As absurd as it may sound, 10,000 years ago, there were animals in Europe that were at least the size of elephants. A team of conservationists now wants to reintroduce megafauna to our continent. This can save the damaged ecosystem. But how realistic is this plan?
Herbivores, such as elephants and rhinos, are herbivores that weigh more than a ton. For them, human domination of the world was an absolute disaster. In the last 10,000 to 60,000 years humans have wiped out more than 80% of all these majestic animals. The last mammoths lived somewhere around Wrangel Island on the Siberian coast about 3,700 years ago, before they also disappeared there.
The loss of carnivores was a disaster for the world’s vegetation. The consequences are still evident through the emergence of new species of plants in different ecosystems. By feeding on trees, shrubs, grasses, and grasses, these giants maintain healthy and diverse landscapes, with a natural balance between forests and grasslands. Huge carnivores also cut down trees, allowing ecosystems such as savannas to expand. They are also essential for spreading plant seeds across the landscape and recycling nutrients in the soil. This is all in danger of falling.
What do scientists suggest?
A team of scientists proposes an interesting exercise to restore degraded ecosystems from the damage caused by the absence of these animals. They want to reproduce the huge herbivores in Europe. African organizations, such as Space for Giants, and many of the nature parks themselves suggested this solution years ago. The problem, however, is that we don’t fully know the impact of these giants on our local wildlife, some of which are even endangered species.
In a study published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, researchers set out to formulate an answer to potential problems. In a savannah region of Kenya, researchers separated elephants and giraffes from other animals over a 12-year period using an electric fence. During those 12 years, the droppings of young animals in the separate area were counted at regular intervals. This allowed scientists to decipher whether the animals preferred to live in an area with or without elephants.
What does it look like? Only the numbers of zebras have decreased. This means that most small animals prefer to live in an area where there are no mega-eaters. Thus, the reintroduction of megafauna into Europe should reduce the numbers of other, smaller animals. However, scientists believe that the benefits of giants will outweigh the disadvantages.
Asian elephants in Denmark
Experimental projects have already been proposed in Europe to monitor the impact of megafauna on our ecosystems. In Denmark, a team of researchers has proposed introducing Asian elephants to an area near Copenhagen. In fact, these elephants are the closest living relatives of the mammoth. Researchers believe that there are at least 100 Asian elephants in captivity in the United States that may be suitable for relocation to Denmark.
In Australia, scientists want to introduce elephants and rhinos into the wild to prevent bushfires. These huge herbivores can consume about 270 kilograms of plants every day. Researchers believe that eating dry topsoil for plants will reduce the number of fires that break out. There used to be a huge animal in Australia that took care of this task: the giant wombat weighing 1.5 tons. The marsupial became extinct about 44,000 years ago.
These experiments, if they ever occur, will give us critical insight into the impact of megafauna on our ecosystems. It is necessary to avoid further damage to nature’s systems before we bring back those massive monsters. However, many scientists believe that this path should not be skipped if we want to save our nature. Perhaps one day we will be able to see elephants grazing in the Flemish swamps.
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