WWF: A million years of wildlife destroyed in the blink of an eye

Bullfrogs wrestling for territory, photo: Ken Goulding on Unsplash
Bullfrogs wrestling for territory, photo: Ken Goulding on Unsplash

The number of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians has declined by almost seventy percent since 1970, according to the Living Planet Report 2020 that was released on Thursday by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). 

Humans are to blame for this decline: increasing deforestation and agricultural expansion were the key drivers behind a 68 percent average decline in animal populations between 1970 and 2016. 

People continue to change forests or grasslands into farms, which takes a huge toll on wild animals, who lose their homes. 

One-third of all landmass and three-quarters of all freshwater are now dedicated to producing food. 

Tracking wildlife populations
2020’s Living Planet Report is a collaboration between WWF International and the Zoological Society of London. It’s the 13th edition of the publication tracking wildlife populations around the world.

“It’s an accelerating decrease that we’ve been monitoring for 30 years, and it continues to go in the wrong direction,” WWF International director general Marco Lambertini told AFP. 

“In 2016, we documented a 60 percent decline, now we have a 70 percent decline,” he said. “All this is in a blink of an eye compared to the millions of years that many species have been living on the planet.”

Humans have stolen three-quarters of all land on earth from animals and 40 percent of oceans. 

The report warned that if humans continue to rob animals of their living space, the risk of future pandemic increases. Humans are coming closer to wild animals, which is not healthy. 

An explosion in global trade, consumption, and human population growth in the last 50 years are the biggest drivers of the destruction of nature. 

94 percent decline in Central and South America
Animals are disappearing faster in some places than in others. The most striking number is the 94% decline in animals in the tropical regions of the Americas, mostly in Central and South America. 

The conversion of grasslands, savannahs, forests and wetlands into farms are the main drivers.

Choosing an environmentally friendly diet
Wildfires, extreme weather, locust plagues and the COVID-19 pandemic have hopefully caused people to realize that immediate action is needed if we want to preserve this earth for future generations of animals and humans.

According to the report, we can stop and reverse the decline, but it requires everyone to participate. An immediate focus on conservation and changing our food production and consumption is necessary. 

Reducing food waste and favoring healthier and more environmentally friendly diets can ‘bend the curve’.

Lambertini said that people are increasingly concerned about the links between the health of the planet and human well-being: “From being sad about losing nature, people are beginning to actually get worried.”  

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