Book Review: Overkill by James Clarke.

Ninety percent of the world’s megafauna (its larger creatures) have disappeared since humans migrated from Africa and fanned out across the rest of the world. Within a very short time the megafauna – mammoths, mastodons, woolly rhinoceros and the huge carnivores that preyed upon them were extinct. Only Africa seems to have escaped: not unscathed, but not entirely vanquished either.

This book describes the history and extent of human impact on the world’s wildlife,good and bad, and examines, in particular, the status of wildlife in Africa – the world’s last great megafaunal sanctuary. The book also questions whether Africa’s wildlife has reached its lowest ebb, and whether it is about to witness the turn of the tide.

The author sounds a note of cautious optimism: conservation initiatives have gained a new urgency in the 21st century, and governments in Africa and elsewhere are showing increasing resolve to tackle poaching. Vast transfrontier parks, many still in development, have the potential to provide a sustainable habitat for the continent’s megafauna.

If we can muster both local and international support, name and shame the rogue nations, and build a practical conservation model that does not conflict with human needs, then Africa’s wildlife can perhaps be saved.

James Clarke trained as a journalist in Britain and came to South Africa as a daily newspaperman, where he made a career as a science writer. His interest in environmental affairs, both urban and rural, dates back 50 years. He was one of the three founders of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, and has written a range of books on natural science as well as several books of humour. In 2015 he published Save me from the Lion’s Mouth an investigation into human-wildlife conflict in Africa (Struik Nature).

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