Study Warns 88% of African Raptors Facing Rapid Population Declines
A new study has revealed that 37 out of 42 African raptor species analyzed have experienced significant population declines of around 88% in the past 40 years. Out of these, 29 species constituting 69% have seen drops over 3 generation lengths that qualify them as globally threatened under IUCN criteria of endangerment.
Endemic Species Most At-Risk
The analysis found 6 raptor species endemic or near-endemic to Africa already overshot the minimum threshold of loss of habitat and numbers that signals heightened extinction risk.
Underestimating the Conservation Status
There is pressing need to reassess the status of over 10 declining yet currently least-concern species which might be more endangered than categorized.
Key Drivers of Raptor Population Crashes
Habitat destruction, loss of nesting sites and prey base along with poisoning and hunting have accelerator declines, especially in West Africa’s high poverty, corruption and misgovernance contexts.
Shrinking Forest Cover and Expanding Farms
Study notes annually around 5 million hectares forest cover is lost continent-wide to agriculture which has expanded nearly thrice more in West Africa since 1970s, squeezing raptor capacities.
Over-reliance on Protected Areas
With only 14% land under Protected Areas, declining birds of prey face intensifying competition and pressures even within reserves as human footprint expands.
Other Biological and Environmental Threats
The predators also tackle issues like electrocution from infrastructure, vehicle collisions etc. Slow breeding capabilities impedes their recovery too.
Risk of Ecosystem Instability
Their falling numbers can trigger instability in food chains, disease outbreaks and loss of critical ecological services like scavenging animal carcasses.
The ominous population trends underscore why habitat conservation and community support for these apex but threatened avian hunters is vital before several symbolically and ecologically vital species dwindle into extinction.
Category: Environment Current Affairs