The impacts of warfare on wildlife are quantified in a Nature paper published online this week. The study has clear implications for conservation policy and practice, suggesting that sustained conservation activity in conflict zones - and rapid interventions following ceasefires - could help to save many at-risk wildlife populations and species.
The effect of armed conflict on wildlife populations is debated. Joshua Daskin and Robert Pringle studied the effect of armed conflict on 253 populations of large herbivores in protected areas across Africa. They use data collected between 1946 and 2010, including many populations of iconic endangered species, such as elephant, hippopotamus, lesser kudu and others. More than 70% of African parks were affected by war during this time, and frequency of conflict was the single most important predictor of wildlife population trends; population growth rates fell with increased conflict frequency.
Ecological data from conflict zones is scarce, making it difficult to study the effects of warfare on wildlife robustly. This is the first study to analyse quantitatively how warfare affects wildlife over continental and multi-decade scales. Although population collapse did occur sometimes, it was infrequent, indicating that animal populations in war-torn areas can often recover.