Issue 7
Monday, 22 May 2017
Charles Darwin University
Professor Stephen Garnett, part of an international team investigating wildlife conservation
Professor Stephen Garnett, part of an international team investigating wildlife conservation

Worldwide research gauges conservation efforts

By Leanne Miles

An international team of researchers has found that many affluent nations contribute less to wildlife conservation compared with some countries with far smaller economies.

Charles Darwin University’s Professor Stephen Garnett, from the Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, and the Northern Institute’s Dr Kerstin Zander contributed to the research that compared countries’ contributions to conservation. The results were summarised in the latest Economist magazine.

Partnered with Panthera, an organisation dedicated to protecting wild cats, and led by Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, the team assessed how much, or little, individual countries contributed to protecting the world’s wildlife, particularly the largest mammals.

“By comparison to the more affluent, developed world, biodiversity has been given far higher priority in many poor African nations, which contribute more to conservation than any other region,” Professor Garnett said.

The team created a Megafauna Conservation Index (MCI) for 152 countries to evaluate their conservation footprints; megafauna were chosen because of the extent of threats they faced and their social and economic significance.

“The findings revealed that many poorer countries tended to take a more active approach to biodiversity protection than richer nations,” he said. “Ninety per cent of countries in North and Central America and 70 per cent of countries in Africa were classified as major or above-average in their megafauna conservation efforts.”

He said that despite facing a number of domestic challenges, such as poverty and political instability in many parts of the continent, the African region contributed more to conservation than any other region in the world.

“Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe topped the list, with African countries making up four of the five top-performing megafauna conservation nations,” Professor Garnett said.

“The United States ranked 19th out of the 20 top performing countries and approximately one-quarter of countries in Asia and Europe were identified as significantly underperforming in their commitment to megafauna conservation.”

Australia came in at 134, partly because only large kangaroos count as megafauna, but also because it contributes relatively little beyond its borders given its relative wealth.

The conservation index is intended as a call to action for the world to acknowledge its responsibility to wildlife protection by highlighting the disparity between nations’ contributions to conservation.

Countries could improve their MCI scores by reintroducing megafauna and/or by allowing the distribution of such species to increase, by setting aside more land as strictly protected areas, and investing more in conservation, either at home or abroad.

The research titled “Relative efforts of countries to conserve global megafauna” was published recently in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation.