Due primarily to the impact of man on the natural environment, whether directly or indirectly, many of the 4,500 species of mammal are in danger of extinction.
In 1600 (when reliable zoological records began), there were approximately 4,226 living species of mammals. By 1970, at least 36 (or 0.85%) of these had become extinct and at least 120 more species (or 2.84%) endangered. At the sub-species or geographical level, the situation is more serious; 64 sub-species have died out since 1600 and another 223 have been listed as rare or endangered. It is estimated that 83% of the threatened mammals are in their present state because of man's activities. Australia has one of the worst record in the world for loss of wildlife. One quarter of the 200 mammal species that existed in 1788 are now extinct, and almost as many are endangered.
In Africa, the eating of "bush meat" - wildlife taken for the dinner table - is commonplace. Animal rights activists counted some 15,000 animal carcasses in bush meat markets in Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo in one day in 1998. Some is finding its way into African restaurants in Europe, part of an illegal trade that includes antelopes, tortoises, porcupines, snakes and monkey meat.