Wildlife populations down almost 70% since 1970: WWF report

Wildlife populations down almost 70% since 1970: WWF report
Jaguar, photo: Canva

The number of wild animals has gone down by almost 70 percent in the last 50 years, according to a report released Thursday by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The WWF Living Planet Index, which uses data from 32,000 populations of more than 5,000 species of animals, highlights “devastating” losses to nature due to human activity.

Around the world, the report found that animal populations had fallen 69 percent since 1970. In biodiversity-rich areas such as Latin America and the Caribbean, animal population loss is almost 94 percent.

“(It shows) a devastating fall in wildlife populations, in particular in tropical regions that are home to some of the most biodiverse landscapes in the world,” Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, said, adding that his organisation was “extremely worried” by the new data.

The index found that aquatic animals had declined more than those found in any other habitat, with an 83-percent population fall. The report said that the population of pink river dolphins in the Brazilian Amazon declined by 65% between 1994 and 2016.

The report found that the leading causes of wildlife loss are human exploitation, deforestation, climate change and pollution.

According to Lambertini, the world needs to rethink its harmful farming practices: “Food systems today are responsible for over 80 percent of deforestation on land.”

The Living Planet Report argues that producing food more sustainably, increasing conservation efforts, and rapidly decarbonising all sectors can reduce the climate change crises and biodiversity loss.

“We need to stress the fact that nature loss is not just a moral issue of our duty to protect the rest of the world. It is actually an issue of material value, an issue of security for humanity as well,” said Lambertini.

This “serious drop … tells us that nature is unravelling and the natural world is emptying,” said Andrew Terry, director of conservation at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Alice Ruhweza, WWF’s Africa regional director, said young people were particularly concerned about wildlife protection and would push governments to adopt greater protective measures.

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