Animals die from human wars

An elephant grazes at sunset in Gorongosa National Park
An elephant grazes in Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park. In 1992, after decades of conflict, animal populations in the park were at 90% of pre-war levels. Photo: Robert Pringle / Princeton University

Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park was once one of the wildest places in Africa, supporting more life per mile than almost anywhere else on the continent. But by 1992, after decades of civil war, the park’s animal populations plummeted by almost 90%. It’s a trend that, according to a paper published today in Nature, is true across many protected areas in Africa: even low levels conflict could cause populations to plummet.

Why it matters: In many places in Africa, protected areas are the last strongholds for biodiversity. 71% of them have experienced at least one year of conflict, and a quarter have experienced at least 9 years. “Wildlife is declining where conflict is common, but the potential for restoration exists,” study author Joshua Daskin, an ecologist at Yale University, tells Axios. But such work is costly and labor intensive.