A new study from Oregon State University has found that at least 200 species of large animals are decreasing and more than 150 are under threat of extinction, with humans’ meat consumption the primary cause.
The study has been published in Conservation Letters. They studied species of large animals, as well as megafauna. Over the past 500 years, as humans have refined their ability to kill wildlife at a safe distance, 2 percent of megafauna species have gone extinct and 0.8 percent of all sizes of vertebrates.
Of those species’ populations, 70 percent are in decline, and 59 percent of the species are threatened with disappearing from the globe, said the study’s corresponding author, William Ripple, distinguished professor of ecology in the Oregon State University College of Forestry.
The mass thresholds the researchers used were 220 pounds for mammals, ray-finned fish and cartilaginous fish and 88 pounds for amphibians, birds and reptiles.
The impact of humans’ meat consumption
William Ripple, a professor of ecology in the Oregon State University College of Forestry, said: “Direct harvest for human consumption of meat or body parts is the biggest danger to nearly all of the large species with threat data available. Thus, minimizing the direct killing of these vertebrate animals is an important conservation tactic that might save many of these iconic species as well as all of the contributions they make to their ecosystems.”
Ripple added: “Preserving the remaining megafauna is going to be difficult and complicated. There will be economic arguments against it, as well as cultural and social obstacles. But if we don’t consider, critique and adjust our behaviours, our heightened abilities as hunters may lead us to consume much of the last of the Earth’s megafauna.”
Ripple also stated that the consumption of various body parts means users of Asian traditional medicine are also impacting the largest species. He predicts that 60 percent of species could become extinct or very rare in the future.