A group of 43 scientists in a new study have highlighted that conservation of large mammals (megafauna) does not come at the cost of biodiversity conservation, but rather complements it, a statement said on Tuesday. A public declaration made last year by the same scientists had called for a global plan to prevent the world's large mammals from slipping into oblivion.
This led to debates among scientists on whether a focus on megafauna conservation would ignore other forms of biodiversity.
In the publication 'Conserving the World's Megafauna and Biodiversity: The Fierce Urgency of Now', William Ripple and his colleagues have allayed fears and highlighted how terrestrial megafauna (large-bodied carnivores and herbivores such as tigers, leopards, wolves, bears, elephants and gaur) remain the strongest candidates to serve as "umbrellas" for many species and ecosystems.
"Conserving megafauna requires us to safeguard large tracts of forests, grasslands and various other ecosystems that meet the vast habitat requirements of such species," said Wildlife Conservation Society's India scientist, Varun R. Goswami, a co-author of the paper published in BioScience journal.
"By conserving these megafauna, we also conserve birds, amphibians, reptiles, as well as a variety of ecosystem processes," he added.
Big charismatic animals attract larger political and public support, owing to their unique socio-economic cultural values and the strong emotional responses they evoke in many people, the statement said, adding tiger reserves in India represent an ideal example.
The establishment of tiger reserves, tiger conservation efforts and resources earmarked in India have helped safeguard many other species and habitats.
"Megafauna such as tigers and elephants are ideal ambassadors for the conservation of nature," said Goswami.
Megadiversity countries like India, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela also house an astonishing number of threatened megafauna. This reinforces the compatibility of conservation efforts focused on megafauna with those that target biodiversity as a whole, he said.