A team of local scientists have wound back the clock by 1000 years to reconstruct wildlife populations across Africa to help us better understand how they have shaped the world we live in.
This is important, because to understand the ecology of Africa, and much of the rest of the globe, you have to include animals - and now we have the means to do so, says lead researcher Dr Gareth Hempson, postdoctoral researcher at School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences at Wits University.
Hempson, together with Professor Sally Archibald (Wits University) and Professor William Bond (University of Cape Town), has published a paper in Science, an international journal, titled: A continent-wide assessment of the form and intensity of large mammal herbivory in Africa.
"Animals matter and ecologists across the world are starting to realise that many ecosystems cannot be understood without including animals and their impact into their thinking," says Hempson.
"The problem is that in most places, natural wildlife populations are extinct. The challenge that we took up was to try and bring them back."