A major report has found humans have wiped out approximately 60 per cent of the population of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970.
The estimate was the result of a report produced by the Zoological Society of London for the WWF, which included the work of 59 scientists across the globe.
The report, named the Living Planet Index (LPI), revealed the ever-increasing consumption of food and resources demanded by the global population, is destroying life which has been billions of years in the making.
While the massive loss of animals is devastating in itself, scientists have also warned the destruction of wildlife is an emergency which threatens civilisation.
As animal populations and habitats are destroyed, we’re also destroying our sources of clean air, water and everything else the human society depends upon.
According to The Guardian, Mike Barrett, Executive Director of Conservation at WWF, spoke about the findings in the report, putting the shocking loss of wildlife into perspective.
We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff. If there was a 60% 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. [sic]
This is far more than just being about losing the wonders of nature, desperately sad though that is. This is actually now jeopardising the future of people. Nature is not a ‘nice to have’ – it is our life-support system.
It is a classic example of where the disappearance is the result of our own consumption, because the deforestation is being driven by ever expanding agriculture producing soy, which is being exported to countries including the UK to feed pigs and chickens.
Professor Johan Rockström, a global sustainability expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, added:
We are rapidly running out of time. Only by addressing both ecosystems and climate do we stand a chance of safeguarding a stable planet for humanity’s future on Earth.
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.
Between 1970 and 2014, which is the latest data available, populations fell by an average of 60 per cent. Four years ago, the decline was 52 per cent – unfortunately indicating the destruction of wildlife is still ongoing.
Professor Bob Watson, one of the world’s most eminent environmental scientists, also spoke about the results, adding:
Nature contributes to human wellbeing 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.
The Living Planet report clearly demonstrates that human activities are destroying nature at an unacceptable rate, threatening the wellbeing of current and future generations.
With three-quarters of all land on Earth affected by human activities, the biggest cause of wildlife loss is the destruction of their natural habitats, mostly to create farmland.
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The worst affected region is South and Central America, which has seen an 89 per cent drop in vertebrate populations.
We need a new global deal for nature and people and we have this narrow window of less than two years to get it. This really is the last chance. We have to get it right this time.
The news of the report comes at the same time China issued a new regulation which will reverse a 25-year-old ban on the sale of tiger bone and rhino horns, making the materials legal for trade.
Iris Ho, senior specialist for Wildlife Program and Policy at Humane Society International, spoke of the awful ruling, saying:
With this announcement, the Chinese government has signed a death warrant for imperilled rhinos and tigers in the wild who already face myriad threats to their survival.
It sets up what is essentially a laundering scheme for illegal tiger bone and rhino horn to enter the marketplace and further perpetuate the demand for these animal parts.
This is a devastating blow to our ongoing work to save species from cruel exploitation and extinction, and we implore the Chinese government to reconsider.
The news is truly devastating.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.