There Is No Planet B – Part One: Betty the Black Footed Ferret and Ollie the Okapi

Earlier this year, Max and I gave you a sneak peek at a new needlework project dedicated to a subject near to my heart: the protection of endangered species. On January 10th, the Cloudsfactory There Is No Planet B 2021 Stitch Along dropped; it’s dedicated to 24 of the world’s most endangered species and I decided to share it with you so we can all learn about these beautiful creatures and how to save them. Hopefully our educational journey is one that you’ll enjoy — I know I’m loving stitching these sweet babies and learning more about them.

Betty The Black Footed Ferret: Mustela Nigripes Sources: World Wildlife Fund, National Geographic and Fish and Wildlife Services

Betty and her family are the only ferrets indigenous to North America and sadly are one of the most endangered species on the continent. Found primarily in the central United States, these unique creatures are victims of the law of unintended consequences that evolved when the prairie was settled and converted to farm land. The prairie dog was considered a nuisance because their dens destroyed crops and farmers began exterminating them. Prairie dogs are the primary food source for the black-footed ferret and this, coupled with outbreaks of sylvatic plague, has decimated their population. At one point, the black-footed ferret was considered extinct, but in 1981, a small population was found and 18 were taken to start a captive breeding program. There are now 307 black-footed ferrets in the wild, but there is still much to be done to take them off the endangered list. There must be at least 3000 individuals in colonies of 30 or more, with at least ten of those colonies made up of 100 or more individuals and at least one colony in nine of the twelve states that make up their historic range for them to be considered merely threatened. Fortunately these ferrets are prolific breeders if food sources are plentiful and disease can be mitigated. In 2015, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services finalized a rule designating Wyoming as a special area for ferret reintroduction, making it easier for land owners to help save the species.

Ollie the Okapi: Okapia Johnstoni Sources: National Geographic, San Diego Zoo

Ollie is a reclusive creature whose home is the Ituri Rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Okapi are related to giraffes, though they bear more resemblance to a zebra; because they live in an area where vegetation is plentiful outside the rainforest canopy, they never had to evolve the long necks of the reticulated giraffes with whom they share a background. Sadly, okapi are endangered simply because they are hunted as a source of bush meat. Human cruelty reared its ugly head most recently in 2012 when an armed militia raided the headquarters of the Okapi Conservation Project and murdered the staff and slaughtered the 14 okapi that were part of the captive breeding program. Thankfully, the OCP was rebuilt after this tragic and horrific example of brutality and it supports the Okapi Wildlife Reserve which is home to 5000 okapi. Most Africans have never seen an okapi, which is why groups like the William Holden Wildlife Foundation are so important. After all, how can you respect something you know nothing about? The Foundation, along with many others like it, teach people how to coexist with the natural world and how to make changes in their lifestyles that will protect the planet. To this end, in 2007, the San Diego Zoo sent a breeding pair of okapi to the Praetoria Zoo in South Africa with the hopes that being able to see and interact with these enigmatic creatures will inspire people to save them.

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