Published: Thu, November 01, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

WWF says global wildlife populations declined 60 per cent, demands action

WWF says global wildlife populations declined 60 per cent, demands action

In its Living Planet Report, which the animal charity publishes every two years, the WWF said that three-quarters of the world had now been impacted by humans with safe havens for animal populations dwindling.

This year's report cited population increases of pandas, dolphins, and gorillas as positive signs of environmental work in action, and credited legal frameworks like the US Endangered Species Act with helping listed species avoid extinction.

The species monitored were vertebrate species, or animals with a backbone, with database containing information on over 22,000 population of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians.

The Living Planet Report has been tracking 16,704 populations of 4,005 vertebrate species since 1970.

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"In a nutshell, it's our own human activity that is leading to these declines", said James Snider, vice-president of science, research and innovation at WWF.

According to the report, climate change's role in the losses has been only moderate so far; ecosystem destruction has had a more profound impact. Species highlighted include African elephants, which declined in number in Tanzania by 60 percent in just five years between 2009 and 2014, mainly due to ivory poaching.

The 14th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will be held in Egypt in November and will be, according to WWF, a "key" moment to lay the foundations of a global agreement for nature, "as was done for the climate in Paris in 2015", the report said.

As well, a Living Planet Freshwater Index showed an 83 per cent decline in freshwater species since 1970. Ecological Footprint accounting calculates human demand on nature by quantifying how much biologically productive area is required by a country to meet demand for food, fibre, timber, roads and buildings, and sequestration of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning. This reduction was especially marked in the tropics, with South and Central America suffering the most dramatic decline - an 89% loss since 1970.

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We are in the midst of a scary phenomenon right now being called "the Great Acceleration".

The world's seabirds have also been significantly affected by humans, with 90 percent estimated to have plastic in their stomachs today, up from 5 percent in 1960, the report said.

Barrett said: "We need a new global deal for nature and people and we have this narrow window of less than two years to get it". "It's time to balance our consumption with the needs of nature, and to protect the only planet that is our home". It's not even a blink of an eye compared to the history of life on Earth.' 'Now that we have the power to control and even damage nature, we continue to (use) it as if we were the hunters and gatherers of 20,000 years ago, with the technology of the 21st century, ' he added.

What is increasingly clear is that human development and wellbeing are reliant on healthy natural systems, and we can not continue to enjoy the former without the latter.

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"Decades of documented declines show us that we won't see wildlife recovery unless we all make it a priority - in all facets of our lives", said Megan Leslie, WWF-Canada president and CEO, in a release.

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