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Report lists top 20 most-vulnerable African carnivores

It may still be "king of the beasts," but the African lion's kingdom is dwindling, according to a new report released by the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) that says these emblematic big cats have disappeared from 82 percent of their historic distribution over the past several decades. The 200-page report looked at the conservation status of the 20 largest species of African carnivores and examined priorities to help ensure that they persist on the continent.

WCS scientists ranked all 20 species using a variety of external factors, from the state of current knowledge on the species, to the threats facing each of them. They also looked at which areas in Africa have retained their full complement of large carnivore species and which areas need more conservation action.

Populations of the lion, listed in the report as "most vulnerable" have dropped steadily in recent decades, primarily due to conflicts with humans, destruction of habitat, and the loss of prey, according to the report. Also making the most-vulnerable list are cheetahs and African wild dogs, which have vanished from 75 and 89 percent of their historical habitat respectively, and Ethiopian wolves which have vanished from an astonishing 98 percent of their range. Other species of concern included the leopard, spotted hyena, and golden cat, all of which suffer from the combined key threats of habitat loss and conflict with people over predation on domestic animals.

By contrast, a handful of species seem to thrive among humans, including the African civet and several species of jackals. While these species also prey on livestock and poultry, their adaptability to a variety of habitats makes them less vulnerable to long-term population declines. Little was known about the conservation status of other species such as the aardwolf and honey badger and the report calls for greater research effort on these little-known carnivores.

The authors of the repor
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1-Feb-2006


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