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Large mammals disappearing from Africa’s parks

Large mammals disappearing from Africa’s parks

Large mammals disappearing from Africa’s parks
August 31, 2007

Large mammals are disappearing from Africa’s national parks, warn researchers writing in the September 2007 issue of the African Journal of Ecology.

Using new methods to analyze wildlife inventories across Africa, Tim Caro (University of California, Davis, USA) and Paul Scholte (Leiden University, the Netherlands) documented a decline in antelope populations both inside and outside wildlife preserves.

“Antelope populations have been poorly surveyed, and with the notable exceptions of the African Journal of Ecology articles, have failed to present quantitative information. What the new data show, is even relatively well-organised protected areas cannot be relied on as long-lasting conservation tools,” said Caro and Scholte.

Male waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus) in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda. Photo taken by Rhett A. Butler

“The causes of the large mammal declines are principally anthropogenic. Many parks are subject to the ravaging impact of illegal hunters. In West-Central Africa, this bushmeat hunting used to cover local consumption only, now it includes tables in far off cities that extend to London and Paris. Then there are reserves in which human encroachment is the driving force, whereas in reserves too small to harbour wildlife populations year-round, natural and anthropogenic causes operate in concert”

Caro and Scholte caution that solutions to the decline must take in account the needs of local human populations that rely on game for subsistence.

“The idea of setting aside large tracts of land is outmoded by land-use change and demographics,” they write. “Increased patrols, equipment and incentives for park guards, in tandem with community outreach programs, will go some way to stop poaching; whereas opposition to land greedy development schemes may halt encroachment. But ultimately we may have to get used to faunal relaxation in Africa’s famous reserves leaving a continent containing isolated pockets of large mammal diversity living at low population sizes. Just like Europe”.

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