Dec. 4 (UPI) -- New findings suggest the Sahara Desert, once rich in plant and animal diversity, is seeing a drastic collapse of its wildlife populations.
The study led by the Wildlife Conservation Society and Zoological Society of London found that 14 desert species were regionally extinct or inhabiting only one percent of their historical area.
The scientists were unable to ascertain the the reason for this, largely due to the lack of research conducted, but said that overhunting has played a role in the decline.
“The Sahara serves as an example of a wider historical neglect of deserts and the human communities who depend on them,” said the study’s lead author Sarah Durant of WCS and ZSL.
The study found that Bubal hartebeest was extinct and that the African wild dog and African lion have vanished from the Sahara. Species like the dama gazelle and addax have disappeared from 99 percent of their range. The leopard and the Saharan cheetah are gone from 97 and 90 percent of their inhabited areas respectively.
There were a few glimmers of hope. Many governments have made commitments to protecting the Sahara with Niger establishing a massive 37,451-square-mile reserve called Termit and Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve. This would help conserve 200 or so remaining wild addax and the few remaining populations of dama gazelle and Saharan cheetah.
[Wildlife Conservation Society]