Discovering tomorrow

Centre for African Conservation Ecology


A seminal study on the decline of the world’s largest herbivores , the drivers of these declines, and their implications was published in Science Advances on 1 May,  and warns of the impending collapse of this special group of animals. This study (see advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/4/e1400103) comprises a comprehensive review of the status of the terrestrial herbivores with a bodymass greater than 100 kg across the world, and was undertaken by an international group of ecologists, led by William Ripple, distinguished professor, Oregon State University. Three of the co-authors are affiliated with ACE/NMMU, these being Prof Graham Kerley (Director of ACE), Kristoffer Everatt (PhD student within ACE) and Dr Matt Hayward (a Research Associate, previously a postdoc with ACE and now based at Bangor University).


This study has attracted global interest, as it highlights not just the sobering reality of just how threatened these large herbivores are, but also identifies some key patterns, such as the relatively poor status of research on large herbivores in developing countries, as well as the fact that all except one of these threatened large herbivores are found in developing countries. Thus, there is a clear need to invest more research in developing countries if we are serious about conserving these large herbivores. An additional message from this study is that the implications of the loss of these herbivores in terms of ecosystem function are profound, with cascading effects for humans in terms of declines in food security, increased risk of disease and collapse of ecotourism.