Nav: Home

Preventing mass extinctions of big mammals will require immediate action

August 05, 2016

Preventing the extinction of gorillas, rhinoceroses, elephants, lions, tigers, wolves, bears and the world's other largest mammals will require bold political action and financial commitments from nations worldwide. In an article in the journal BioScience, 43 wildlife experts write that without immediate changes, many of the Earth's most iconic species will be lost.

"The loss of these magnificent animals would be a tremendous tragedy," said Blaire Van Valkenburgh, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and one of the article's co-authors. "They are all that is left of a once much more diverse megafauna that populated the planet only 12,000 years ago. And more importantly, we have only just begun to understand the important roles they play in maintaining healthy ecosystems."

Among the most serious threats to endangered animals are illegal hunting, deforestation, habitat loss, expansion of livestock and agriculture into wildlife areas, and human population growth, they write.

The scientists, who represent six continents, write that humans have "an abiding moral obligation to protect the Earth's megafauna," or large mammals. "We must not go quietly into this impoverished future."

In addition to their significance to ecosystems, animals such as tigers and elephants attract tourists and their money to parts of the world that have few alternative sources of income, said Van Valkenburgh, who holds the Donald R. Dickey chair in vertebrate biology in the UCLA College.

"This paper is a call for action at all levels, local to global, to halt the rapid decline of the megafauna," she said.

The paper reports that 59 percent of the largest carnivores and 60 percent of the largest herbivores have been classified as threatened with extinction, and that the situation is especially severe in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, where the greatest diversity of extant megafauna live.

William Ripple, the paper's lead author, a distinguished professor of ecology in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, said the animals' declines are occurring rapidly.

"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 to people," he said.

The scientists call for comprehensive action, including expanding habitats for the animals and changing conservation policy. The paper notes that some conservation initiatives have been successful and that, if measures are taken now, it may still be possible to rescue these animals from extinction.
-end-
The article is published in seven languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, French, Malay, Portuguese and Thai.

University of California - Los Angeles

Related Elephants Articles:

Elephants' 'body awareness' adds to increasing evidence of their intelligence
Asian elephants are able to recognize their bodies as obstacles to success in problem-solving, further strengthening evidence of their intelligence and self-awareness, according to a new study from the University of Cambridge.
African elephants may be the shortest-sleeping mammals
African elephants in the wild sleep an average of two hours a day and regularly go nearly two days without sleep, according to a study published March 1, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Paul Manger from University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, and colleagues.
Study reveals 'nightmare' for Central Africa's forest elephants
Forest elephants living in an area that had been considered a sanctuary in the Central African country of Gabon are rapidly being picked off by illegal poachers, who are primarily coming from the bordering country of Cameroon.
Poaching drives 80 percent decline in elephants in key preserve
Forest elephant populations in one of Central Africa's largest sanctuaries have declined between 78% and 81% because of poaching, a new Duke-led study finds.
Aerial surveys of elephants and other mammals may underestimate numbers
As lead researchers in Africa's recent Great Elephant Census, wildlife ecologists Curtice Griffin and Scott Schlossberg at the University of Massachusetts Amherst also evaluated elephant counting methods in the wild.
Equality, more than dominance, defines Asian elephant society
A new study on Asian elephants led by Colorado State University found that Asian elephants, unlike African savanna elephants, do not exhibit clear dominance hierarchies or matriarchal leadership.
The Great Elephant Census reports massive loss of African savanna elephants
Results of the two-year, $8 million Great Elephant Census of African savanna elephants led by Elephants Without Borders were released today at an international wildlife conference in Hawaii, confirming massive declines in elephant numbers over just the last decade.
The Great Elephant Census reports massive loss of African savanna elephants
Paul G. Allen's Vulcan Inc. today announced the results of the $7 million, three-year Great Elephant Census, the first-ever pan-African survey of savanna elephants using standardized data collection and validation methods.
Study documents a lost century for forest elephants
Because forest elephants are one the slowest reproducing mammals in the world, it will take almost a century for them to recover from the intense poaching they have suffered since 2002.
Desert elephants pass on knowledge -- not mutations -- to survive
Despite reported differences in appearance and behavior, DNA evidence finds that Namibian desert elephants share the same DNA as African savanna elephants.

Related Elephants Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...