Where has all the wildlife gone? New report shows huge drop in populations.

Wildlife populations have declined an average of 58 percent from 1970 levels worldwide, according to the conservation group WWF.

David Loh/Reuters
An endangered white Bengal tiger stares at visitors at the Singapore Zoo in 2011.

Wildlife populations have dropped by an average of 58 percent since 1970, finds a new study released on Thursday by the conservation group WWF.

Researchers say the trend is global: Brazilian maned wolves, Tanzanian elephants, North American salamanders, and orcas in European waters have all suffered losses. The new report, published by WWF in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London, was released Thursday.

"For the first time since the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, we face a global mass extinction of wildlife," said Mike Barrett, director of science and policy at WWF-UK. "We ignore the decline of other species at our peril – for they are the barometer that reveals our impact on the world that sustains us."

Human activity has contributed significantly to the declines, researchers say. As the global human population continues to grow, overfishing and habitat destruction have followed.

"Human behavior continues to drive the decline of wildlife populations globally, with particular impact on freshwater habitats," Ken Norris, director of science at the Zoological Society of London, told the Associated Press. "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."

Earlier this year, geologists called for a new epoch – the Anthropocene, or “Age of Humans” – to be formally recognized. Humanity’s profound impact on Earth, they argued, should mark a new segment of geological time. The value of the term is largely cultural, say observers, as it could inspire a change in thought about our relationship with the planet and its resources.

"I don't speak at all about doom and gloom," Deon Nel, WWF global conservation director, told Reuters. "We do see a lot of positive signs."

The newly-ratified Paris climate agreement could help prevent animal population loss, researchers say. By limiting carbon emissions, UN member nations could slow ocean acidification and the spread of deserts. The UN is also pushing to implement a new plan for sustainable development by 2030.

On Monday, an appeals court panel ruled that a population of bearded seals could secure endangered species protections based on climate change projections, despite not currently facing extinction. This preemptive approach to conservation has been lauded as historic.

The Christian Science Monitor’s Zhai Yun Tan reported:

Only one other species – polar bears – had been awarded the endangered species status based on climate projections, in 2008. The legal battle for bearded seals is similar to the one wrought for polar bears, and there may be more to come, some experts say, especially with other species of seals. Previous studies have also found that birds and some other animals are similarly threatened by climate change due to loss of habitat.

This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Where has all the wildlife gone? New report shows huge drop in populations.
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today