A report by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and WWF shows that the global wildlife population has fallen 58% in the last forty years with little indication of the average annual 2% decline slowing down.
The Living Planet Report is published by ZSL and WWF every two years to provide current data about the world’s animal populations. In this year’s analysis, researchers studied 3,700 different species of birds, fish, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, which tallies to about 6% of the world’s total vertebrate species.
The report results suggest that human activities including habitat loss, pollution, climate change, and wildlife trade have contributed to the declines, which are especially severe in species that inhabit lakes, rivers, or wetlands. Researchers warned that if current trends continue, wildlife populations could fall 67% within ten years (compared to 1970 levels).
“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 head of science and policy at WWF, Dr Mike Barrett.
However, the report itself has drawn some criticism for its alleged bias towards western European species and overambitious attempts to assess population loss in a single figure, but even those who question its numbers agree that animal populations are declining at alarming rates.
Head of ZSL’s Indicators & Assessments Unit, Dr. Robin Freeman, said that the research team had used the best available data, stating, “It’s entirely possible that species that aren’t being monitored as effectively may be doing much worse – but I’d be very surprised if they were doing much better than we observed.”