Homeless on the range

Of all the land on Earth, less than 21 percent still hosts the same amount of large mammals that it did 500 years ago. Scientists from Princeton University and the World Wildlife Fund compared range maps from 1500 to those same areas today. Australasia held the most, with 68 percent. Indonesia was the most troublesome, with only 1 percent of the large mammals it once had.

The species with the greatest loss of habitat due to settlement and agriculture include American bison, elk, horses, wolves, tigers, leopards and lions.

The December 2007 issue of the Journal of Mammology reported, “Although the presence of large mammals offers no guarantee of the presence of all smaller animals, their absence represents an ecologically based measurement of human impacts on biodiversity. Given the ecological importance of large mammals and their vulnerability to extinction, better protection and extension of sites containing complete assemblages of large mammals is urgently needed.”