Towards the extinction of large mammals

Towards the extinction of large mammals

Preventing the extinction of gorillas, rhinos, elephants, lions, tigers, wolves, bears and other large mammals in the world will require a courageous political action and financial commitments by nations around the globe, according to the conclusions that have been reached in a new study. Its authors, 43 wildlife experts claim that without immediate changes, many of the most iconic species on Earth will be lost.

"The loss of these magnificent animals would be a tremendous tragedy", says Blaire Van Valkenburgh, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), USA, and co-author of the study. "They are all that remains of a much more diverse megafauna that populated the planet only 12,000 years ago. And more importantly, we have barely begun to understand the important roles in maintaining healthy ecosystems they have."

Among the most serious threats to the endangered large mammals species are poaching, deforestation, loss of habitat, expansion of cattle ranching and agriculture in wilderness areas, and the growth of the human population.

Besides their importance for ecosystems, animals such as tigers and elephants attract tourists and their money around the world who have few alternative sources of income, as argued by Van Valkenburgh.

The study indicates that 59 percent of large carnivores and 60 percent of the largest herbivores have been classified as endangered, and that the situation is particularly acute in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, where currently a more diverse megafauna can be found.

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