More than two thirds of the world’s wildlife could be extinct in the next decade unless action is taken now to combat the damaging impact of human activity, a shocking new report reveals.
The total number of animal species fell by 58% between 1970 and 2012, which could climb to 67% by 2020, states the joint Living Planet Report by the WWF and the Zoological Society of London.
It also warns that seven out of ten of the planet’s mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds could be eradicated in this time – in what conservationists describe as the biggest “mass extinction” since dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago.
“Biodiversity forms the foundation of healthy forests, rivers and oceans. Take away the species, and these ecosystems collapse, along with clean air, water, food and climate services they provide us,” said Marco Lambertini, the director general of WWF International in an interview with AFP.
Among the most threatened species are freshwater fish, tigers, gorillas, elephants and Amur leopards, whose numbers have fallen dramatically for reasons including habitat loss, overconsumption of natural resources, pollution and climate change.
“Humanity’s misuse of natural resources is threatening habitats, pushing irreplaceable species to the brink and threatening the stability of our climate,” said Mike Barrett, the director of science and policy at WWF UK in a statement.
“We know how to stop this. It requires governments, businesses and citizens to rethink how we produce, consume, measure success and value the natural environment,” he added.
Outlined in the report are a number of “better choices” measures which the WWF and ZSL suggest could contribute to a more “healthy and resilient planet for future generations”. These include increasing the production of renewable energy sources, adopting more eco-friendly farming methods – including the avoided use of chemical pesticides – and expanding the world’s global network of protected areas, including national parks and nature reserves.
Professor Ken Norris, director of science at ZSL added: “Human behaviour continues to drive the decline of wildlife populations globally, with particular impact on freshwater habitats.
“Importantly, however, these are declines – they are not yet extinctions – and this should be a wake-up call to marshal efforts to promote the recovery of these populations,” he said.