World faces sixth mass extinction in history

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The world is facing the biggest extinction since dinosaurs says Living Planet Report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

By 2020, it is estimated that the population of vertebrates will fall by 67% from the figures taken in 1970. Between then and 2012 there was a 58% decrease in animals, that means we could lose 9% of our worlds living organisms in just over four years.

Extinction rates are running at 100 times the natural level due to increased human demand. Features such as deforestation, hunting, pollution, overfishing and climate change are all responsible for the decline of the worlds animals.

Director of science and policy at WWF-UK, Mike Barrett, said: “for the first time since the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, we face a global mass extinction of wildlife.”

Seven in every ten animals could be wiped out in just 50 years, and humans are the primary drivers of this.

In order to provide resources and services that humanity consumed in 2012, the equivalent of 1.6 Earths were needed to fulfil this. Showing that as a species ourselves, we take more than we can give. The effects of deforestation in order to build roads, houses, commercial development etc., lead to fragmentation or reduction of quality to a key habitat, or even complete removal.

The rare subspecies of Amur leopard have adapted to the far east Russian climate. But due to poaching and the exploitation of forests, there are only 60 individuals left.

Vaquita, the world’s rarest marine mammal was not discovered until 1958. Now less than 100 survive due to illegal fishing operations in Mexico’s Gulf of California.

The WWF have launched a ‘One Planet Perspective’ which outlines better choices for natural resources within the Earth’s ‘ecological boundaries’. Adoption of this will help countries meet their ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ by aligning ‘individual initiative, corporate action and government policy in order to attain a sustainable global society’.

On the other hand, the report is not all negative. It shows improvement in certain areas because of successful habitat protection and strict hunting controls in Europe. This has helped restore populations of wildlife including bears, lynx and wolves. As well as increasing the number of grassland species due to conservation efforts in Africa.

Professor Ken Norris, director of science at ZSL, said: “these are declines – they are not yet extinctions – and this should be a wake-up call to marshal efforts to promote the recovery of these populations.”