Animal populations plunge by 58% since 1970

Decline will continue unless humans act to stop 'first mass extinction since dinosaurs', say World Wildlife Fund

A baby rhinoceros is accompanied by its mother "Kumi" as they walk through their enclosure on October 24, 2014 at the zoo in Berlin. The animal was born on October 14, 2014 at the zoo.AFP PHO
A baby rhinoceros and its mother
(Image credit: This content is subject to copyright.)

The world is facing the "first mass extinction since the dinosaurs", according to a report by researchers from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

According to the Living Planet report, animal populations fell by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012 and the decline is expected to reach 67 per cent by 2020.

The rate of extinction is "about 100 times faster than is considered normal – greater than during some of the previous five mass extinctions in the Earth's history", The Independent says.

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The declining wildlife population is due to "human activity, including habitat loss, wildlife trade, pollution and climate change", the BBC says.

Freshwater environments, such as rivers and lakes, have been hardest hit, "with animal populations down by 81 per cent since 1970, due to excessive water extraction, pollution and dams", says The Guardian.

Dr Mike Barrett, the head of science and policy at the WWF, said declines in wildlife populations will probably continue over the coming years.

"We know what the causes are and we know the scale of the impact that humans are having on nature and on wildlife populations," he said. "It really is now down to us to act."

Dr Robin Freeman, the head of ZSL's indicators and assessments unit, said the projections will be accurate provided the pressures on wildlife populations do not increase.

"These trends are declines in the number of animals in wildlife populations - they are not extinctions," he said. "By and large they are not vanishing and that presents us with an opportunity to do something about it."

However, Stuart Pimm, a professor of conservation ecology at Duke University in the US, criticised the way the report was put together and said some of the numbers are "very, very sketchy".

He added: "They're trying to pull this stuff in a blender and spew out a single number... It's flawed."

Living Planet, a biennial report, features analysis of data collected on more than 3,700 vertebrate species around the world.

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