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Updated 2:00 PM EDT, Wed, May 20, 2020

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Large Herbivores Face Extinction, Could Result to 'Empty Landscapes'

Ivory Trade

(Photo : EIA) The carcass of a poached elephant, found on the Ruaha National Park, Tanzania, in September 2014.

Large herbivores face the risk of extinction, a phenomenon that could create sad 'empty landscape' scenes across the world, a new study said.

The study published by the Science journal reports that about 60 percent of the world's large herbivores such as elephants, rhinos, and buffalos face threats of extinction at a faster rate than previously believed.

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William Ripple of Oregon State University first used the term "empty forest" in describing an event when fauna extinction largely alter and affect ecosystems.

In this study, however, mass extinction is predicted among herbivores inhabiting forest lands, grasslands, deserts, and savannahs.

Thus, the researchers coined the term 'empty landscapes' to describe this imminent threat better.

Professor Ripple expected that the main culprit was habitat loss.

"But surprisingly, the results show that the two main factors in herbivore declines are hunting by humans and habitat change. They are twin threats," Ripple said.

According to the study, 25 of the largest herbivores now inhabit only 19 percent of their original habitat ranges. These wild animals lost their habitat from livestock production, which globally expanded by three times since the 1980s.

Moreover, some animals have body parts widely used in medicine in some countries. This has become a huge driving force of hunting, among others.

"Horn sells for more by weight than gold, diamonds or cocaine," Professor Ripple said, referring to the famous rhino horn used in Chinese medicine.

Extinction among the large herbivores is predicted to cause a domino effect in many ecosystems: large carnivores will have lesser food sources and smaller animals will experience changes in their habitat.

In addition, seed dispersal will be less effective and slower, nutrient cycling will also be slower, and wildfires will be graver.

Professor Ripple stressed the importance of a 'concerted action' to prevent this horrid extinction and save animal populations that hold the world's ecosystems intact.

The study analyzed 74 species of large herbivores weighing an average of 220 pounds mostly found in Asia and Africa.

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