• Global Animal Population Down by 58%: WWF

    It’s not just a post-Diwali apocalyptic feel with respect to air pollution – It looks like we’re doing a terrible job globally when it comes to wildlife conservation. The WWF’s Living Planet Report 2016 spells doom — by 2020, we will lose two-thirds of the animals we had in 1970 if we do not change our ways and outlook towards wildlife.

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    Human interference like overuse of natural resources, hunting, poaching, pollution, have all led to the decline of the global animal population. According to the report, there’s a 58 per cent decline since 1970 and if human interference remains the same, this number could shoot up to 67 per cent by 2020.

    Of the various epochs that have prevailed on the Earth’s surface, we belong to the Holocene Epoch, but the report references Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen and others as proposing the theory that we might have transitioned to the Anthropocene Epoch. “Such is the magnitude of our impact on the planet that the Anthropocene might be characterized by the world’s sixth mass extinction event,” the WWF Living Planet report says. 

    Meghna Krishnadas, an ecologist who is currently pursuing her PhD at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University, tells SheThePeopleTV, “​The WWF report and other studies highlight the need for long-term, good quality science to monitor and understand how human actions affect biodiversity.”

    “Rampant biodiversity loss is ​an ongoing natural disaster and is among the greatest tragedies of our times. Unfortunately, as a society, we do not yet see the full picture. Many vertebrates–mammals, amphibians, birds–and big, old trees are especially vulnerable to extinction because of their ecological requirements,” she says.

    And lest we think this only affects other animals, not humans: “Not only wild plants and animals are affected: increasingly people are victims too of the deteriorating state of nature. Living systems keep the air breathable and water drinkable, and provide nutritious food. To continue to perform these vital services they need to retain their complexity, diversity and resilience,” to quote from the WWF Living Planet Report.

    The World Wide Fund’s report has used the Living Planet Index to measure the numbers. This index helps in quantifying diversity by collecting population data of various vertebrate species. It then measures the average change noticed in their abundance over a time period.

    “Reports such as this remind us that there is a crisis. Academic debates on the Anthropocene aside, there is little doubt that humans have been a massive force for global change in the last 400 years​​ with negative consequences for biodiversity, Meghna tells SheThePeople.TV.

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    The Guardian quoted WWF Director Marco Lambertini saying, “The richness and diversity of life on Earth is fundamental to the complex life systems that underpin it. Life supports life itself and we are part of the same equation. Lose biodiversity and the natural world and the life support systems, as we know them today, will collapse.”

    Talking about preventive measures, Meghna tells us, “In my opinion, we already have enough information to tell us that biodiversity is in danger. Unfortunately, current models of economic growth ​lock us into habits of consumption and resource use that make it hard to have a sustainable planet.

    ​The problems are big and have to be tackled at multiple levels and scales, she advises — from individual lifestyles to national and global policies. Here are some of her suggestions:

    - We have to keep Protected Areas secure for wildlife.

    - We need to work with local communities to ensure biodiversity-friendly spaces outside PA.

    - We need to understand and change the ecological footprint of goods that are manufactured, transported and consumed by us. Reduce, reuse, and recycle is not just a catchy tag line!

    - Ecological education on natural history, science communication, and interactive discussions on conservation issues – both with urban communities and people who live close to or amidst wildlife will be critical to promote wider awareness and support for conservation.

    Feature Image Courtesy: Wall Street OTC