Megafauna Mega-Problem

bill-ripple-smallMost of Earth’s large terrestrial mammals currently face extinction. Not just African elephants, Bengal tigers, or the last three northern white rhinos, or cheetahs, or gorillas, or some subspecies you’ve never heard of, but a majority share of this planet’s big, wild, hairy land animals face deplorably dwindling populations—mostly due to overhunting and habitat loss.

“In fact, 59% of the world’s largest carnivores and 60% of the world’s largest herbivores are classified as threatened with extinction on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. This situation is particularly dire in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, home to the greatest diversity of extant megafauna,” expounded 43 wildlife and conservation scientists from six continents in the July 27, 2016 issue of BioScience.

In the article humbly titled, “Saving the World’s Terrestrial Megafauna,” lead author Bill Ripple, OSU Distinguished Professor of Ecology, the Global Trophic Cascades Program of the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, and dozens of other wildlife scientists stated their objective: “to demonstrate a consensus of opinion amongst the global community of scientists who study and conserve these animals, thereby emphasizing to the wider world the gravity of the problem.”

We face a two-part challenge, they explained. First, there exists a need to more effectively implement and expand current intervention methods at scales relevant to habitat size. Second, to fundamentally alter the way our species interacts with other large mammals, we’ll need an order of magnitude increase in funding to implement a worldwide conservation framework as well as the political clout to wield it.

The authors admit that “none of our arguments are new and that our prescriptions are far easier to write out than to accomplish.” Still, the paper warns, “Under a business-as-usual scenario, conservation scientists will soon be busy writing obituaries for species and subspecies of megafauna as they vanish from the planet.”

“We must not go quietly into this impoverished future. Rather, we believe it is our collective responsibility as scientists who study megafauna to act to prevent their decline.” Instead, let us rage against the dying of the rhinoceros.

To reach as wide an audience as possible, full-text versions of the article published in English, Spanish, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Malay, and Thai are publicly available, free at

By Matthew Hunt