CANADA’S WILDLIFE ON THE BRINK

Two mil­lion cari­bou used to cover our Arc­tic. Now, some herds have shrunk 90% — and they’re not the only species strug­gling to sur­vive

Metro Canada (Edmonton) - - News - Wanyee Li

903

The num­ber of ver­te­brate species in­cluded in the study

50%

Per­cent­age of mon­i­tored species in de­cline

83%

Av­er­age pop­u­la­tion drop for species in de­cline

Two mil­lion cari­bou used to cover the Arc­tic plains in Canada. Now, some herds have shrunk more than 90 per cent.

B.C. rivers used to teem with Chi­nook salmon, but now stocks have been cut in half and the or­cas that rely on them for food are on the brink of ex­tinc­tion. Bobolink birds used to thrive in Canada’s grass­lands, but now, farm ma­chin­ery kills more than 650,000 a year.

Th­ese are just three ex­am­ples of wildlife strug­gling to sur­vive in Canada de­spite be­ing pro­tected un­der fed­eral leg­is­la­tion.

They’re signs Cana­di­ans need to act be­fore it’s too late to save them from ex­tinc­tion, ac­cord­ing to World Wildlife Fund Canada.

The non-profit re­leased a com­pre­hen­sive re­port Thurs­day that de­tails the state of wildlife across the coun­try in an in­dex that in­cludes data on more than 900 species.

The re­port paints an alarm­ing pic­ture, said David Miller, pres­i­dent and CEO of WWF Canada.

“The mag­ni­tude of the col­lec­tive threat to wildlife hasn’t been looked at in this way and to this depth for a very long time — per­haps not ever. So the mag­ni­tude of this is new and very sober­ing.”

WWF’s Liv­ing Planet In­dex fo­cuses on ver­te­brate species and found that half of mon­i­tored species are in de­cline.

In fact, the pop­u­la­tions of those species are drop­ping by an av­er­age of four per cent per year.

That rate could mean ex­tinc­tion for low re­pro­duc­tive species al­ready on the brink, like the St. Lawrence bel­u­gas and South­ern Res­i­dent killer whales.

But that ex­am­ple fits a trou­bling trend that shows even species deemed “at-risk” are in de­cline, said James Snider, vice-pres­i­dent of sci­ence, re­search and in­no­va­tion at WWF Canada and lead au­thor of the re­port.

“Per­haps of most con­cern in our study is those species that are listed fed­er­ally have in fact de­clined by 63 per cent since 1970 and most re­cently, the rate of de­cline for th­ese species doesn’t seem to be im­prov­ing. It may even be in­creas­ing af­ter 2002,” said Snider.

Cre­at­ing pro­tected ar­eas for species as soon as they are listed un­der the fed­eral Species at Risk Act is very ef­fec­tive, he ex­plained. But the cur­rent process can take years and pre­car­i­ous pop­u­la­tions can’t af­ford that, said Snider.

The re­port rec­om­mends a $200-mil­lion fed­eral-spend­ing boost over four years for the species-at-risk pro­gram in or­der to pro­tect en­tire ecosys­tems in a timely man­ner. Con­ser­va­tion ef­forts so far have failed to pull most of those species from ex­tinc­tion, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

That means pre­ven­tion is likely the best way to save the rest of Canada’s wildlife, said Snider.

WWF-Canada is con­ven­ing a Na­tional Sum­mit to Re­verse the De­cline of Wildlife in early 2018.

COUR­TESY WWF CANADA

A bar­ren-ground Cari­bou near Chantrey In­let on the Back River, N.W.T.

NATALIE BOWES WWF CANADA

An en­dan­gered South­ern Res­i­dent killer whale breaches in the Haro Straight.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.