Poorer countries give more to protect nature
Researchers from Oxford's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) have assessed how much, or little, individual countries contribute to protecting the world's wildlife.
Working in partnership with Panthera, the only organisation dedicated to protecting wild cats, they found that in comparison to the more affluent, developed world, biodiversity is a higher priority in poorer areas such as the African nations, which contribute more to conservation than any other region.
Led by Panthera Research Associate Dr Peter Lindsey, the team created a Mega-Fauna Conservation Index (MCI) of 152 nations, to evaluate their conservation footprint. Since a high proportion of mega-fauna species, such as tigers, leopards and gorillas face extinction, the team focused their research on the protection of large mammals.
The benchmarking system evaluated three key measures: a) the proportion of the country occupied by each mega-fauna species that survives in the country (countries with more species covering a higher proportion of the country scoring higher); b) the proportion of mega-fauna species range that is protected (higher proportions score higher); c) and the amount of money spent on conservation - either domestically or internationally, relative to GDP.
The findings show that poorer countries tend to take a more active approach to biodiversity protection than richer nations. Ninety per cent of countries in North and Central America and 70 per cent of countries in Africa were classified as major or above-average in their mega-fauna conservation efforts.
Despite facing a number of domestic challenges, such as poverty and political instability in many parts of the continent, Africa was found to prioritise wildlife preservation, and contribute more to conservation than any other region of the world.
African countries made up four of the five top-performing mega-fauna conservation nations, with Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe topping the list.
By contrast, the United States ranked nineteenth out of the twenty performing countries. Approximately one-quarter of countries in Asia and Europe were identified as significantly underperforming in their commitment to mega-fauna conservation.
Dr. Lindsey said: "Scores of species across the globe, including tigers, lions and rhinos, are at risk of extinction due to a plethora of threats imposed by mankind.
"We cannot ignore the possibility that we will lose many of these incredible species unless swift, decisive and collective action is taken by the global community."
Human impact continues to have a devastating effect on the natural world, with wildlife species across the globe under threat from poaching, hunting and the consequences of climate change.
Recent studies indicate that 59 per cent of the world's largest carnivores and sixty per cent of the largest herbivores are currently threatened with extinction. ■