African Mammals Decline
A recent study shows that populations of large mammals such as zebra, buffalo and lion in the African national parks declined by an average of 59% between 1970 and 2005, a recent Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Cambridge University, RSPB and UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre study found.
According to the Guardian (and a study in Biology Conservation), this includes the famous tourist safari destinations Masai Mara in Kenya and the Serengeti in Tanzania.
Western African parks averaged an 85% decrease in wildlife. Human activities including the bushmeat trade have taken a heavy toll on the wildlife. But one hopes that protected areas would keep the animals safe, particularly where tourist dollars pour into the local economy by people wanting to see the “Big Five” – lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino.
Outside the parks, the news is even worse. There, in many cases the African animals including the rhino are close to extinction. Of special concern are migratory animals such as the wildebeest, who venture through unprotected areas every time they migrate. The African Conservation Foundation has an online article about why the lack of dry and wet season habitat is depleting the migratory mammals populations.
A beacon of hope shines from South Africa, whose 35 reserves averaged an increase of 25% in wildlife populations. South Africa has more money to invest in conservation, more staff to patrol and stop poaching, and better preservation of park habitats and boundaries.
Another ray of hope is that many of the declines have slowed over time. Park management has improved. Now, urgent efforts are needed to better protect the animals and secure the future of the parks.