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Wildlife population in the Serengeti-Mara plain in Africa is being threatened by human activities, a recent study revealed.
A team led by scientists from the University of Groningen [GROH-ning-uh n] studied 40 years’ worth of data from the plain, which includes the Serengeti National Park and the Masai Mara National Reserve. The scientists found that some of the protected areas have experienced a 75% decline in the population of wild animals such as wildebeest /ˈwɪl dəˌbist/, zebra, and gazelle.
According to the team, the wildlife population decline can be attributed to the increased human activities in buffer zones or lands surrounding protected areas. Because the human population rose by 400% over the last decade in the buffer zones, many areas were converted into farms and communities. This left wild animals fewer places to graze in. Livestock entering the protected areas also competed with wild animals for food, reducing the amount and quality of food available.
In addition, human settlements along the borders restricted wild animals’ migration and movement to find food or mates. Natural fires that help improve the soil’s nutrient levels also occurred less frequently, affecting vegetation in the area and making the plain more vulnerable to drought and climate change.
The study proves that human activities should be considered as serious as other known threats like climate change and poaching, according to an ecologist from the University of York. With this, scientists are calling for changes in the preservation methods of protected areas. Their suggestions include extending conservation laws to buffer zones and regulating human activities such as raising livestock and establishing settlements.