A devastating new study claims the world wildlife population has plummeted by 58 percent in last 40 years, as cited by the BBC. If things continue the same way, the vertebrate population (birds, fish, mammals, amphibians and reptiles) could fall by 67 percent (about two-third since 1970) by the end of the decade.
The Living Planet review by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), based on several conservation studies and government statistics, blamed both the climate change and human activity — including illegal trade, poaching, hunting, deforestation and pollution — for the rapid decline.
“It's pretty clear under 'business as usual' we will see continued declines in these wildlife populations. But I think now we've reached a point where there isn't really any excuse to let this carry on,” said Dr. Mike Barrett, head of science and policy at WWF. “We know what the causes are and we know the scale of the impact that humans are having on nature and on wildlife populations — it really is now down to us to act.”
Even though the report has faced criticism for basing its conclusion on the analysis of about 6 percent of the world’s total vertebrate species, the truth is this study paints a rather worrying picture of the state of the global wildlife.
“If pressures — overexploitation, illegal wildlife trade, for example — increase or worsen, then that trend may be worse,” noted Dr. Robin Freeman, head of ZSL's Indicators & Assessments Unit, explaining how vertebrate populations are declining by an average of 2 percent per year. “But one of the things I think is most important about these stats, these trends are declines in the number of animals in wildlife populations — they are not extinctions. By and large they are not vanishing, and that presents us with an opportunity to do something about it.”
A similar study by the Zoological Society of London claims cheetahs are heading toward extinction with just 7,100 of them now left in the wild. The researchers claim it is mainly because the cats often leave the protected areas and wander into human settlements.
“Given the secretive nature of this elusive cat, it has been difficult to gather hard information on the species, leading to its plight being overlooked,” said report’s lead author Dr. Sarah Durant. “Our findings show that the large space requirements for the cheetah, coupled with the complex range of threats faced by the species in the wild, mean that it is likely to be much more vulnerable to extinction than was previously thought.”
The report has called to re-categorize the world fastest mammal from vulnerable to endangered.
“The take-away from this pinnacle study is that securing protected areas alone is not enough," added another author, Dr. Kim Young-Overton from Panthera, a nonprofit organization devoted exclusively to the conservation of the world's wild cats. “We must think bigger, conserving across the mosaic of protected and unprotected landscapes that these far-reaching cats inhabit, if we are to avert the otherwise certain loss of the cheetah forever.”
Thumbnail and Banner Credits: Reuters