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Top predator loss causes major disruption

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Hondo (L), a wolf at the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center give Pat Craig (R) a good morning greeting at the center in Keenesburg, Colorado August 20, 2006. Pat Craig, Director of the wildlife sanctuary is looking for a miracle to continue providing a safe habitat for rescued wildlife. The wildlife sanctuary will have to close its doors to the public due to lack of funds and attempt to find new homes for all the wildlife starting September 1, 2006. New homes for the animals must be found. (UPI Photo/Gary C. Caskey) | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/5f3a3886a7d8462ada2689e3a78bb0a0/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Hondo (L), a wolf at the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center give Pat Craig (R) a good morning greeting at the center in Keenesburg, Colorado August 20, 2006. Pat Craig, Director of the wildlife sanctuary is looking for a miracle to continue providing a safe habitat for rescued wildlife. The wildlife sanctuary will have to close its doors to the public due to lack of funds and attempt to find new homes for all the wildlife starting September 1, 2006. New homes for the animals must be found. (UPI Photo/Gary C. Caskey) | License Photo

CORVALLIS, Ore., Oct. 2 (UPI) -- The global decline of apex predators, such as wolves, lions and sharks, has led to a destructive surge in smaller mesopredators, scientists in Oregon said.

The mesopredators are causing major economic and ecological disruption in oceans, forests, rivers and grasslands worldwide, scientists at Oregonian State University said in a release.

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For example, lion and leopard populations decimated by humans spawned an increase in baboons, which terrorize people and raid valuable farm crops in Sub-Saharan Africa, William Ripple, a university professor of forest ecosystems said.

The decline of sharks from overfishing has led to an explosion in the populations of rays, which in turn causes the collapse of other fish populations, Ripple said. The elimination of wolves often leads to a surge in the number of coyotes that attack pronghorn antelope and domestic sheep, he said.

"These problems resist simple solutions," Ripple said. "We are just barely beginning to appreciate the impact of losing our top predators."

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