I took a break from blogging over the holidays, but now it’s time to continue bringing you the latest in green. I’ll kick the year off with some good news: The brown pelicans are back! Well, actually, they’ve been back for a while, but now they’re officially back.
The January-February issue of Audubon reported that brown pelicans have been removed from the endangered species list. In the 1930s, brown pelican populations began to rapidly decline throughout the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts. In fact, by 1963, pelicans were no longer found in Louisiana, long known as the “pelican state.” The main culprits, biologists found, were pesticides like DDT. The poisons moved up through the food chain and affected pelicans and other birds by thinning their eggshells, impairing their ability to reproduce. Brown pelicans were declared endangered in 1970; two years later, DDT was banned in the United States.
After the DDT ban, pelican populations grew steadily, with the help of numerous restoration projects. In 1985, the Fish and Wildlife Service delisted populations along the Atlantic Coast and in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. In November 2009, the FWS delisted the remaining Pacific and Gulf Coast populations. There are now more than 650,000 brown pelicans found across Florida and the Gulf and Pacific Coasts, as well as in the Caribbean and Latin America.
“At a time when so many species of wildlife are threatened, we once in a while have an opportunity to celebrate an amazing success story,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “Today is such a day. The brown pelican is back!”
Although they are no longer covered by the Endangered Species Act, they are protected by laws such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. That’s a good thing, since pelicans still face the same threats as other seabirds: pollution, oil spills, and habitat loss, to name a few.
Nevertheless, the brown pelican’s future looks good. And its past could be a model for future wildlife success stories. Scientific research revealed the problem, and government action got the ball rolling. But without the efforts of concerned individuals, the brown pelican might never have recovered so successfully. Remember that the next time you walk along a beach and see a flock of pelicans gliding over the waves.