A huge threat to elephants and monkeys. New research leaves no doubt

A huge threat to elephants and monkeys.  New research leaves no doubt

Climate change affects not only humans, but also the environment and animals. The latest research shows that the extreme phenomena they cause will pose a particular threat to elephants and apes.

African great apes may face difficulties over the next three decades due to an increase in extreme climate events. Despite efforts to mitigate climate change, these monkeys will become increasingly vulnerable to challenges such as wildfires, heatwaves and floods, according to an analysis by Razak Kiribou and his team from Haramaya University in Ethiopia, published in the open-access journal PLOS Climate.

Animals seriously threatened by climate change

By analyzing climate data from 363 sites in Africa between 1981 and 2010, the team predicted the frequency of extreme events that could impact African apes. Despite efforts to mitigate climate change, it is estimated that gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos will face an increase in not only heat but also wildfires and floods over the next 30 years. Extreme phenomena will increase and animals will have to cope with them.

Climate projections indicate that 61 percent of primate habitats in Africa will likely be exposed to a temperature increase of more than 3 degrees Celsius by 2050. In addition, it should not be forgotten that the range of African monkeys will decline by up to 85 percent due to climate impacts, land use and population change. African great apes are a flagship species and very important to other animal and plant species in the same geographical areas.

The study found that almost half of habitats experienced above-average temperatures between 2007 and 2016, with eastern chimpanzees, a subspecies of the common chimpanzee, native to the Central African Republic, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. in the face of the most extreme heat.

Where warming is limited to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a significant proportion of animals – as many as 84 percent – are expected to face frequent heatwaves and occasional floods – 78 percent – over the next three decades. However, if global temperatures rise by 3 degrees, the number of places affected and the frequency of extreme events are expected to become even greater.

Elephants are also exposed to extreme events

Meanwhile, a similar study on elephants predicts that older elephants will bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change, threatening the long-term survival of an already vulnerable species. These East African giants face a bleak future due to habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict, and these problems will be exacerbated by climate change.

A new study by Simon Nampindo of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Timothy Randhir of the University of Massachusetts, published in the open-access journal PLOS Sustainability and Transformation, shows that older elephants are more vulnerable to threats, especially in the 41-50 age groups, and also 51 and over. We are talking about susceptibility to diseases and other consequences caused by, for example, drought.

African elephant populations have declined dramatically over the last century, and fragmented populations now exist in certain locations. The Great Elephant Census conducted across 18 African states in 2016 showed a significant 30 percent decline, with Tanzania suffering the largest losses on the continent. The classification of the African elephant as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List highlights the various environmental stressors contributing to its decline.

African elephants play a key ecological role, shaping the habitats of other species by cutting down trees, dispersing seeds and fertilizing the soil with their excrement. However, African elephant population declines persist due to habitat loss and human conflict, challenges that are expected to worsen with climate change. Scientists used historical data on climate, vegetation and elephant populations from 1960 to 2010 to model habitat changes and changes in water resources for elephants in the Greater Virunga landscape spanning Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

By simulating the effects of different climate scenarios and conservation policies on the survival and reproduction of elephants in different age groups, the study found that changes in temperature and rainfall caused by climate change have the potential to wipe out elephants aged 41-50 and over 50 years. Older elephants play a key role in the survival of elephant herds, passing on invaluable knowledge to younger generations.

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