The World Wildlife Fund has published a new report with some startling facts about wildlife extinction. The “2014 Living Planet Report” is not pleasant reading for animal lovers and conservationists. Critics will state it is overly dramatic but it is indeed a harbinger of doom and it is summed up in a few words by the CEO of WWF, Carter Roberts who said “We're gradually destroying our planet's ability to support our way of life” in his statement accompanying the release of the report. It’s a lengthy report but here are some of the new facts about wildlife extinction it brings to our attention.
The most sobering conclusion is that we have reduced the vertebrate population of the world by 52% in just 40 years. That is astounding. The vertebrate population includes mammals, reptiles, fish, birds and amphibians. And what makes this one of the most amazing facts about wildlife extinction is that in the same period of 1970 to 2010, the human population of the planet grew from 3.76 billion to 6.85 billion. So while we were killing off half the animal population, we were practically doubling the number of humans.
The report is based on the analysis of an index of 45,000 known vertebrates, created from 3,038 species in 10,380 animal populations. The primary cause of wildlife population decline is loss of and change of natural habitats. This accounts for 45%. The next cause, accounting for 37% loss/decline is hunting and fishing.
3 South America
It won’t come as any surprise to us that the region which has seen the most wildlife decline is South America. We are all aware of the plight of the rainforests, but the report confirms the disaster. In the neotropics (which includes most of South America, Central America , the Caribbean, Southern Mexican and Southern Florida), there has been an 83% decline in vertebrate species in the 40 years of the study period.
4 Land Animals
There is some good news on this front. Animals that live in protected areas – such as conservation areas and protected parks – suffered an 18% decline. Whilst 18% is still huge, it is half that of the 39% decline in the global population of land animals overall. The good news aspect is that conservation programs are being shown to be effective. This is illustrated by the tiger. Although tigers are severely depleted in numbers, since 2009 the population has increased 63% in protected areas in Nepal. The other side of the coin is the Rhino. More than 1,000 were poached in South Africa in 2013, compared to just 13 in 2007.
5 Marine and Water Life
Despite the horrific figures I just quoted for land animals, the state of water-based wildlife is even worse. Freshwater habitats are the worst affected by loss, change and decline and has resulted in a loss of 76% of their vertebrates. Marine animals have suffered less but it’s still a 39% decline in vertebrate population in the past 40 years.
If you’re not sure how GDP and the wealth of a nation impacts wildlife, the WWF revealed some interesting facts about wildlife extinction on this matter. The richer countries on earth have not experienced any overall loss of vertebrate population; in fact, there has been an increase of 10%. Middle income countries have seen an 18% decline. This of course points to the lower income countries suffering the most: they have seen a 58% decrease since 1970.
7 Righting the Wrong
The report points out the way we are squandering the world’s natural capital. At the current rate of decline, future generations are going to inherit little but a whole load of problems. According to the WWF, it would take the equivalent of 1.5 of our current earth to regenerate the natural resources the human race is consuming every year.
Ecosystems are vital not just to the world’s wildlife but man’s very survival. The WWF report shows the situation is critical. Let’s hope it gives more impetus for reparation to be made and issues to be addressed. Where do you stand on this? Do you think it’s something we should concern ourselves with, or is it a problem for future generations to deal with?
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