When it comes to nature, the world is an interesting place. Especially with gigantic creatures such as the dinosaur-footed Cassowary, whales and elephants.
Known as megafauna, each of these creatures are magnificent. Each of these mammoth species playing a crucial role in keeping their respective ecosystems in balance. However, did you know that according to a new study, approximately 60 percent of the megafauna in the world are facing a problem of epic proportions?
In new research, published earlier this month in the journal of Conservation Letter, scientists surveyed nearly 300 species of megafauna around the globe. A research project which shows some troubling trends emerging.
The authors of the research claim at least 200 species (70 per cent) of the largest animals are seeing their numbers dropping. In fact, 150 species are facing outright extinction.
What is the cause of the dwindling numbers? It seems the biggest threat in most cases appears to be human meat consumption.
Lead study author William Ripple, a professor of ecology at the Oregon State University College of Forestry, claimed in a statement that direct harvest for human consumption of meat or body parts is the biggest danger to nearly all the large species.
It seems the results are suggesting we are literally in the process of eating nature’s giants into extinction.
What makes an animal fit into the megafauna category?
Ripple and his colleagues define megafauna as any non-extinct vertebrate above a certain weight. In terms of mammals, ray-finned and cartilaginous fish (such as sharks and whales), any species weighing in at 100 kilograms and more is considered megafauna. For birds, amphibians and reptiles, any species weighing in more than 40 kilograms falls into the category.
This left researchers with a list of 292 ginormous animals. This list includes animals such as elephants, rhinos, whales and even the Chinese giant salamander which weighs in at 65.5kg. The Chinese giant salamander is critically endangered.
From this list, the researchers then used the IUCN Red List, which is an international database which assesses the extinction risks posed to more than 60, 000 species. Through this database, the researchers were able to determine the threats faced by each of the mammoth animals.
It is here that it can be found that 70% of the researcher’s megafauna are showing dwindling numbers, while the remaining 59% face total extinctions.
This, according to the researchers makes megafauna more vulnerable than their smaller counterparts.
Do these large animals really face extinction because of human meat consumption?
Megafauna are facing multiple threats such as pollution, climate change and land development. But, researchers say the single biggest threat is harvesting, which is the animals being hunted and killed for their meat and body parts.
Other reasons include harvesting megafauna for medicinal use, unintended bycatch in fisheries and trapping, live trade. As well as the various uses of body parts such as skins and fins. Elephants and rhinos are also targeted for their tusks and horns.
Researchers claim establishing legal barriers to limit the trade and collection of megafauna products will be a
While researchers are promoting conservation, what are your thoughts on the situation? How do you think we can save our megafauna?