On April 23, the National Geographic Society and the Wyss Foundation’s Campaign for Nature launched our 30 Days of Hope initiative. We believe that everyday should be a celebration of Earth Day, so we launched this campaign the day after its 50th anniversary in order to continue to bring you stories of hope and inspiration from the natural world. Our 30 Days of Hope counts down to the International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22.
You can follow along on Twitter for daily, inspirational stories about the natural world and the people, organizations, and countries working to protect it, but here’s a recap of what you might have missed in our first week.
Arbor Day and the Medicinal Forests of India
In celebration of Arbor Day, we highlighted an important ecosystem service of India’s forests—providing vital habitat for medicinal plants.
India is home to more than 8,000 species of medicinal plants, most of which are found in its forests. Medicinal plants are used in traditional medicine, and 90 percent of medicinal plants are sourced from forests. Due to the high demand for these plants, forests are coming under increased pressure. In response, the government of India and the United Nations Development Programme in India are working together to conserve these plants through sustainable forest management. Together, they have worked to put in place institutional mechanisms for sustainable harvesting of medicinal plants by facilitating the establishment of Biodiversity Management Committees and helping create biodiversity registers and community protocols at the state level of government.
World Penguin Day and Pristine Seas Exploration
We celebrated World Penguin Day on April 25, with a video snapshot of chinstrap penguins “flying” out of the water. They were spotted by National Geographic’s Pristine Seas Team on their expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula.
In partnership with the governments of Chile and Argentina, the Pristine Seas team conducted scientific research to explore and document the unique biodiversity of the Antarctic Peninsula. Their work is crucial in helping to fill in gaps in the scientific knowledge about this remote region. Antarctica is of particular interest to scientists and conservationists because it is one of the fastest warming places on Earth. Glacial retreat on the continent could significantly affect coastal seafloor ecosystems.
Zakouma National Park
Chad’s Zakouma National Park is a true comeback story. Years of unchecked poaching had left this once thriving ecosystem depleted. In just eight years 4,000 elephants had been killed for their ivory—95 percent of the park’s elephant population.
But in 2010, the Chadian government entered into a long-term partnership with African Parks to restore and manage the park. Together they have overhauled the park’s law enforcement and all but eliminated poaching. The elephant population has been recovering and has now surpassed 559 individuals—on the rise for the first time in a decade. In 2018, they documented 127 calves, up from only one in 2011. In addition, other wildlife in the park are also recovering, including roan antelope, Lelwel’s hartebeest, Kordofan giraffe, and Central African savannah buffalo.
The Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative (MCDI) in Tanzania promotes community-based, sustainable, and equitable forest management. They have helped 41 local communities in Tanzania to own, manage and benefit from more that 408,500 hectares of forests they live in and around.
MCDI provides training to local communities for how to sustainably manage their forests and gain certification by the Forest Stewardship Council to harvest responsible timber. They also help communities make connections to buyers in order to sell their products, earn an equitable income, and address their local development needs.
Gran Paradiso National Park and Alpine Ibex
Italy’s Gran Paradiso National Park, located in the Graian Alps, is Italy’s first national park. It was established in 1922 in order to preserve the ecosystems and biodiversity of national and international importance in and around the Gran Paradiso massif.
The park is home to an abundance of wildlife including alpine chamois, marmot, mountain hare, foxes, badgers, ermines, wolves, stone martens, golden eagle, and bearded vulture. The most iconic animal that calls the park home is the Alpine ibex.
Thanks to the protection afforded by the park, the Alpine ibex has recovered from near extinction. Their population, once having plummeted to fewer than 50 individuals, is now estimated to be around 2,800.
France’s Protection of Mont Blanc Protection
In February of this year, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the creation of a protected zone around France’s famous Mont Blanc and the Mer de Glace “Sea of Ice” glacier in the French Alps.
The announcement was made in response to calls to lessen traffic on the mountain, one of France’s most popular destinations, and better preserve the area’s unique biodiversity. The mountain is home to more than 430,000 plant and animal species. The goal of the protected zone is to help preserve the mountain’s ecosystem and protect it from environmental degradation as a result of overuse.
Mexico’s Water Reserves
In 2018, Mexico signed a series of landmark agreements establishing water reserves in nearly 300 river basins across the country. A water reserve is when a volume of water in a river basin is set aside exclusively for the protection of nature and for human consumption. It involves leaving a specific amount of water to run freely in the rivers.
These decrees, along with a handful of other existing water reserves, will protect an estimated 55 percent of Mexico’s surface water, secure the water supply for 45 million people, and help support biodiverse ecosystems and globally important wetlands for the next 50 years.
We hope that you can find inspiration in the strength and resilience of nature, and in the work being done around the world to preserve it. Please share these stories — and your own — with the hashtag #30DaysofHope. For more information about this campaign, you can visit: campaignfornature.org/30-days-of-hope.