Poaching is a pervasive global problem, and iconic mammals like elephants and rhinos are hit hard by illegal hunting. This is especially true in the world’s poorest countries and within protected areas, researchers reported recently in PLOS ONE. Protected areas, such as national parks and wildlife refuges, are “the cornerstone of biodiversity conservation,” the researchers write. Yet many countries lack the resources to properly manage these sanctuaries. And in poor countries, people turn to the illegal wildlife trade out of financial necessity. Spatial distribution of research on illegal hunting of mammals in 155 PAs from 48 countries over four decades as collated in the literature. Black dots correspond to the center of a protected area where research for the reviewed papers was conducted. Courtesy of Rija et al (2020). In the new study, biologists surveyed 40 years of conservation research literature, comprising 155 protected areas in 48 countries. The published papers included 294 different mammal species. The bottom line was clear: “Across the globe, mammals in protected areas are at great risk of decline,” said Alfan Rija, an ecologist at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania and lead author of the paper. “And we found that protected areas of Africa are highly at risk of losing species.” Big mammals like elephants, Earth’s largest land-dwellers, are especially vulnerable. While these animals provide essential functions to an area’s ecology, such as dispersing seeds in their dung, they grow slowly and reproduce infrequently. For example, the African savannah elephant (Loxodonta africana) famously gestates…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer