WWF: wild animal populations further reduced, recovery possible

Between 1970 and 2016 global wildlife populations decreased by 68 percent. In the Living Planet Report published last night, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says that this decline is mainly due to the disappearance of animal habitats through agriculture, deforestation and overexploitation such as overfishing. Illegal animal trade is also one of the causes.

The nature conservation organisation publishes the Living Planet Report every two years. The report published in 2018 showed that the decline was still 60% between 1970 and 2014. More than 125 scientists from all over the world count the animal populations. They keep statistics on all kinds of animals, such as how many they are and where they live. A database has been maintained since 1970.

Populations fell the most in the tropical regions of Central and South America: on average by almost 94 percent. According to WWF, this is one of the most striking results. Think of different species of frogs, such as the spiny giant frog, but also better known species such as the green sea turtle. The populations of freshwater animals also decreased on average by 84 percent. These include reptiles, fish and amphibians that live in wetlands.

“The most important message of this report is that if we do nothing, the curve will fall”, says Kirsten Schuijt, director of the World Wildlife Fund Netherlands, in the CCeit Radio 1 News. “Then we will have the same message in two and four years’ time. But if we turn the tide now and really take action, we can still turn that curve around”

The work that WWF does to prevent tigers from becoming extinct is a good example for her. Although those numbers have been falling for some time now, you can now see that they are beginning to rise, says Schuijt. “That means that if you leave nature alone for a while and restore it, it will be very resilient. That’s the beauty of nature. You also see it in Europe: the wolf comes back and the lynx is seen again in the Ardennes”

So Schuijt thinks that something can still be done to prevent the disappearance and to restore nature. “This requires a combination of nature conservation, reduced and sustainable energy consumption and a sustainable way of consuming and producing food. Now about a third of all our produced food is lost or thrown away”