Hu­man­ity has wiped out 60% of wildlife in 44 years

It’s now emer­gency that threat­ens civil­i­sa­tion

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Hu­man­ity has wiped out 60 per cent of mam­mals, birds, fish and rep­tiles since 1970 to 2014, lead­ing the world’s fore­most ex­perts to warn that the an­ni­hi­la­tion of wildlife is now an emer­gency that threat­ens civil­i­sa­tion.

The new es­ti­mate of the mas­sacre of wildlife is made in a WWF re­port in­volv­ing 59 sci­en­tists from across the globe. It finds that the vast and grow­ing con­sump­tion of food and re­sources by the global pop­u­la­tion is de­stroy­ing the web of life, bil­lions of years in the mak­ing, upon which hu­man so­ci­ety ul­ti­mately de­pends for clean air, wa­ter and ev­ery­thing else. Latin Amer­ica was hit hard­est, see­ing a nearly 90 per cent loss of wildlife over the same pe­riod.

An­other dataset con­firmed the depth of an un­fold­ing mass ex­tinc­tion event, only the sixth in the last half-bil­lion years. De­pend­ing on which of Earth’s life­forms are in­cluded, the cur­rent rate of loss is 100 to 1,000 times higher than only a few hun­dred years ago, when peo­ple be­gan to al­ter Earth’s chem­istry and crowd other crea­tures out of ex­is­tence.

Un­bri­dled con­sump­tion has dec­i­mated global wildlife, trig­gered a mass ex­tinc­tion and ex­hausted Earth’s ca­pac­ity to ac­com­mo­date hu­man­ity’s ex­pand­ing ap­petites, the con­ser­va­tion group WWF warned yes­ter­day.

From 1970 to 2014, 60 per cent of all an­i­mals with a back­bone — fish, birds, am­phib­ians, rep­tiles and mam­mals — were wiped out by hu­man ac­tiv­ity, ac­cord­ing to WWF’s Liv­ing Planet re­port, based on an on­go­ing sur­vey of more than 4,000 species spread over 16,700 pop­u­la­tions scat­tered across the globe.

“The sit­u­a­tion is re­ally bad, and it keeps get­ting worse,” WWF In­ter­na­tional di­rec­tor gen­eral Marco Lam­ber­tini told AFP.

“The only good news is that we know ex­actly what is hap­pen­ing.”

For fresh­wa­ter fauna, the de­cline in pop­u­la­tion over the 44 years mon­i­tored was a stag­ger­ing 80 per cent. Re­gion­ally, Latin Amer­ica was hit hard­est, see­ing a nearly 90 per cent loss of wildlife over the same pe­riod.

An­other dataset con­firmed the depth of an un­fold­ing mass ex­tinc­tion event, only the sixth in the last half-bil­lion years.

De­pend­ing on which of Earth’s life­forms are in­cluded, the cur­rent rate of species loss is 100 to 1,000 times higher than only a few hun­dred years ago, when peo­ple be­gan to al­ter Earth’s chem­istry and crowd other crea­tures out of ex­is­tence.

Mea­sured by weight, or biomass, wild an­i­mals to­day only ac­count for four per cent of mam­mals on Earth, with hu­mans (36 per cent) and live­stock (60 per cent) mak­ing up the rest.

Scary sta­tis­tics

Ten thou­sand years ago that ra­tio was prob­a­bly re­versed.

“The sta­tis­tics are scary,” said Piero Vis­conti, a re­searcher at the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute for Ap­plied Sys­tems Anal­y­sis in Aus­tria and one of 59 co-authors of the 80-page re­port.

“Un­like pop­u­la­tion de­clines, ex­tinc­tions are ir­re­versible.”

For co­rals, it may al­ready be too late.

Back-to-back ma­rine heat­waves have al­ready wiped out up to half of the globe’s shal­low-wa­ter reefs, which sup­port a quar­ter of all ma­rine life.

Half-a-cen­tury of con­ser­va­tion ef­forts have scored spec­tac­u­lar suc­cesses, with sig­nif­i­cant re­cov­er­ies among tigers, man­a­tees, griz­zly bears, bluefin tuna and bald eagles.

But the on­slaught of hunt­ing, shrink­ing habi­tat, pol­lu­tion, il­le­gal trade and cli­mate change — all caused by hu­mans — has been too much to over­come, Lam­ber­tini ac­knowl­edged.

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