A new study published last week on Science Advances suggests that a good number of large herbivorous animals are facing the possibility of extinction.
The study, led by Oregon State University ecology professor William J. Ripple, shows that 44 out of the 74 largest terrestrial herbivores, or close to 60 percent of these large animals, are threatened with extinction. 12 of these animals are classified as “critically endangered,” or worse, extinct in wildlife settings. According to the study, poaching and the loss of habitat are the main drivers behind these animals’ potential extinction; hunting for meat and competition for food or resources were also listed as driving factors.
Oxford University Wildlife Conservation Research Unit professor David Macdonald, who also took part in the study, observed that carnivores also have a lot to lose if large herbivores go extinct. “The big carnivores, like the charismatic big cats or wolves, face horrendous problems from direct persecution, over-hunting and habitat loss, but our new study adds another nail to their coffin – the empty larder,” said Macdonald. “It’s no use having habitat if there’s nothing left to eat in it.”
Ripple, in his own statement, said that the study represents the first time “anyone has analyzed all of (the 74) species as a whole,” and cautions against the possibility of an “empty landscape.” Among the animals mentioned in the list include elephants, rhinos, gorillas, tapir, and zebras, while Southeast Asia, India, and Africa were listed as the regions that may suffer the biggest losses. Europe and America, on the other hand, had lost majority of their large herbivores to extinction in previous waves.