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New report shows drastic decline in global wildlife

According to a leading scientific assessment warning that humanity is ‘losing the war’ to save nature, wild species populations have shrunk on average by 69 per cent since the 1970s.

A bleak new report from WWF in collaboration with the Zoological Society London on biodiversity loss has revealed that the abundance of wild mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish is in freefall – shrinking 69 per cent on average between 1970 and 2018.

Two years ago, the figure stood at 68 per cent, four years ago, it was at 60 per cent.

‘Nature is unravelling and the natural world is emptying,’ says Andrew Terry, director of conservation and policy at ZSL.

‘The index highlights how we have cut away the very foundation of life and the situation continues to worsen.’


The finding is a result of examining how 32,000 populations of more than 5,000 species around the Earth are faring by measuring their growth or decline.

Those in Latin America and the Caribbean have been hit especially hard, experiencing a steep 94 per cent drop in just 50 years, followed by Africa at 66 per cent, Asia and the Pacific at 55 per cent, North America at 20 per cent, and Europe at 18 per cent.

The total loss is akin to the human population of Europe, the Americas, Africa, Oceania and China disappearing.

Future declines are not inevitable, say the authors, who pinpoint the Himalayas, south-east Asia, the east coast of Australia, and the Amazon basin among priority areas.

‘Despite the science, the catastrophic projections, the impassioned speeches and promises, the burning forests, submerged countries, record temperatures and displaced millions, world leaders continue to sit back and watch our world burn in front of our eyes,’ says Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF UK.

‘The climate and nature crises, their fates entwined, are not some faraway threat our grandchildren will solve with still-to-be-discovered technology.’

According to the leading scientific assessment – which warns that humanity is ‘losing the war’ to save nature – this huge scale decline of more than two-thirds is due in large part to the demands of food production.

Alongside deforestation on land to make room for cattle grazing, however, pollution on an industrial level, consumption beyond the limits of the planet, and climate change are also to blame for what experts are referring to as the ‘sixth mass extinction.’

Fearing the consequences of this further down the line, they are urging world leaders to reach an ambitious agreement at the UN summit on biodiversity (known as Cop15) this December and to slash carbon emissions to limit global heating to below 1.5C this decade to halt this rampant destruction.

But one of the biggest asks is likely to be more funding for international conservation efforts and the encouragement of a societal pivot towards more sustainable eating habits.

‘In order to see any bending of the curve of biodiversity loss, it’s not just about conservation it’s about changing production and consumption,’ says Robin Freeman, head of the indicators and assessments unit at ZSL.

‘The only way that we are going to be able to legislate or call for that is to have these clear measurable targets that ask for recovery of abundance, reduction of extinction risk, and the ceasing of extinctions at Cop15.’