There is no time to indulge in despairby Mike Barrett / November 1, 2016 / Leave a comment
This week the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London published the world’s most comprehensive survey to date of the health of our planet. The news is not good: on average, global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have declined by 58 per cent since 1970, with the decline projected to reach a scarcely-believable 67 per cent by the end of this decade.
The “Living Planet Report” provides conclusive evidence that human activities including deforestation, pollution, overfishing and the illegal wildlife trade, coupled with climate change, are pushing species populations to the edge as people overpower the planet. For the first time since the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, we could face a global mass extinction of wildlife and are entering a new, man-man geological epoch—the Anthropocene.
In many habitats, some of our most-loved fauna hovers close to extinction. Africa’s elephant population has crashed by an estimated 111,000 in the past decade, primarily due to poaching. 2016 estimates suggest there are now a mere 415,000 elephants across the 37 range states in Africa. Illegal hunting and habitat loss in the Democratic Republic of Congo has precipitated a 77 percent drop in the number of Grauer’s gorillas, from an estimated 17,000 in 1995 to just 3,800 individuals today. In Asia, the Yangtze Finless porpoise now numbers less than 1,000 individuals, down from 2,000 individuals in 2007. The annual rate of decline is estimated at 13.7 percent, which means that the Yangtze finless porpoise could follow its cousin the Yangtze river dolphin into extinction by 2025.
The UK is losing its own biodiversity at a shocking rate. In the 1950s it was estimated there were 36.5 million hedgehogs in Britain. It seems likely that there are now fewer than a million hedgehogs left in the UK; indeed, it has been decades since I’ve seen one in my own garden. 76 per cent of the UK’s resident and regular migrant butterfly species declined in either abundance or occurrence (or both) over the past four decades. Salmon populations in the UK have plummeted 70 per cent in the last 30 years, according to the North Atlantic Salmon Fund.
Our report shows that well-managed conservation projects can work: in Europe the brown…