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African Mammals May Not Be Able to Keep Up with Climate Change

Humans have decimated the world’s mammals over the last several thousand years and continue to do so today. Ghosts of mammoths, bison, horses, and saber-toothed cats haunt the Americas and Eurasia, casualties of expanding Upper Paleolithic populations over the last approximately 100,000 years. Oceanic islands, such as the Hawaiian Islands, were once remote sanctuaries of biodiversity but have been reduced to impoverished faunas overrun with invasive species transported there by ships and planes.

Africa has largely been spared from this destruction, but even on this continent all is not well. The bluebuck, an antelope native to southern Africa, was hunted to extinction around 1800 AD. This made it the continent’s first large mammal to disappear in historical times.

Other species in Africa seem destined for a similar fate – and while the decline of elephants, gorillas and rhinos garners weekly headlines in the press, many lesser-known species like the Ethiopian wolf and hirola are at an even greater risk. These already fragmented and fragile populations will compete for resources with a human population that the United Nations says is going to quadruple by 2100.

Carsten ten Brink

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