Wildlife Populations Worldwide Have Dropped 69% in 50 Years

So says a new report by World Wildlife Fund, Zoological Society of London
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 13, 2022 6:41 AM CDT
New Report Offers Dismal Numbers on Earth's Wildlife
If we don't take meaningful action soon, animal populations may see a further decline.   (Getty Images/ABDESIGN)

Humans' aggressive deforestation, plundering of the Earth for its natural resources, and contamination of the planet's air and water is not only putting our own species in a precarious position—it's managed to help wipe out more than two-thirds of the world's wildlife population in not even 50 years. That's the big finding out of this year's "Living Planet Index," an analysis released Thursday by the World Wildlife Fund and Zoological Society of London that looked to see how 32,000 populations of more than 5,000 animal species are faring worldwide, coming up with a graph "akin to a stock index of life on Earth," per the Guardian. Animal populations around the globe have declined 69% between 1970 and 2018, the report reveals. Just four years ago, that number came in at 60%; in 2020, it rose to 68%.

To put it in context, the total loss of wildlife around the globe would be equal to if all humans vanished from the Americas, Europe, Africa, China, and Oceania. The report notes that land use change is the largest factor in this mass biodiversity loss, and that freshwater species saw the most drastic decline, per a release. The figures are especially dire in the Latin America/Caribbean region, which saw a 94% drop. This area includes the Amazon rainforest, where the rates of forest-clearing haven't just felled trees, but also stripped the area of wildlife "and of the Amazon's ability to act as one of our greatest allies in the fight against climate change," says Tanya Steele, CEO at WWF-UK. Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, says his group is "extremely worried" by what the report found.

"[It shows] a devastating fall in wildlife populations, in particular in tropical regions that are home to some of the most biodiverse landscapes in the world," he notes. The nearly 90 researchers who put together the report are calling for boosted conservation and restoration efforts, as well as a harder push for more sustainable food production. They also note we can't address the wildlife dilemma without also taking a hard look at climate change, and they're calling on world leaders to make bold moves on the latter at the UN's biodiversity summit in December. "Unless we stop treating these emergencies as two separate issues, neither problem will be addressed effectively," the report stresses. Efforts so far haven't been nearly enough: Steele notes that even with continuing political promises, "world leaders continue to sit back and watch our world burn in front of our eyes," per the Guardian. (Read more wildlife stories.)

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