In new research published [February 6] in the journal Conservation Letters, scientists surveyed the populations of nearly 300 species of megafauna around the world, and saw some troubling trends emerge. According to the authors, at least 200 species (70 percent) of the world’s largest animals are seeing their populations dwindle, and more than 150 face the risk of outright extinction.
The primary threat in most of these cases appears to be human meat consumption.
“Direct harvest for human consumption of meat or body parts is the biggest danger to nearly all of the large species with threat data available,” lead study author William Ripple, a professor of ecology at the Oregon State University College of Forestry, said in a statement. “Our results suggest we’re in the process of eating megafauna to extinction.”
It’s hard to avoid headlines about sharks being hunted for their fins, African elephants slaughtered for their ivory or as trophies, or critically endangered rhinos — including the northern white rhino, of which only two individuals (both female) remain — killed for their horns.
According to the researchers, establishing legal barriers to limit the trade and collection of megafauna products is an essential step toward slowing this mass-extinction-in-progress.
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