In a heartbreaking new report, the World Wildlife Fund shows that global wildlife populations have fallen by 60% in just over four decades, most likely due to pollution, deforestation, climate change, and other man-made factors.
The report says the crisis for the planet is “mindblowing.”
#BREAKING: 60% global wildlife declines show nature needs life support. We're living beyond the planet's means and wiping out life on Earth in the process. It's time for everyone – countries, businesses, consumers – to join the #FightForYourWorld. #LPR2018 https://t.co/kMmqYIkFk1
— WWF UK (@wwf_uk) October 30, 2018
The Living Planet Report announces that the total numbers of more than 4,000 mammal, bird, fish, reptile and amphibian species declined rapidly between 1970 and 2014 and that current rates of species extinction are now 1,000 times higher than before human involvement in animal ecosystems became a factor.
“We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last one that can do anything about it,” said WWF U.K. Chief Executive Tanya Steele in a statement. WWF also noted that current efforts to protect the natural world are not keeping up with the speed of man made destruction. The group has called for an international treaty to be drafted to protect wildlife.
The report also details that 90% of seabirds have plastic in their stomachs. This is compared to only 5% in 1960. Killer whales were named as one species in significant danger due to their exposure of chemicals used by humans. The mass killing of animals for food is the second-largest cause of extinction, with 300 mammal species being “eaten into extinction.”
The proportion of the planet that is free from human impact is expected to drop from a quarter to a tenth by 2050. The biggest cause of wildlife losses is the destruction of natural habitats, most of which is used to create farmland.
“We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff,” says Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF. “If there was a 60 percent decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China, and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.”
The Living Planet Index uses data on 16,704 populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians, representing more than 4,000 species, to track the decline of wildlife. “Nature contributes to human well being culturally and spiritually, as well as through the critical production of food, clean water, and energy, and through regulating the Earth’s climate, pollution, pollination, and floods,” says Professor Bob Watson, one of the world’s top environmental scientists. “The Living Planet report clearly demonstrates that human activities are destroying nature at an unacceptable rate, threatening the well being of current and future generations.”