AboutZoos, Since 2008


Major efforts needed to save world’s largest mam­mals and our ecosystems

pub­lished 31 July 2016 | mod­i­fied 31 July 2016

A team of con­ser­va­tion biol­o­gists is call­ing for a world­wide strat­egy to pre­vent the unthink­able: the extinc­tion of the world’s largest mam­mal species.

MegafaunaIn a pub­lic dec­la­ra­tion pub­lished on 27 July in the jour­nal Bio­Science, a group of more than 40 con­ser­va­tion sci­en­tists and other experts are call­ing for a coor­di­nated global plan to pre­vent the world’s “megafauna” from slid­ing into oblivion.

Among the threats cited by the group as dri­vers of this mass extinc­tion are ille­gal hunt­ing, defor­esta­tion and habi­tat loss, the expan­sion of agri­cul­ture and live­stock into wildlife areas, and the growth of human populations.

The more I look at the trends fac­ing the world’s largest ter­res­trial mam­mals, the more con­cerned I am we could lose these ani­mals just as sci­ence is dis­cov­er­ing how impor­tant they are to ecosys­tems and to the ser­vices they pro­vide for peo­ple,” said Dr. William Rip­ple, pro­fes­sor of ecol­ogy at Ore­gon State Uni­ver­sity and lead author of the study.

Rip­ple worked with other authors on the study to exam­ine pop­u­la­tion trends of many species, includ­ing many of the most well-​known, charis­matic species such as ele­phants, rhi­nos, goril­las, and big cats that are now threat­ened with extinction.

Approx­i­mately 60 per­cent of the world’s biggest mam­malian car­ni­vore species — includ­ing the tiger — and a same per­cent­age of the largest her­bi­vores are now listed on the Inter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Natures Red List of Threat­ened Species as threat­ened with extinction.

Only a mas­sive com­mit­ment from the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity will stop this ram­pant destruc­tion of so many ani­mal populations
Dr. Eliz­a­beth Ben­nett, co-​author, WCS’s Vice Pres­i­dent of Species Conservation »

Per­haps the biggest threat for many species is direct hunt­ing dri­ven by a demand for meat, pets, and body parts for tra­di­tional med­i­cines and orna­ments,” said Bennett.

All of these large species play crit­i­cal roles in their ecosys­tems. Species at risk include ele­phants, that pro­vide a suite of vital ecosys­tem ser­vices as eco­log­i­cal engi­neers, dis­pers­ing seeds and nutri­ents across vast areas. “The loss of ele­phants in the forests of Cen­tral Africa is increas­ingly dam­ag­ing the func­tion of the region’s most impor­tant ecosys­tems,” said WCS Con­ser­va­tion Sci­en­tist Dr. Fiona Maisels, one of the study’s co-​authors. “We’re only begin­ning to under­stand how vital these key­stone species are to the health of rain­forests and other species that inhabit them.”

Human-​wildlife con­flict is a seri­ous con­cur­rent threat for many species. “With simul­ta­ne­ous loss of wildlife habi­tat and expan­sion of human pop­u­la­tions and agri­cul­ture, neg­a­tive inter­ac­tions between peo­ple and wildlife are bound to rise,” said WCS India Sci­en­tist Dr. Varun R. Goswami, also a co-​author on the study. “For wide-​ranging megafauna like ele­phants and tigers, we need landscape-​scale con­ser­va­tion strate­gies, tak­ing into account the increas­ing inter­face between wildlife and people.”

Some megafauna face the threat of obscu­rity. The loss of ele­phants world­wide to poach­ers in pur­suit of ivory is well-​known and is the focus of exten­sive efforts to shut down this trade, but the study authors point out that many species are at risk from many sim­i­lar threats but are so poorly known that effec­tive con­ser­va­tion efforts to save them are difficult.

The paper includes a 13-​part dec­la­ra­tion that high­lights inter alia:
» the need to acknowl­edge the threat­ened sta­tus of many large mam­mals
» the vital eco­log­i­cal roles they play
» the impor­tance of inte­grat­ing the efforts of sci­en­tists and fund­ing agen­cies in devel­op­ing coun­tries where many species occur
» the need for a new global frame­work to con­serve megafauna
» the moral oblig­a­tion of sav­ing the world’s biggest mam­mal species.

(Source: WCS news release, 27.07.2016)

UN Biodiversity decade
WWF Stop Wildlife Crime
Fight for Flight campaign
End Ivory-funded Terrorism
Support Rewilding Europe
NASA State of Flux

Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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