Ireland ranks among world’s worst for megafauna conservation, finds new Oxford study

Ireland ranks as one of the world’s most underperforming countries in wildlife conservation for megafauna species, a new Oxford University study reveals.

Ireland ranked among 28 major under-performing countries out of a total of 152 countries analysed in the ‘megafauna conservation index’ (MCI).

The study by Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and Panthera examined how much individual countries commit to protecting large mammals such as tigers, leopards, gorillas and elephants.

Panthera is the only organization in the world that is devoted exclusively to the conservation of the world’s 40 wild cat species and their ecosystems.

Researchers made their calculations based on the proportion of land that terrestrial species inhabit and the amount of that land that is a protected. The study also took into account the percentage of GDP that countries designate for wildlife conservation.

In general, European countries performed badly in the study, with Ireland ranking alongside the Netherlands and Luxembourg as one of Europe’s major underperformers.

At the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, developed nations promised to allocate $2 billion a year towards conservation in developing nations. However, current annual conservation contributions are estimated at just over $1 billion.

According to the project’s lead researcher, Dr Peter Lindsey, more urgent action is required to protect many endangered megafauna species.

“Scores of species across the globe, including tigers, lions and rhinos, are at risk of extinction due to a plethora of threats imposed by mankind,” he said. “We cannot ignore the possibility that we will lose many of these incredible species unless swift, decisive and collective action is taken by the global community.”

In total, 90 per cent of countries in North and Central America and 70 per cent of countries in Africa were classed as above-average in their mega-fauna conservation efforts.

The study found that biodiversity appears to be a higher priority in African nations, with Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe topping the list.

“According to our index, poorer countries tend to take a more active approach to biodiversity protection than richer nations,” said WildCRU’s David Macdonald. “Despite facing a number of domestic challenges, such as poverty and political instability in many parts of the continent, Africa was found to prioritise wildlife preservation.”

Mr McDonald said that all countries should strive to do more to protect their wildlife, adding that he hoped the study will act as a “call to action for nations to acknowledge their responsibility to wildlife”.

He said that under-performing countries such as Ireland can improve their ranking by setting aside more land for protected areas and investing in conservation at home or abroad.