US, world took key steps for animal conservation in 2016

With Amur leopards, black rhinos and orangutans on the brink of extinction, 2017 will be a crucial year for animal conservation.

But while there's a lot of work to be done, conservationists can take heart in all that was accomplished in 2016.

Several species recovered from endangered status –– like the adorable giant panda, and the less cute (but equally gentle) West Indian manatee.

RELATED: Animals that face extinction by 2100

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Western lowland gorilla Kamba holds her one-day-old son Zachary at the Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, Illinois, United States, September 24, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young
A pair of black rhinoceros walk at the Imire Rhino and Wildlife Conservation Park near Marondera, east of Zimbabwe's capital Harare, September 22, 2014. Monday marked World Rhino Day amid dwindling populations of the species due to poaching activities. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo (ZIMBABWE - Tags: ANIMALS ENVIRONMENT)
UNSPECIFIED - OCTOBER 28: African Wild Ass (Equus africanus) (Photo by DEA / F. PAGNI/De Agostini/Getty Images)
The Visayan warty pigs, Samar (front) and Panay run at their enclosure on January 11, 2013 at the Berlin zoo. The pigs, priginating from the Polish Poznan Zoo are named after two Philippine islands. Today, the endangered species live only on two islands. AFP PHOTO / MARC TIRL /GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read MARC TIRL/AFP/Getty Images)
Bali banteng (Bos javanicus), calf. Garig Ganuk Barlu National Park, Cobourg Peninsula, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia. (Photo by Auscape/UIG via Getty Images)
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More from Newsy: 2016 Space Exploration Was Enlightening And Kinda Weird

And some took important first steps toward recovery. For the first time in a century, the wild tiger population grew.

Still others may get off the list entirely next year. The grizzly bear population has improved so dramatically, U.S. officials are considering delisting the species.

Countries did their part with new policies, both individually and together, to save at-risk species.

The U.S. officially banned nearly all aspects of the ivory trade.

An international treaty against illegal fishing practices took effect.

And the world's most trafficked animal –– the pangolin –– received international protection from commercial trade.

But even with those key conservation measures in place, 2017 will need to see more implementation and enforcement.

RELATED: White Rhinos Near Extinction

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White Rhinos Near Extinction
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AYMERIC VINCENOT A family of White-Rhinos is seen on August 7, 2014 at the Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary, in the Laikipia county, approximately 300 kilometres north of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. With camouflage uniforms, assault rifles, night vision goggles, thermal imaging devices and radios, wildlife rangers in Kenya's Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary prepare for night patrol in the 'war' against poaching. Kenya continues to lose precious wild animals with poachers having killed 26 rhinos and 111 elephants so far this year. Last year, 59 rhinos and 389 elephants were slain. AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA (Photo credit should read TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AYMERIC VINCENOT A male White-Rhino and a calf are seen on August 7, 2014 at the Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary, in the Laikipia county, approximately 300 kilometres north of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. With camouflage uniforms, assault rifles, night vision goggles, thermal imaging devices and radios, wildlife rangers in Kenya's Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary prepare for night patrol in the 'war' against poaching. Kenya continues to lose precious wild animals with poachers having killed 26 rhinos and 111 elephants so far this year. Last year, 59 rhinos and 389 elephants were slain. AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA (Photo credit should read TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AYMERIC VINCENOT A male White-Rhino and a calf are seen on August 7, 2014 at the Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary, in the Laikipia county, approximately 300 kilometres north of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. With camouflage uniforms, assault rifles, night vision goggles, thermal imaging devices and radios, wildlife rangers in Kenya's Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary prepare for night patrol in the 'war' against poaching. Kenya continues to lose precious wild animals with poachers having killed 26 rhinos and 111 elephants so far this year. Last year, 59 rhinos and 389 elephants were slain. AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA (Photo credit should read TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AYMERIC VINCENOT A White-Rhinos is seen on August 7, 2014 at the Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary, in the Laikipia county, approximately 300 kilometres north of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. With camouflage uniforms, assault rifles, night vision goggles, thermal imaging devices and radios, wildlife rangers in Kenya's Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary prepare for night patrol in the 'war' against poaching. Kenya continues to lose precious wild animals with poachers having killed 26 rhinos and 111 elephants so far this year. Last year, 59 rhinos and 389 elephants were slain. AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA (Photo credit should read TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AYMERIC VINCENOT A family of White-Rhinos is seen on August 7, 2014 at the Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary, in the Laikipia county, approximately 300 kilometres north of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. With camouflage uniforms, assault rifles, night vision goggles, thermal imaging devices and radios, wildlife rangers in Kenya's Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary prepare for night patrol in the 'war' against poaching. Kenya continues to lose precious wild animals with poachers having killed 26 rhinos and 111 elephants so far this year. Last year, 59 rhinos and 389 elephants were slain. AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA (Photo credit should read TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AYMERIC VINCENOT White-Rhinos are seen on August 7, 2014 at the Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary, in the Laikipia county, approximately 300 kilometres north of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. With camouflage uniforms, assault rifles, night vision goggles, thermal imaging devices and radios, wildlife rangers in Kenya's Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary prepare for night patrol in the 'war' against poaching. Kenya continues to lose precious wild animals with poachers having killed 26 rhinos and 111 elephants so far this year. Last year, 59 rhinos and 389 elephants were slain. AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA (Photo credit should read TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AYMERIC VINCENOT White-Rhinos are seen on August 7, 2014 at the Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary, in the Laikipia county, approximately 300 kilometres north of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. With camouflage uniforms, assault rifles, night vision goggles, thermal imaging devices and radios, wildlife rangers in Kenya's Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary prepare for night patrol in the 'war' against poaching. Kenya continues to lose precious wild animals with poachers having killed 26 rhinos and 111 elephants so far this year. Last year, 59 rhinos and 389 elephants were slain. AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA (Photo credit should read TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)
KENYA - 2013/10/29: White rhinoceros or square-lipped rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) at Lake Nakuru National Park in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
KENYA - 2013/10/29: Tourists watching White rhinoceros or square-lipped rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) crossing the road at Lake Nakuru National Park in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
With only six white rhinos left on the planet, extinction of the species seems imminent.
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The U.S. is one of the leading enforcers against unsustainable fishing, but up to a third of its wild seafood imports come from illegal catches that are fraudulently labeled.

While America's new laws on ivory are a huge step, China has yet to completely ban the trade. Its industry is the largest in the world and full of loopholes that help sustain illegal trade.

And close to 20 species of animals are considered to be at extreme risk of extinction heading into the new year. Over 1,000 species are considered endangered or threatened.

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