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African birds of prey show signs of population collapse, researchers say

The Endangered Species Act at 50
The Endangered Species Act at 50 02:32

African raptors that hunt during the day face an extinction crisis, with populations decreasing among dozens of species of birds of prey, researchers said in a study published Thursday. 

Researchers used data from the last 40 years to analyze the populations of 42 of the country's 106 raptor species, they wrote in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. Nearly 90% of the studied species experienced population declines. 

"Africa is at a crossroads in terms of saving its magnificent birds of prey," Dr. Darcy Ogada, one of the study's authors, said in a press release. "In many areas we have watched these species nearly disappear."

Ogada, the Africa program director at The Peregrine Fund, warned that the secretarybird — one of the continent's most iconic raptors — is on the brink of extinction. 

Secretarybird portrait, Masai Mara National Park, Kenya, Africa
Secretarybird portrait, Masai Mara National Park, Kenya, Africa. Leonardo Mangia/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

"There's no single threat imperiling these birds, it's a combination of many human-caused ones," Ogada said. "In other words we are seeing deaths from a thousand cuts."

Several types of vultures, eagles, kestrels, buzzards and falcons are among those at risk.

Raptors in Africa have been hurt by the conversion of wooded habitats to agricultural land. 

"Since the 1970s, extensive areas of forest and savanna have been converted into farmland, while other pressures affecting African raptors have likewise intensified," study author and University of St Andrews professor Dr. Phil Shaw said in a press release. 

Shaw also pointed to the growth of the country's human population. Africa has the highest rate of population growth among major areas, with the population in sub-Saharan Africa projected to double by 2050, according to the United Nations.

It's not just Africa facing declining populations of birds. In a 2019 study, scientists said that the U.S. and Canada have lost 29% of their bird populations — amounting to nearly 3 billion birds. That same year, scientists warned that worldwide, 1 million species of plants and animals were at risk of extinction.

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