LONDON, July 13 (UPI) — African national parks, favorites of tourists hoping to see the continent’s wildlife, have seen steep declines in large-mammal populations, researchers say.
Scientists from the Zoological Society of London and Cambridge University describe a decline of almost 60 percent in the populations of 69 key species including lion, wildebeest, giraffe, buffalo and zebra between 1970 and 2005, ScienceDaily.com reported Monday.
The worst declines were found in East and West African parks, the researchers said, with particular problems in West Africa due to a lack of financial and personnel resources, increasing rates of habitat degradation and a growing trade in illegal bush meat.
The one bright spot in the study was an increase in mammal populations in some national parks in southern Africa compared with the declines elsewhere, the zoological society’s Conservation Programs Director Jonathan Baillie said.
“The results are far worse than we imagined,” he said, “but the increasing population trends in southern Africa provide hope and demonstrate that protected areas can be very effective for conserving large mammals if properly resourced.”
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