A study published in the journal Science has revealed that the world’s 60 percent of large herbivores, including black rhinos, camels, elephants and buffalos are at the risk of extinction and the disappearance of these animals will adversely affect the ecosystem by creating “empty landscapes.”
We all know that Earth’s wild ecosystems are being emptied, but the study, which highlights 74 largest territorial herbivores, reveals that the extinction is happening faster than what we thought. According to the research, approximately 60 percent of these large herbivores are threatened with extinction.
It isn’t surprising that the human’s habit of excessive hunting, resource depression by livestock and destruction of their habitats, such as deforestation, pollutions etc., are the reason for the decline of large herbivores.
The study was conducted by wildlife biologist William Ripple and his team that analyzed the data of 74 different species of this kind, which weighs over 220 pounds, on average. The study has also highlighted the threats these large herbivores face, ecosystem effects, the consequences of severe population decline, possible solutions to save these animals and their predators from being extinct.
“The scale and rate of large herbivore decline suggest that without radical intervention, large herbivores (and many smaller ones) will continue to disappear from numerous regions with enormous ecological, social, and economic costs. We have progressed well beyond the empty forest to early views of the “empty landscape” in desert, grassland, savanna, and forest ecosystems across much of planet Earth.” – authors.
These 60 percent of the threatened animals live in countries like Africa, India, Southeast Asia. Latin America and India. Most important to know that these countries are still the developing countries, whereas the developed countries like North America and most of the Europe has already lost their large herbivores very long ago. Major threats for the extirpation of herbivores include hunting and competition for space with livestock production, which, according to the study, has increased threefold since 1980. Most importantly, the growing population and their subsisting on wild meat is playing a huge part in the threat for these herbivores.
Few examples of the growing popularity of hunting could be seen anytime on news and social media nowadays – the demand is growing for rhino horns in certain part of Asia, elephant ivory’s demand is still strong since the ancient times, even though strict international regulations present at this time.
Now come to the important part – the decline or extinction of large herbivores could affect the Earth’s ecosystem in many ways. Main causes of the decline of large herbivores are – frequent and intense wildfires, reduced seed dispersal (tropical large herbivores disperse large seeds that are typically from slow-growing and densely growing tree species important for carbon storage), a weaker nutrient cycle between soil and plants, changes in the habitat for smaller animals, including birds, insects, rodents, lizards, and others. This will also affect their predators’ (carnivores) populations as well. All in all, the extinction of large herbivores directly or indirectly results in “empty landscapes” everywhere on Earth.
“Saving the remaining threatened large herbivores will require concerted action. The world’s wealthier populations will need to provide the resources essential for ensuring the preservation of our global natural heritage of large herbivores. A sense of justice and development is essential to ensure that local populations can benefit fairly from large herbivore protection and thereby have a vested interest in it,” said Ripple.
Will this ever happen? Will our policymakers take action to conserve these species? We hope so!
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