Sad news for animal lovers and our children as most of the animals they recognise easily and point out in their text books will not be live in a few decades from now, going by a depiction of fast erosion of vegetation in the forests.
Oregon State University researchers have projected a possibility of near extinction of 74 large herbivore species, animals which live on vegetation and they include currently familiar and visible species such as rhinoceroses, zebras, camels, elephants and tapirs. The largest herbivores weigh more than 100 kilograms, or 220 pounds, on average.
William Ripple, lead author, said the habitat change would endanger large herbivores, not merely due to vegetation loss but also increased poaching by humans. Their analysis has shown that not merely forests but even savannahs, grasslands and deserts would decimate these animals unless immediate intervention measures are undertaken on war footing.
“Without radical intervention, large herbivores (and many smaller ones) will continue to disappear from numerous regions with enormous ecological, social, and economic costs.” said Ripple.
An estimated 1 billion humans subsist on wild meat, they said. “The market for medicinal uses can be very strong for some body parts, such as rhino horn. .. It sells for more by weight than gold, diamonds or cocaine,” he said in the backdrop of Africa’s western black rhinoceros, that was declared extinct in 2011.
The loss of large herbivores means other parts of wild ecosystems will diminish and the results incldue reduction in food for lions and tigers; diminished seed dispersal for plants; more frequent and intense wildfires; slower cycling of nutrients from vegetation to the soil; changes in habitat for smaller animals including fish, birds and amphibians, they said.
The major threat is perceptible in developing countries in Southeast asia, India and Africa, they said in their report. Europe has lost most of them already except one herbivore — the European bison, while the North America has none of them, the authors pointed out, attributing the cause to pre-historic hunting and habitat changes.
“We hope this report increases appreciation for the importance of large herbivores in these ecosystems,” said Ripple. “And we hope that policymakers take action to conserve these species.”
Currently, 25 of the large herbivores occupy only 19 percent of their historical ranges but immense competition from livestock producers, that has tripled since 1980, has crunched the available land, forage and water for these animals resulting in their disease-prone subsistence and eventual extinction, they said in a paper published in Science Advances.