A group of biologists, led by Peter Lindsey of the University of Pretoria in South Africa, has developed an index – the Megafauna Conservation Index – to determine the top megafauna species conservation countries in the world.
The Megafauna Conservation Index (MCI) looked at three main components as part of their study: ecological (the proportion of the country occupied by each mega-fauna species); protected area (percentage of megafauna habitat that is strictly protected); and financial (the financial contributions of countries through funding for domestic and international conservation efforts) components, which were applied to each of the 152 countries assessed.
The top major performers (152 countries in total)
7. Central African Republic
12. Costa Rica
The five best-performing countries for the ecological component were Botswana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Zambia.
Figure showing relative importance of ecological components in MCI
Relative importance of the ecological (herbivores: Eco.H, carnivores: Eco.C), protected area (herbivores: PA.H, carnivores: PA.C), and financial (GDP) components in the Megafauna Conservation Index scores © Peter Lindsey, et al
The team chose megafauna because they are particularly valuable in economic, ecological and societal terms, and are challenging and expensive to conserve. Also, megafauna tend to require large areas for their conservation and so act as umbrella species for the conservation of other species.
Table showing number and percentage of countries that are major MCI performers
Number and percentage (%) of countries in each continent that are major performers, above-average performers, below-average performers or major under-performers in terms of Megafauna Conservation Index © Peter Lindsey, et al
Megafauna is challenging to conserve as many large species require significant blocks of wilderness set aside to accommodate them, and some are dangerous or costly for humans to live with and pose a direct risk to human life, crops, livestock and pets.
Key causes for loss in wildlife populations include habitat destruction, excessive hunting, increasing international trade in wildlife parts, increasing demand for bushmeat and human-wildlife conflict.
The results of the study revealed that poorer countries tend to contribute more to megafauna conservation, and have higher MCIs, whereas richer countries contribute less, with lower MCIs. African countries scored highest, those in Asia and Europe the lowest.