Close to 60 percent of the world's vegetarian animals – among them elephants, hippos, gorillas, and rhinos – are threatened with extinction, according to a team of scientists.
The group, led by Oregon State University professor William Ripple, said the situation is so dire that it could result in an "empty landscape" in some ecosystems, The Washington Post reported
"Growing human populations, unsustainable hunting, high densities of livestock, and habitat loss have devastating consequences for large, long-lived, slow-breeding, and, therefore, vulnerable herbivore species," according to an article about their findings, which appears in Science Advances
, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The group studied 74 large herbivore species, most of them in China, Southeast Asia, Africa, and India. They said that all of the endangered species were found to be in developing countries – the lone exception being the European bison.
Ripple attributed the losses as being driven mostly by habitat change and hunting by humans.
According to the Science Advances article, the solution to the problem involves having "the world's wealthier populations" provide "the necessary resources" to preserve the world's large herbivores.
"A sense of justice and development" is needed in order to "ensure that local populations can benefit fairly from large herbivore protection and therefore have a vested interest in it," the report said.
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