Posted by: Dr. Breffni Lennon | July 24, 2012

Africa’s plummeting wild mammal populations fall by 59% in the continent’s supposedly protected national parks and wildlife areas

Africa’s iconic large mammals, for which the continent famous for, are vanishing at a staggering rate. According to Ian Craigie et al (2010) large mammal populations, found residing in areas that are supposed to have government protection (national parks etc) have dropped by 59% in just four decades. This shocking statistic, the report’s authors explain, is almost entirely down to human actions including the expansion of agriculture, hunting and the bushmeat trade, political instability and most notably the pressure brought to bear by the massive population explosions in countries across the continent.

According to the paper’s abstract: “Protected areas (PAs) are the cornerstone of global conservation efforts but their performance in maintaining populations of their key species remains poorly documented. Here, we address this gap using a new database of 583 population abundance time series for 69 species of large mammals in 78 African PAs. Population abundance time series were aggregated to form a multi-species index of overall change in population abundance. The index reveals on average a 59% decline in population abundance between 1970 and 2005. Indices for different parts of Africa demonstrate large regional differences, with southern African PAs typically maintaining their populations and western African PAs suffering the most severe declines. These results indicate that African PAs have generally failed to mitigate human-induced threats to African large mammal populations, but they also show some successes. Further development of our index could help to measure future progress towards post-2010 targets for reducing biodiversity loss” (Craigie et al., 2010).

Craigie et al.’s article can be accessed here.

Paul Scholte (2011) has written an article for’s open access journal Tropical Conservation Science explaining this rapid decline in large mammal populations, which can be freely accessed here.

For an interview with the lead author, by please go here.


Craigie, I.D et al. (2010) Large mammal population declines in Africa’s protected areas. Biological Conservation DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2010.06.007

Scholte, P. (2011) Towards understanding large mammal population declines in Africa’s protected areas: A West-Central African perspective. In Tropical Conservation Science Vol.4 (1):1-11


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