‘Large mammals like tigers, elephants ideal ambassadors for conservation’


Business Standard

Date Published

A group of 43 scientists in a new study have highlighted that
conservation of large mammals (megafauna) does not come at the cost of
biodiversity conservation, but rather complements it, a statement said
on Tuesday.

A public declaration made last year by the same scientists had called
for a global plan to prevent the world’s large mammals from slipping
into oblivion.

This led to debates among scientists on whether a focus on megafauna
conservation would ignore other forms of biodiversity.

In the publication ‘Conserving the World’s Megafauna and Biodiversity:
The Fierce Urgency of Now’, William Ripple and his colleagues have
allayed fears and highlighted how terrestrial megafauna (large-bodied
carnivores and herbivores such as tigers, leopards, wolves, bears,
elephants and gaur) remain the strongest candidates to serve as
“umbrellas” for many species and ecosystems.

“Conserving megafauna requires us to safeguard large tracts of
forests, grasslands and various other ecosystems that meet the vast
habitat requirements of such species,” said Wildlife Conservation
Society’s India scientist, Varun R. Goswami, a co-author of the paper
published in BioScience journal.

“By conserving these megafauna, we also conserve birds, amphibians,
reptiles, as well as a variety of ecosystem processes,” he added.

Big charismatic animals attract larger political and public support,
owing to their unique socio-economic cultural values and the strong
emotional responses they evoke in many people, the statement said,
adding tiger reserves in India represent an ideal example.

The establishment of tiger reserves, tiger conservation efforts and
resources earmarked in India have helped safeguard many other species
and habitats.

“Megafauna such as tigers and elephants are ideal ambassadors for the
conservation of nature,” said Goswami.

Megadiversity countries like India, China, Indonesia, Philippines,
Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela also house an astonishing number of
threatened megafauna. This reinforces the compatibility of
conservation efforts focused on megafauna with those that target
biodiversity as a whole, he said.