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National parks not always refuges for Kenyan wildlife

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NEWSCOM

(Read caption) African elephants such as these at Amboseli National Park, Kenya, tend to change the ecosystems of the parks in which they reside.

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Most of us tend to think of national parks as places that provide abundant protection for wildlife. But that's not necessarily so.

A recent study says that populations of elephants, giraffes, and other wildlife inside Kenyan national parks have declined at the same rate as animals living outside the parks – 40 percent from 1977 to 1997, with the steepest losses in the 1990s.

The problem isn't confined to Kenya. And it's not necessarily new. Some 2007 studies published in the African Journal of Ecology concluded: "For years, biologists in Africa have known that large mammals – including antelopes and their predators – were disappearing outside reserves. ... we have moved beyond this. We are losing species from national parks, bastion of biodiversity conservation. Worryingly, this includes the continent’s crown jewels such as Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park," reported Science Daily.

"What we're now beginning to understand is that the pressures around the parks are also affecting the wildlife in the parks," says David Western, an adjunct professor of biology at the University of California San Diego, who headed the newly released study, which was published in the July 8 issue of the journal PLoS One. He's a former director of the Kenyan Wildlife Service, which commissioned the study.

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