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Key Threats to Large Carnivores

Large carnivores play a key role in regulating ecosystems, and can be a valuable asset for the areas in which they are found by attracting tourism revenue and conservation efforts, which can also help protect other species that live alongside them. The loss of large carnivores can therefore have profound consequences for wider ecosystems.

The large home ranges and substantial food requirements of large carnivores mean they are particularly vulnerable to habitat loss and fragmentation, as they roam widely across ranges that can extend beyond the borders of protected areas into areas occupied by humans. Inside these fragmented landscapes, carnivores are exposed to high levels of mortality, often as a result of accidental or intentional killing by humans.

Habitat loss

Leopard snared

Leopard killed in bushmeat snare

Human impacts also threaten large carnivores indirectly: 25% of the world’s large carnivore prey species are classified as threatened on the IUCN Red List, primarily as a result of habitat conversion to agriculture, deforestation, and hunting.

Reduced prey populations can in turn increase livestock predation by large carnivores, further exacerbating levels of conflict.

Habitat conversion

human wildlife conflict

Increased human wildlife conflict

Faced by these pressures, many of the world’s large carnivores are at risk of being lost from large parts of their historical habitat. Over three quarters of the world’s 31 large carnivore species are known to be in decline, with 17 species occupying less than half of their historical range. Intact large carnivore guilds, which once occupied 96% of the world’s terrestrial area, now cover just 34% of the world’s land.

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