders in preventing species extinction.

"It's been 54 years since the Endangered Species Act was introduced, said Oakland Zoo CEO Nik Dehejia.

The zoo has long been a major partner of the California Condor Recovery Program, a consortium of zoos, organizations, agencies, scientists, and citizens.


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"There were 22 of them left in the wild back in the 1980s and that was it," said Dehejia.

They have brought the condor back from the very edge of extinction.

"And so today, we have over 500 both in human care as well as in the wild," said Dehejia.

The California Grizzly that once roamed free reached complete extinction in the 1920s. 

"2024 is the hundredth year of this bear not existing, extirpated from our state," he said.

The first gray wolf returned to California in 2011.

"It had been 100 years prior to that, and now we have multiple packs," said Dehejia.

Even jaguars roamed California.

"This is our natural history here in California," said Dehejia.

The zoo is also part of the worldwide gene pool to help keep many species alive.

"As a zoo, we can play an important role in that," said Dehejia.

Other Californians have succeeded in bringing the sea otter back from the brink. But, the California tiger salamander, Coho salmon, San Joaquin kit fox, the kangaroo rat, and the Western snowy plover are in deep trouble survival-wise. Sadly, even the slow-moving Mojave Desert tortoise is speeding to extinction as well.

The zoo director said more can be done to save many species headed for extinction.

"Long term, have faith in democracy where you can vote for the people who can represent the values that you want," said Dehejia.