The planet is running out of its biggest animals

The planet is running out of its biggest animals

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By Javier Salas

Historically, "humans have been a driving force responsible for a sustained process of extinctions and declines in abundance of numerous species of animals," the more than 40 experts who co-sign it write in their article. And this force is sweeping like never before. His calculations are very alarming: in the XXII century there might not be even one of the considered great mammals left. Neither the emblematic ones like the polar bear nor the most unknown ones like the scimitar oryx, which is already on the verge of extinction.

Their data is expressive enough: at present, 59% of large carnivores (those over 15 kilos) are officially threatened with extinction. And the same happens with 60% of the great herbivores (those of more than 100 kilos). And although important efforts have been made to save some of these animals, as with the large European carnivores, they would be no more than patches judging by the alarm with which leading biodiversity experts describe the situation. The risk is particularly critical in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

The problem goes beyond the disappearance of a beautiful or emblematic animal. More and more science is showing the role of these large mammals as key species in their environments, on which a very delicate balance depends. They are "ecosystem engineers," they say, capable of regulating cascading effects on the biodiversity around them. In addition, they provide essential economic and social services in the communities that are close to them.

Scientists explain that there are several factors that are destroying the megafauna, which due to its characteristics is usually more exposed to disappearance. "Large mammals are extremely vulnerable to such threats due to their requirements for large areas to maintain viable populations, their low densities (especially in the case of carnivores) and in general because they possess ecologically typical life history traits of species. cataloged as slow, "they write.

In some cases, such as lions, the threat is the drastic reduction of their territories and the pressure of the agricultural frontier. In others, the blame is deforestation of their habitats. Elephants are the best example of animals threatened by poaching that only wants to trade in their ivories. Another threat is the excessive expansion of livestock: for every large wild herbivore that we find on the planet, there are 400 head of ruminant cattle.

In their study, published by BioScience and supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the scientists say they have a collective responsibility to alert the planet and to propose solutions to societies and their governments. They assure that they are not resigned to limiting themselves to writing the epitaph of these animals, as they have already had to do with the northern white rhino, for example.

Therefore, they close their article with a statement of thirteen points, in which they claim to recognize the threat, understand that they are going to be extinguished and appreciate the seriousness of the matter. In addition, they point out that saving them is not incompatible with human development, which is why they demand increasing institutional efforts, government support, improving the regulatory framework and financial mechanisms to save from the disappearance of these animals. And they end up remembering "the collective moral obligation to protect the Earth's megafauna"

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Video: Top 10 Smallest Animals On Earth (July 2022).


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