Points of Progress: Yellowstone wolves bounce back, and more

Noah Robertson

1. United States

Twenty-five years after Yellowstone National Park reintroduced 14 gray wolves into its ecosystem, the park is celebrating the return of the species from near-extinction as an all-time conservation success story. When the project began in 1995, it was the first intentional introduction of a major carnivore. While their return was controversial, the wolves have since helped restore balance to ecosystems conspicuously left without their top predators – meanwhile attracting around $35 million a year in wolf tourism. “If we couldn’t do this here, on our own turf in one of the most famous parks in the world, as one of the richest nations in the world, then who could?” says Doug Smith, the Yellowstone Wolf Project’s senior wildlife biologist. “This was an example to the globe in restoring nature.” (The Guardian)

2. Colombia

Long the main destination for Venezuelans fleeing their economic crisis, Colombia will now grant work permits to migrants. The permits will bring hundreds of thousands of migrants into the formal economy with the intention of helping the country cope with the 1.6 million Venezuelans already inside its borders – a figure some estimate could rise to 2.4 million by year-end. Unlike other neighboring countries, Colombia has mostly welcomed Venezuelan migrants without strict regulation, providing services such as health care, schooling, and sometimes even citizenship for those escaping the collapse of Venezuela under President Nicolás Maduro. (Reuters)

3. Brazil

Brazil’s unemployment rate fell to a four-year low of 11% in the last quarter of 2019, according to data from the national statistics agency IGBE. The data show 11.6 million Brazilians – over 880,000 fewer than the previous quarter – without work, continuing an encouraging trend for a gradually improving economy. The underemployment rate, which hit an all-time high of 25% last year, also decreased to 23% in the fourth quarter. Compared with trends from the year before, the statistics show accelerating job growth in a country replete with financial woes throughout the 2010s. (Reuters)

4. South Africa

South African courts overturned a law granting husbands of black women married before 1988 total control over matrimonial assets. The law could protect some 400,000 women who face the double discrimination of apartheid-era and patriarchal laws that continue to deprive them of equal property rights. Rural areas especially, experts say, are still subject to patriarchal gender norms, which means that the next step will be educating women on the changes in the law. “This will make a difference in terms of women’s land and property inheritance,” says Sizani Ngubane, a South African women’s rights activist of more than 40 years. “Women can take decisions if they own property. They can have equality.” (Thomson Reuters Foundation; for a Monitor interview with Ms. Ngubane, click here.)

5. Britain

Britain’s carbon tax – a levy on carbon dioxide emissions – has helped decrease the country’s reliance on coal-generated electricity from 40% to 3% since its introduction in 2013, according to research from University College London and the University of Cambridge. Increased in 2015, the tax pushed the country toward lower-emission sources of electricity production, such as gas, while adding around $50 per year to household power bills. Its success, researchers argue, suggests that other European countries should adopt similar measures. (University College London)

6. France

France will ban widespread and controversial practices in its poultry and hog-raising sectors that involve methods of disposing of male chicks and castrating piglets. Each year around 7 billion male chicks, not useful for eggs or meat, are culled around the world, often in ways considered inhumane. France, joining Switzerland and Germany, will be among the first countries to ban such practices as it attempts to make its revered meat and poultry industries more humane. Animal rights groups cautiously welcomed the announcement, while calling for consumers to respond by eating less meat. (The Guardian)

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