Much-loved species such as the elephant could vanish in the next 50 years due to humanity's demands.
The natural world is in grave danger according to a new World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report who says two-thirds of animals will be gone forever in the next 50 years if the current statistics of decline continue.
The number one killers are, of course, humans.
The WWF’s Living Planet Report confirmed on Thursday that there has been almost a 60 percent decline in vertebrates from 1970 to 2012. The report discusses overall population statistics rather than individual species but all animals from birds, mammals, reptiles and fish have all been affected. By 2020, they claim there will be up to a 68 percent decline which could see elephants and gorillas being lost forever.
The report makes five distinctions about how humanity has put a strain on animal populations and these are habitat loss and degradation, overexploitation, pollution, invasive species and climate change.
“As humanity continues to demand more and more of the earth and puts pressures on our natural capital, what we’re seeing is the fraying of wildlife,” said Colby Loucks, who is senior director for the WWF’s Wildlife Conservation Program.
The hardest hit is freshwater species who Loucks says suffer from the “cuddly panda phenomenon” in that they are more often dismissed and not paid as much attention as more ‘aesthetically- pleasing’ species. When it comes to freshwater, humans are more focused on water to survive and feed crops rather than taking care of what’s living in the environment.
The WWF highlights the drastic need to change the way we treat our wildlife and calls for governments to do more to reduce our “ecological footprint”. But the WWF are still optimistic that things can be turned around.
“I don’t think people really know the extent of these declines,” Loucks said. “Ultimately, we’re going to need collective action to try and maintain both humans and what we need, as well as the natural world.”
“The facts and figures in this report tend to paint a challenging picture, yet there is still considerable room for optimism,” the report reads. “If we manage to carry out critically needed transitions, the rewards will be immense.”
The report can be downloaded from the WWF website.