Animal Victims: It’s Not Just Humans Who Die In Wars

War is by nature a deadly affair, yet when all is said and done, we tend to only take stock of the human casualties. The loss of human life is plenty devastating on its own, but make no mistake: in times of war, animals get caught up in the carnage, too.

It probably goes without saying that when bullets are flying and bombs are exploding that animal bystanders are inevitably going to be killed, as well. However, succumbing to weapons by being in the wrong place at the wrong time is not the only way that animals suffer.

Beyond that, more locals turn to poaching during times of war to sell ivory and carcasses as their only source of income in a collapsed economy. Others simply kill the animals so that they have something to eat since food in a warzone is otherwise scarce. Plus, due to the inherent danger, animal charities and governments have to back off their conservation efforts, leaving the animals vulnerable to threats that could be more adequately addressed in times of peace.

These are the conclusions of Joshua Daskin and Robert Pringle, scholars from Princeton University. Curious about the cost of war on animals incidentally caught up in battles, the pair studied animal populations in nature preserves throughout the continent of Africa between 1946 and 2010. Their study is the first to demonstrate how war has a negative effect on animal populations.

The Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique is the most startling example of animal casualties during wartime. From the mid ‘60s to the mid ‘70s, Mozambique was in upheaval, first in search of independence, and then in a bloody civil war. During that time, 90 percent of the area’s large herbivores (we’re talking hippos, zebras, elephants, antelope, etc.) perished.

Though it’s the most extreme example, it’s hardly an isolated one. Since 1946, 70 percent of Africa’s protected nature reserves have been turned into battlegrounds, typically knocking down animal populations along with them.

Thankfully, the research comes with some optimistic news: damage inflicted on animal populations during times of war is reversible. Although it’s not as simple as ending the war and the animals returning, with some deliberate conservation efforts, communities can create the conditions necessary to revive the numbers over time.

Even the aforementioned Gorongosa National Park, despite the massive losses, is back up to having about 80 percent of the animal population it did about 40 years ago. That success did require intervention, however.

The Princeton team hopes that their research is utilized by conservation organizations to better allocate funds. With the knowledge that animals in war-torn regions are most vulnerable and that post-war regions could use the most assistance, animal charities could maximize their efforts accordingly.

Although this study focused on Africa, be aware that this problem is not limited to one continent. For example, there were 750,000 animal casualties during World War II. More currently, animals are abandoned as humans flee for their lives, as summarized in “In Times of Conflict, We Often Forget Animals Trapped with Nowhere to Go.” Finally, if that last story leaves you sad, you’re entitled to a related pick-me-up: “9 Animals Rescued from Zoo in Aleppo.”

Photo Credit: Mario Micklisch


bob P
bob P4 months ago

With the current administration I do not find much hope for animals here or world wide

Ant m
Ant m4 months ago

tks ...

KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago


KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

I agree with Nick C and Pat P comments. The human race is an utter disgrace :(

Danii P
Danii P5 months ago

Thank you

Erika M
Erika M5 months ago


Leanne K
Leanne K5 months ago

Those statistics are horrifying! 90% loss at Gorongola Nature Reserve, good grief

Ramesh B
Ramesh B5 months ago

Noted &Signed

Nick Cilliers
Nick Cilliers5 months ago

We humans are probably the most cruel and vicious, sadistic creatures on this planet. All this is, is a way of generating money for the so-called leaders of the various nations. They are hell-bent on destroying everything in their quest for money and power. There is a saying ' The love of money is the root of all evil'. How much more evil can we get??

Pat P
Pat P5 months ago

Animals suffer immensely because of the apathy and cruelty of humans. It is scary. They physically and emotionally suffer as any human would. I don't understand how our species can be so cruel--and then, in turn, do very little to punish those who harm innocent creatures. Our animal welfare laws are abysmal.--especially, with the torture of farm animals. The sadism involved in the mistreatment of them is horrifying.

Any major natural or human-caused disaster (including economic ones) involves the suffering of an abundance of helpless animals, both domestic and wildlife--often forgotten. Unfortunately, corruption abounds, and our country's leaders seem to want to be involved in perpetual war--either by selling other countries the latest weapons or starting our own illegal conflict. Although insane and self-destructive, wars make money while satisfying huge egos.

Although I, continuously, sign a huge amount of petitions (only scanned) for the protection of animals, their safety, the punishment of cruel animal abusers--it seems so little help. There is so much wealth that could provide animal support, but selfishness is significant. Many humans do care, but not enough to combat those who don't.