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Wildlife population plummets and we’re to blame, WWF warns

Global wildlife populations have fallen by 60 per cent since 1970 due to human overuse of natural resources, a report finds

The blame for the staggering 60 per cent decrease in global wildlife population since 1970 is squarely on the shoulders of humans and the overuse of natural resources, the drive in climate change and planet pollution.

WWF has called for a “global deal” in line with the Paris Agreement, which would see climate change taken seriously and endangered wildlife saved before it is too late. The conservation charity’s new report indicates the damage is almost irreversible.

Director General of WWF International, Marco Lambertini, said in the Living Planet Report 2018: “We have known for many, many years that we are driving the planet to the very brink. This is not a doom and gloom story; it is reality.

“There is no excuse for inaction,” he warned, reflecting the report’s findings. “We can no longer ignore the warning signs; doing so would be at our own peril. What we need now is the will to act – and act quickly.”

Only a quarter of the world’s land area is free from the impacts of human activity but by 2050, the report said it will have fallen to just a tenth. The world has already seen the loss of around half of its shallow water corals in just 30 years.

Overall, populations of more than 4,000 species of mammals, reptiles, birds, fish and amphibians have declined by an average of 60 per cent between 1970 and 2014.

WWF Chief Executive, Tanya Steele, warned: “We are the first generation to know we are destroying the planet and the last one that can do anything about it.

“Our wanton destruction of nature, coupled with the brutal chaos of climate change, is the biggest threat to humanity.”

Tropical areas have seen the worst declines, with an 89 per cent fall in populations monitored in Latin America and the Caribbean since 1970. Species that live in fresh water habitats have also seen a significant decrease, falling by 83 per cent.

From hedgehogs and puffins to elephants, rhinos and polar bears, wildlife is in decline due to the loss of habitats, poaching, pollution of land and rising global temperatures.

“Exploding” levels of human consumption are driving these impacts on nature, with over-exploitation of natural resources such as over-fishing, cutting down forests to grow crops, such as soy and palm oil and the use of pesticide in agriculture. Climate change and plastic pollution are also significant and growing threats.

With the world set to review progress on sustainable development and conserving biodiversity under UN agreements by 2020, there is a window of opportunity for action in the next two years, the conservation group argues.

“There cannot be a healthy, happy and prosperous future for people on a planet with a destabilised climate, depleted oceans and rivers, degraded land and empty forests, all stripped of biodiversity, the web of life that sustains us all,” Lambertini said.

“We can no longer ignore the impact of current unsustainable production models and wasteful lifestyles. These must be accounted for and addressed.”

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