World’s largest mammals face extinction crisis

A new report calls for a global plan to help save threatened megafauna. 

© Nick Garbutt
© Nick Garbutt

An extinction crisis faces some of the world’s largest animals, according to a BioScience study by 43 leading wildlife scientists.

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The report covers the loss of large mammal populations around the globe and has found that familiar species such as the Western gorilla, black rhino and Bengal tiger and less familiar species such as the African wild ass and Visayan warty pig are all being pushed to the brink of extinction.

About 59 per cent of the world’s largest carnivore species and 60 per cent of the biggest herbivores are currently classified as Threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Their numbers have rapidly declined due to overhunting, deforestation, agriculture expansion, human population growth and the illegal wildlife trade.

Scientists are now calling for a global plan to help save these species. 

“We need to come up with strategies that make the conservation of wildlife congruent with human needs, such as reduced poverty, increased food security, better education and health,” said Dr Peter Lindsey, lion program policy initiative coordinator for Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organisation.

He suggested that ‘debt for nature’ schemes where external debt is cancelled in exchange for setting aside land for wildlife may be an incentive in poorer countries.

“We have a chance to make a difference,” he explained. “But a concerted effort is needed. An increase in funding and technical support is required to give megafauna a realistic chance.”

“This paper’s message is sobering but the future is not written,” said Dr Luke Hunter, Panthera’s president and chief conservation officer. “My hope is that it acts as a global rallying call for our species to ensure the survival of lions, tigers and other magnificent large mammals.”

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Read more news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine