The number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past 40 years, as humans hunt for food in unsustainable numbers and destroy habitats, a new study has shown.
Human destruction of habitat including rampant pollution has significantly contributed to the decline in the number of animals, fish and birds since the 1970s, scientists at the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) said in a new report.
“If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news…. But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live,” said the ZSL director of science, Professor Ken Norris.
The study showed that over the past four decades, the largest drop in animal numbers have been in low-income, developing nations, while conservation efforts in rich nations have shown little improvements as well.
Moreover, rich countries are “outsourcing” wildlife decline to developing nations, who produce goods through habitat destruction.
Today’s average global rate of consumption would need the energy of 1.5 planet Earths to sustain it, while levels of consumption in the United States require four planets, the report said.
“We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now,” said the director of science and policy at WWF, Mike Barratt.
Scientists analyzed 10,000 different populations of creatures across land, rivers and the seas, covering 3,000 species in total, and created a representative “Living Planet Index” (LPI), reflecting the state of all 45,000 known vertebrates.
Experts recommend that the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation, while food and energy have to be produced sustainably.
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