World's largest mammals are declining at rapid pace and preventing their extinction will require bold steps and financial commitments from countries across the globe, experts have expressed concern.
In an article published in the journal BioScience, 43 wildlife experts said that without speedy changes, many of the Earth's most iconic species such as rhinoceroses, gorillas, elephants, lions, tigers, wolves, bears and other large mammals will be lost.
"The loss of these magnificent animals would be a tremendous tragedy," said Blaire Van Valkenburgh, Professor at University of California, Los Angeles in the US, who is one of the co-authors.
"They are all that is left of a once much more diverse megafauna that populated the planet only 12,000 years ago. And more importantly, we have only just begun to understand the important roles they play in maintaining healthy ecosystems," she noted.
Amongst most serious threats to endangered species are deforestation, habitat loss, illegal hunting, expansion of livestock and agriculture into wildlife areas, and human population growth, the experts said.
The paper further said that 59 percent of the largest carnivores and 60 percent of the largest herbivores have been classified as threatened with extinction.
Condition is especially severe in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, where the greatest diversity of extant megafauna live.