Conservation status, distribution and species richness of small carnivores in Africa
Do Linh San, E.
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We assessed the global conservation status of small carnivores in Africa based on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. African small carnivores represent about 34% of extant small carnivores worldwide. Familial diversity is intermediate, with four of the world’s nine families represented (Herpestidae: 47% of African species; Mustelidae: 20%; Nandiniidae: 2%; and Viverridae: 31%). Greatest species richness is recorded in equatorial Africa, although most sub-Saharan countries host at least 15 species (with a maximum of 26 in any one country). Of the 55 small carnivore species found in Africa, 51 (93%) are predominantly distributed in Africa and 48 (87%) are endemic. In terms of IUCN Red List conservation status, 43 species are Least Concern (LC), three are Near Threatened (NT), four are Vulnerable (VU) and five are Data Deficient (DD). No African small carnivore species is currently listed as Endangered (EN), Critically Endangered (CR), Extinct in the Wild (EW) or Extinct (EX). For data-sufficient small carnivore species (i.e. non-DD), 8% were considered threatened (all VU), primarily a result of population declines and small distribution ranges (encompassing only 2–6 countries). The exact percentage of threatened species is unknown, but is between 7% (if no DD species is threatened) and 16% (if all are). Population trends are adjudged unknown for 46% of the species, while 27% are thought stable and 27% are believed decreasing. Compared with mammals worldwide, the overall conservation status of small carnivores in Africa appears relatively favourable. However, declining populations of many species and existing (habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation; exploitation for meat) and new threats (rapid economic development expanding the wild meat market, possibly to Asia) hint that additional small carnivore species may become threatened unless effective conservation strategies are implemented. This is of prime importance considering that over a quarter of the world’s small carnivore species are endemic to Africa. Actions to remove or mitigate factors threatening Vulnerable and Near Threatened species constitute the short-term priority for small carnivore conservation in Africa.
- RESEARCH: Somers M