Leading article: Wings of success

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Wildlife conservation is an area that does not usually produce "good news" stories. And as damaging human activity stretches ever further into the natural world this is unsurprising. Conservationists find themselves in the position of firefighters working in the wake of an expanding gang of arsonists.

But that is not to say that encouraging stories do not occasionally crop up from the field. It behoves those of us who care about the natural world to trumpet them when they do. This is not only to boost the morale of conservationists, but also to show the general public what can be achieved if the will is there. People are less inclined to engage with a problem they cannot solve. Any story that proves they can make a difference must be publicised.

We highlight such a story today. A global audit conducted by Dr Stuart Butchart of BirdLife International has revealed that 16 species of bird that were on the brink of extinction in the mid-1990s have been saved by conservation efforts. Creatures such as the Norfolk Island Green Parrot and the Mauritius Parakeet had almost disappeared in 1994. Now their populations are substantially healthier. Ten years ago there were only nine California condors left. The population is now over 100.

Such turnarounds cannot be a cause for complacency. These rescued species represent just 1.3 per cent of birds threatened with extinction. But they demonstrate that, while our modern societies have the power to bring great destruction to the natural world, they have the power to do a considerable amount of good too.