Conservation status of the world’s carnivorous mammals (order Carnivora)

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The conservation of carnivores (order Carnivora) can lead to the conservation of other species as well as entire ecosystems since they play an important ecosystemic role. However, their predatory behaviour has caused many of these species to experience marked population declines worldwide and they may therefore face greater anthropogenic threats than other animal groups. To examine the conservation status, population trends, distribution patterns, habitats and threats of all extant species belonging to this order (N=290), we collected data from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List. In addition, we calculated the Red List Index (RLI) to measure the change in extinction risk of species over time. Carnivores are more threatened than mammals in general (26.9% of endangered species vs. 22.7%) and have a signifcantly higher proportion of species with declining populations (48.3% vs. 31.9%). Eupleridae, Ursidae and Felidae families have the worst conservation status. Between the 1990s and 2000s, most families sufered a considerable decline in their RLI value, the most notable being Felidae. The greatest numbers of threatened carnivore species are found in forest, shrubland and grassland habitats. East and South Asia hold great numbers of carnivore species as well as the highest proportion of threatened and declining species. Hunting and trapping of terrestrial animals, along with habitat loss (caused by deforestation and agricultural expansion), pose the main threats to the Carnivora order. Our fndings indicate that, within mammals, the conservation of carnivores should be a priority, and conservation measures directed at this group should be undertaken or increased as a matter of urgency.
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