Armed conflicts a threat to wildlife: study

Population decline is seen, particularly for species recognised by IUCN as being at risk of extinction

Published - June 04, 2021 04:07 pm IST - Bengaluru

War and armed civil strife, apart from being a cause of widespread human suffering, also pose a significant but under-recognised threat to thousands of mammal and bird species, according to a new study published in the journal, Conservation Letters.

The study was conducted by researchers from Wildlife Conservation Society-India (WCS-India), Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), and Panthrea, by analysing maps of regions of armed conflicts, species geographical range maps, and information on conservation threats to terrestrial mammal and bird species across the world.

According to a release, the authors overlaid species range maps and conflict maps to find out the number of mammal and bird species having geographic overlap with conflict over the 30-year period from 1989 to 2018. They found that the geographical ranges of at least 4,291 mammal and 9,056 bird species overlap with regions that experienced armed conflicts during this period. “About one-fifth of these species showed widespread overlap with conflict, meaning that conflicts extended over at least half of their geographic ranges. For around 225 mammal and 390 bird species, conflicts were not just widespread, but also persisted over 15 years or more,” the release explained.

Next, the authors extracted information on species population trends and conservation threats from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and examined relationships between population trends, conservation threats, and species geographical overlap with armed conflicts. “They found that overlap with conflict was closely associated with population declines, particularly for species recognised by the IUCN as being at risk of extinction. They also found that species overlapping with armed conflicts were more likely to face threats from hunting, deforestation, and various forms of habitat degradation,” it added.

Uttara Mendiratta, lead author and Head of Counter-wildlife Trafficking at WCS-India, said: “In agreement with our findings, the IUCN independently just published a report referring to armed conflicts as an under-recognised threat to biodiversity. So hopefully a re-examination of species conservation assessments with closer attention to threats from conflict would follow. While gunfire and landmines are perhaps the most visible direct threats to wildlife, the more insidious threats arising from the displacement of human populations and disruption of socio-economic institutions in conflict regions, should not be ignored.”

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