Protected areas (PAs) are the cornerstone of global conservation efforts but their performance in maintaining populations of their key species remains poorly documented. Here, we address this gap using a new database of 583 population abundance time series for 69 species of large mammals in 78 African PAs. Population abundance time series were aggregated to form a multi-species index of overall change in population abundance. The index reveals on average a 59% decline in population abundance between 1970 and 2005. Indices for different parts of Africa demonstrate large regional differences, with southern African PAs typically maintaining their populations and western African PAs suffering the most severe declines. These results indicate that African PAs have generally failed to mitigate human-induced threats to African large mammal populations, but they also show some successes. Further development of our index could help to measure future progress towards post-2010 targets for reducing biodiversity loss.
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