One of the study's authors said areas with the most frequent battles lose about a third of their mammal populations each year there's fighting.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new study finds that wartime is the biggest threat to Africa’s elephants, rhinos, hippos and other large animals.

The researchers analyzed how decades of conflict in Africa have affected populations of large animals since 1946. More than 70 percent of Africa’s protected wildlife areas fell inside a war zone at some point. Yale University ecologist Josh Daskin said the more often fighting breaks out, the steeper the drop in animal numbers.

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Daskin said areas with the most frequent battles lose about a third of their mammal populations each year there’s fighting.

Researchers said the animals were killed more often by poachers or for more bush meat because people near war zones are poorer and hungrier.

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The study is in Wednesday’s journal Nature.

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