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Humans branded ‘wickedly efficient super-predators’

Man found to exploit animals far more than any other creature on the planet

Humans have been branded “wickedly efficient super-predators” that do not play according to nature’s rules.

A study found that humans exploit fish populations 14 times more aggressively than marine predators such as sharks and killer whales. On land, they hunt large carnivores such as bears, wolves and lions at nine times the rate at which these predatory animals kill each other in the wild, said scientists.

Crucially, humans broke nature’s rules by targeting reproductive adult prey and other carnivores.

Chris Darimont, from the University of Victoria in Canada, who led a study of 2,125 species of land and sea predators around the world, said: “Our wickedly efficient killing technology, global economic systems and resource management that prioritise short-term benefits to humanity have given rise to the human super-predator.”

Killing species in their reproductive prime had profound implications, including widespread extinction and the disruption of food webs and ecosystems, said the researchers.

Humans kill adult prey, the reproductive capital of populations, at much higher median rates than other predators, with particularly intense exploitation of terrestrial carnivores and fishes

Co-author Tom Reimchen, also from the University of Victoria, said: “Whereas predators primarily target the juveniles or ‘reproductive interest’ of populations, humans draw down the ‘reproductive capital’ by exploiting adult prey.”

The Unique Ecology of Human Predators project drew on data from more than 300 studies.

Writing in the journal Science, the team concluded: “Our global survey revealed that humans kill adult prey, the reproductive capital of populations, at much higher median rates than other predators, with particularly intense exploitation of terrestrial carnivores and fishes.

“Given this competitive dominance, impacts on predators, and other unique predatory behaviour, we suggest that humans function as an unsustainable ‘super-predator’, which – unless additionally constrained by managers – will continue to alter ecological and evolutionary processes globally.”

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