Increased consumption of meat by humans has led to the decrease in the number of at least 200 species of large animals and have put more than 150 under the threat of extinction, finds a study of nearly 300 species of “megafauna”.
The use of various body parts for food and medicines was identified as the reason behind the decline of the “megafauna”, defined as mammals and fish weighing over 100 kg, along with amphibians, birds, and reptiles over 40 kg.
Of these species, 70 percent are declining, and 59 percent are threatened with disappearing from the globe, said William Ripple, Professor at the Oregon State University (OSU).
“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,” Ripple said.
Nine “megafauna” species have gone extinct in all wild habitats in the past 250 years, including two species of giant tortoise, and two species of deer. Nearly 2 percent of “megafauna” species and 0.8 percent vertebrates have gone extinct over the past 500 years.
In the future, 70 percent will experience further population declines and 60 percent of the species could become extinct or very rare, according to the study, published in the journal Conservation Letters.
“Our results suggest we’re in the process of eating ‘megafauna’ to extinction… through the consumption of various body parts, users of Asian traditional medicine,” Ripple said.
Loss of habitat, coupled with snares and traps, also poses major negative cumulative effects on these species.
“Preserving the remaining ‘megafauna’ is going to be difficult and complicated,” Ripple said. “There will be economic arguments against it, as well as cultural and social obstacles. But if we don’t consider, critique and adjust our behaviors, our heightened abilities as hunters may lead us to consume much of the last of the Earth’s ‘megafauna’.”