Officials Fighting To Save An American Landmark Turn To The Most Unlikely Heroes For Help

Yellowstone National Park is one of those places you can describe in as much detail as possible, but your words won’t even scratch the surface of the serene beauty sprawled out over the 3,500-square mile area. Hot springs, canyons, waterfalls, and lush vegetation are just a few of the delights it offers. And, of course, who could forget about everyone’s favorite geyser, Old Faithful?

Yellowstone’s incredible biodiversity wasn’t always what it is today. In fact, there was a period of time when riverbeds were eroding, vegetation dwindled, and you couldn’t spot anywhere near the array of species that live their today. But, one simple idea breathed life back into the entire park.

Yellowstone National Park wasn’t always as rich with animals and nature as it is today. It was never an unsightly spot to explore, of course, but in the ’80s and early ’90s, you wouldn’t have been as awestruck by its beauty.

National Geographic

Before 1926, Yellowstone National Park was full of wolves. They thrived in the park, but within the first few decades of the 1900s, government predator control programs wiped them out entirely. This was a problem.

No one saw another wolf until 1977 — about 50 years later — but, even then, it was a lone wolf or two merely wandering through. Oddly, it was the lack of these wolves that led to the park’s decline.

Brian Pas

With no predators to fear, the deer population absolutely exploded. They could eat and overgraze all they wanted without worrying about wolves. Soon, the forests and meadows were barren, but the deer and their ilk kept at it.

As the deer kept grazing, taking all the resources for themselves, the other animals suffered. Creatures that dined on fauna stood no chance in the food race against deer. Animals that ate those animals saw their food supply dwindle.

Photography Life

And the rapid loss of vegetation didn’t just leave the forests bare. Without vegetation keeping soil in place, the rivers that ran through Yellowstone began eroding, which prompted the loss of many animal species who relied on healthy waters to survive.

Yellowstone was struggling, and park employees needed to find a solution. It really all boiled down to the high numbers of deer, they knew, so, in 1995, they hatched a plan.

Yellowstone Collection

The deer needed predators, plain and simple, and workers figured this would be the perfect time to reintroduce wolves back into Yellowstone. Packs of gray wolves were released into the park, and hopeful employees prayed it was the answer.

Now, the deer were suddenly thrust back into the predator versus prey world, and even though there were far fewer wolves than deer, the wolves were fearsome hunters. They welcomed the challenge.

Day and night, the battle ensued, and the wolves were the victors nearly every time. This relationship between the wolves and deer is known as “top-down control.”

Top-down control is when predators who sit atop the food chain assist with the regulation of the animals who are beneath them. That’s exactly what happened when the wolves were reintroduced. With deer numbers dwindling, the vegetation flourished. 

U.S. Marines

Aspen and willow trees that hadn’t seen a successful life for decades finally grew back tenfold, and it seemed they were healthier than ever. But, the trees were just the very beginning of the massive change.

The waterways running through the parks began changing, and the regenerated vegetation growing on the riverbeds brought with it a whole new array of life not seen in such a long time.

For the first time in forever, beavers returned to the water. They began constructing their intricate dams, which contributed to a habitat that attracted a variety of reptiles, otters, and muskrats.

Because of the increased vegetation, mice and rabbits thrived, which, in turn, gave the red fox an amazing feasting opportunity. Red fox numbers grew, and still, there was even more happening.

The number of bears also increased. The deer had scoured bushes and ate the same berries the bears enjoyed, but with the berries now finally plentiful again, the bears could eat without a problem.

Through it all, the wolves gained a feathery friend! Ravens are known to follow behind wolves and pick at the remains of whatever they hunt and kill. The four-legged assassins were hard at work, and those ravens were always close behind.

The new lush vegetation not only benefited all of the animals, but it helped drastically slow down, and sometimes completely stop, the erosion of riverbeds. The changes were nothing short of miraculous.

Incredibly, the wolves, although nowhere near as abundant in numbers as the deer they hunted, managed to not only change the ecosystem but the physical geography of Yellowstone National Park. It was a feat that had every park employee — and wolf — howling with joyous pride.

What’s most shocking about this development was how few wolves it took to really change Yellowstone for the better. Still, this reflects a human truth: it only takes a handful of people to make a huge difference.

reddit

For instance, the Indian island of Majuli, located within the Brahmaputra river system in Northeast India, boasted over 140 villages and over 150,000 people. Like Yellowstone, the island was in trouble.

Ritu Raj Konwar

See, Majuli is actually the world’s largest river island. These special islands are really just big sand bars that form throughout a riverbed; sometimes the sand bars are so large, people can actually live on them — that’s the case with Majuli.

But, in the heat of a river’s current, the island changes shape and size frequently, which poses a threat to inhabitants. In fact, over the last 70 years, the island has shrunk by more than half it’s original size.

Why the change? Because during the monsoon season large embankments were built up the river to protect larger towns from flooding. This didn’t allow the riverbanks to naturally flood, and therefore directed all excess water towards Majuli.

As the river water eroded the island, space for the 150,000 inhabitants shrank. Since 1991, over 35 villages were washed away, forcing villagers to leave the only home they ever knew.

Indian authorities are concerned that within the next 20 years the entire island of Majuli will be completely submerged and the 140 villages left will be lost forever. If they don’t do something about it now, their fears will become a reality.

The people aren’t the only ones being affected either. Animals are being severely affected by the intense flooding, resulting in major casualties. In fact, the snake population alone has dropped by 45 percent over the last five years!

When the river flooded the island, it would pick up the snakes and carry them downstream. The water dumped the snakes onto tree-less sandbars surrounding Majuli, leaving them exposed to the excessive heat and the harsh Indian sun.

One man in particular, Jadav Payeng from the Mising tribe of Majuli, grew up watching the island shrink. He watched villages wash away, he watched animals torn from their homes, and he watched the villagers grow more and more concerned.

Jitu Kalita

As a young boy, Jadav loved nature, animals (yes, even the snakes), and anything that grew. This impacted him from a very young age and sparked his interest in environmental activism and forestry conservation.

William Douglas McMaster

He was determined to save the island and not just himself, but for his family and tribe. So at the age of 16, he decided to dedicate his life work to do just that: saving Majuli. How he did it was no small feat…

One day in 1979, he started planting trees. He managed to get seeds and made his way to a large, barren area on Majuli. He dug a small hole using a stick, dropped them in the hole, and left the rest to nature.

William Douglas McMaster

He knew that planting one tree wouldn’t do much of anything, so day after day he returned and planted as many trees as he possibly could. His hope was that the trees would grow tall with deep roots that would hold the earth in place and protect the island from erosion.

William Douglas McMaster

After 40 years of consistent work, he’d planted an entire forest on the island, over tens of thousands of trees. This work resulted in a forest that was far larger than the size of New York’s Central Park!

Bijitdutta

The forest was rightfully dubbed Molai Forest. He said that planting trees became much easier once he could seed from the trees that already exist in his forest. Still, Jadav faced struggles each day…

William Douglas McMaster

With his forest continually growing, animals returned to the area. Elephants, Bengal tigers, and rhinos to name a few now call this area of Majuli home. With the return of animals, Jadav said poachers became a problem once more.

William Douglas McMaster

Jadav said, “All species on this planet are animals, including humans. There are no monsters in nature except for humans. Humans consume everything until there is nothing left.”

William Douglas McMaster

In 2015, he was awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honor in India. Additionally, he was recognized by many other local Indian establishments for dedicating his life to the conversation of Majuli.

William Douglas McMaster

Still, Jadav was frustrated by the lack of real help he has received. He suggested planting coconut trees because they’re strong and straight, which would help anchor the soil, and coconut harvesting would boost the economy, all within five years. But sadly no one adopted his proposal.

Jadav refused to give up. He had dreams of seeing Majuli return to the lush green forest it once was before humans so drastically altered it. He believed that he could save the island of Majuli. He stated, “I will continue to plant until my last breath.”

101 India

It takes a certain level of self-control to channel desperation into something positive. Yet, in the Indian state of Maharashtra, that’s precisely what Bapurao Tajne set out to do after his wife was embarrassed by a group of upper-caste elites.

Like many societies across the world, India still operates on a caste system, and those in the upper levels hold a lot of power over those below them. This system has oppressed the less fortunate for countless generations.

The upper caste wields so much power that when Bapurao’s wife kneeled beside a well to fetch water for her thirsty family, the elites in the area did more than just refuse her. They also ridiculed and humiliated her.

So what did Bapurao do when he heard about the elites’ treatment of his wife? It would have been easy to do nothing or to lash out in anger against her aggressors…

Instead, he took all of his negative energy and anger, and he channeled it into something useful: he was going to dig a well for his own village to use!

MEA India File / Youtube

Over the past two years, weaker monsoons caused widespread droughts across India. Conditions got so bad that the government sometimes resorted to rationing water.

At first, he wasn’t sure where to dig. Location was important, after all, because, in order for a well to be successful, it needs to be replenished by flowing water.

Bapurao closed his eyes, prayed, and honed in on the first sun-worn spot he saw. This would be the site of his new well. It had to be.

YouTube / myprivatecrusade

For eight hours every day, Bapurao worked his manual labor job, and when he returned home, he picked up a shovel and dug his well. It didn’t matter if he was tired or sore.

Shutterstock

He did this second job for six hours each day, digging into the hard soil as much as he could. Of course, it didn’t matter how much hard work he put into the well if he picked out a poor location. Would Bapurao ever find water?

Days passed and Bapurao’s well grew wider and deeper, but still, no water filled it. The villagers — the would-be beneficiaries of Bapurao’s well — told him he was crazy.

Even his wife criticized him for wasting his time, until eventually, Bapurao doubted himself. Nonetheless, he kept digging. He just couldn’t give up.

“It is difficult to explain what I felt in those days,” Bapurao said to The Times of India. “I just wanted to provide water for my whole locality so that we did not have to beg for water from other castes.”

After 40 days of digging, he finally found success! He struck his shovel into the hard, rocky soil, and a small stream of water trickled out.

Perhaps even more astonished at the sight of water were Bapurao’s neighbors. They’d mocked and ridiculed him, but there was water, right before their eyes.

Lucky for them, Bapurao was a forgiving man, and he encouraged everyone to use the well! They were still his neighbors, after all.

As for Bapurao’s wife, whose hardships inspired this whole project? She was a bit ashamed of herself: “I did not help him a bit until he struck water,” she said.

MEA India File / Youtube

But now she’s by her husband’s side, explaining, “It is already 15 feet deep. Bapurao wants to dig five feet further. We are hoping our neighbors will help us.”

News of Bapurao’s well spread like wildfire. Soon enough, news stations and papers poured into town, trying to get a few words from the man with the shovel.

Bapurao even got his own moment in the spotlight with an exclusive interview. You can check it out — with additional information on Bapurao’s deeds — in the video below!

Recommended From Honest To Paws

Stay up to date on the
latest trending stories!

like our facebook page!