Twelve months ago, a study revealed a shocking decline in the global populations of so-called "priority species" creatures. The evidence suggested a 58 per cent drop in 210 key species during the forty year period between 1970 and 2010, with seven per cent being lost within the past five years.
It seems that the decline is not restricted to endangered or priority species, however, as new research by scientists at WWF and the Zoological Society of London found that the global situation is even worse than previously thought. According to a new analysis, in which 10,000 different populations of animals, birds and fish were examined, the number of all wild animals on Earth has more than halved during the past 40 years.
The research, which covered 3,000 species in total, has been used to create a "Living Planet Index" that will reflect the current state of all 45,000 known vertebrates on earth.
The scientists involved in the study said that the news should be taken very seriously, as threats to global ecosystems ultimately affect the whole of nature and our human existence, and that the power to change the trend was within our power if only the implications were acknowledged in time:
“If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news,” said Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science. “But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.”
The drastic loss of animal life has been directly attributed to human impact, as dangerously high numbers of certain species are killed for human consumption, and natural habitats are polluted or decimated by deforestation and development.
“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 Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF.
While priority species are those considered to be of significant importance either to ecosystems or because they have commercial or cultural significance, the rapid decline in all wildlife highlights the need to protect all of our fauna and their remaining natural environments. Nevertheless, the latest report does reinforce the fact that some species are in crisis: in Ghana, the lion population in one reserve is down 90% in 40 years, and the relentless human assault on tiger populations has reduced their numbers from 100,000 a century ago to just 3,000.
David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK said: “The scale of the destruction highlighted in this report should be a wake-up call for us all. But 2015 – when the countries of the world are due to come together to agree on a new global climate agreement, as well as a set of sustainable development goals – presents us with a unique opportunity to reverse the trends.
“We all – politicians, businesses and people – have an interest, and a responsibility, to act to ensure we protect what we all value: a healthy future for both people and nature.”