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Why Are There More Large Animals in Africa than Anywhere Else?

Originally published under Ask Mr. History. Published Online: November 19, 2013 
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Greetings, Mr. History,

Considering the theory that man killed off most of the big game as he migrated out of Africa across the globe, I often wondered why Africa has so many large animals, (predators & prey) and other continents don't.  This to me is especially interesting since man originated in Africa, therefore has spent more time there than any other place on earth.  Can you help me understand why there are more large animals still in Africa than any other continent? 

William Watson

? ? ?

Dear Mr. Watson,

The most direct answer regarding the survival of large animals in Africa is that its vast forested areas gave them ample areas to hide from man (until recent centuries). When you refer to large animals in Africa, however, you're excluding the marine ones, which can grow even bigger (but which are lately even more vulnerable to extinction at human hands). There are also exceptions on other continents, such as the world's largest predatory cat, the Siberian tiger (also endangered as its forest habitat shrinks and humans hunt it to extinction), the Asiatic elephant, the South American jaguar, the American puma and the American bison.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
Weider History Group
More Questions at Ask Mr. History


2 Responses to “Why Are There More Large Animals in Africa than Anywhere Else?”

  1. 1
    James says:

    Fine then let's ask the question about larges selection of different large land mammals and especially those threatening to people. Almost without question civilizations have wiped out or nearly wiped out dangerous animals when they were able: Rome and wolves, america and wolves, american continental grizzlies, tigers globally have been hugely hurt. But africa keeps hyenas, hippos, wildebeast, lions etc. and do the forests explain the grassland populations? You did a good job of changing the subject, but what about Africa? Is it a population to sq mile equasion? Is it technology? Religion? Why Africa and almost nowhere else?

  2. 2
    Mike says:

    One theory is that the large animals in Africa evolved in conjunction with humans and their evolutionary ancestors, and the large animals that survived have evolved with the instincts necessary to evade human predators. In contrast, large animals on other continents did not, and were therefore more susceptible to extinction from human hunters.

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