Nearly three-fifths of all animals with a backbone — fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals — have been wiped out since 1970 by human appetites and activity, according to a grim study released Thursday (Oct 26).
On current trends, stocks of global wildlife could plunge two-thirds by 2020, an annual decline of two percent, conservation group WWF and the Zoological Society of London warned in their joint biennial Living Planet report.
There is no mystery as to why: our own ever-expanding species — which has more than doubled in number since 1960 to 7.4 billion — is simply eating, crowding and poisoning its planetary co-habitants out of existence. [CHANNELNEWSASIA]
The figures prompted experts to warn nature was facing a global “mass extinction” for the first time since the demise of the dinosaurs.
African elephants in Tanzania have seen numbers crash due to poaching, maned wolves in Brazil are threatened by grasslands being turned into farmland and European eels have declined due to disease, over-fishing and changes to their river habitats.
Species are being increasingly affected by unsustainable agriculture and fishing, as well as mining and other human activities that cause habitats to be lost or become degraded.
Wildlife is also being hit by over-exploitation, climate change and pollution, the report warned.[NEWSCIENTIST]
But there were still chances to reverse the trends, it said.
“Importantly … these are declines, they are not yet extinctions,” said Professor Ken Norris, Director of Science at ZSL.
Deon Nel, WWF global conservation director, told Reuters it wasn’t all bad news.
“I don’t speak at all about doom and gloom – we do see a lot of positive signs,” Nel said.
One hopeful sign is a global agreement by almost 200 nations last year to curb climate change could, for instance, help protect tropical forests, slow a spread of deserts and curb an acidification of the seas caused by a build-up of carbon dioxide.
And a 2015 U.N. plan for sustainable development by 2030, seeking to end poverty with policies that safeguard the environment, would also help if properly implemented. [REUTERS]