A team of researchers from the University of Queensland, WCS, and other organizations, conducting a first-of-its-kind analysis, found that Indigenous Peoples’ lands are critical to the survival of thousands of species of Threatened and Endangered wildlife.

Publishing their results in the journal, Conservation Biology, the team overlaid maps of Indigenous Peoples’ lands and habitat data for 4,460 mammal species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature to estimate the overlap of each species’ within these lands.

They found that 2,175 mammal species – around 49 per cent of the total species accurately mapped – have 10 per cent or more of their ranges in Indigenous Peoples’ lands. Of those, some 646 species – around 14 per cent of the total species tracked – have more than half of their ranges within these lands.

Until this study, information on species composition within Indigenous Peoples’ lands on a global scale remained largely unknown. Although the maps of Indigenous Peoples’ lands are still incomplete, the data used are the best available. It is clear that the maps used in this study reflect only a subset of Indigenous Peoples’ lands on a global scale, which further reinforces how critical the protection of those lands and the recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples are to the conservation of biodiversity on a global scale.

The study underscores that Indigenous Peoples and their lands are crucial for the long‐term persistence of Earth's biodiversity and ecosystem services. Indigenous Peoples’ lands cover over one-quarter of the Earth’s surface, a significant proportion of which is still free from industrial-level human impacts.

Said the study’s senior author, James Watson of WCS and University of Queensland: “These results show just how important indigenous lands are for conservation of mammals. As the biodiversity crisis accelerates, we must recognize that an essential ingredient to stopping the loss is greater recognition and support for Indigenous People’s rights to and relationships with their land.”

The authors say that Indigenous Peoples and their lands are crucial to the successful implementation of international conservation and sustainable development agendas, including the United Nations General Assembly and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Across the planet, WCS works with Indigenous Peoples and local communities to achieve a shared vision for a more secure and resilient future, where wildlife remains a visible, thriving, and culturally valued part of the wild places where our partners live and we work.