Wildlife is much more than a safari. And it is the greatest risk of extinction


One million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, we have lost half of the world’s corals and are losing areas of forest the size of 27 football fields every minute, the WWF report finds. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS
  • by Baher Kamal (Madrid)
  • Inter Press Service

Despite this, one million species of plants and animals are already threatened with extinction due to the voracious pursuit of profit, overexploitation, illegal trade and the relentless depletion of the variety of life on planet Earth.

In fact, billions of people, both in developed and developing countries, benefit daily from the use of wild species for food, energy, materials, medicines, recreation and many other essential contributions to human well-being, as the UN duly reports on the occasion of World Animal Day 2023 (March 3).

So much that 50,000 wild species meet the needs of billions worldwide. And 1 in 5 people around the world depend on wild species for income and food, while 2.4 billion people depend on wood as fuel for cooking.

The world’s largest multilateral agency reminds us of the “urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime and human-induced species reductions, which have broad economic, environmental and social impacts.”

Variety of life, lost at an “alarming rate”

A world leader in conservation and protection of endangered species, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warns that we are sadly losing biodiversity – the rich variety of life on Earth – at an “alarming rate”.

“We have seen an average 69% decline in numbers of birds, amphibians, mammals, fish and reptiles since 1970, according to the 2022 Living Planet Report.

“A million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, we have lost half of the world’s corals and are losing forest areas the size of 27 football fields every minute.”

WWF highlights the following findings, among others:

  • 69% average decline in wildlife populations since 1970,
  • Wild animal populations in Latin America and the Caribbean plummet by as much as 94%,
  • Populations of freshwater species are down 83%.

Major causes

The 2022 Living Planet Report highlights some of the key drivers leading to the shocking loss of the world’s biodiversity.

“The biggest cause of biodiversity loss is how people use the land and the sea. How we grow food, harvest materials such as wood or minerals from the ocean floor, and build our towns and cities all impact the natural environment and the biodiversity that lives there.”

Food systems: the biggest cause of wildlife loss: according to WWF findings, food production has caused 70% of biodiversity loss on land and 50% in freshwater. It is also responsible for about 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

What we as a global population eat and how we currently produce it is not good for us or for the planet. While more than 800 million people go hungry, more than two billion of those who do have enough food are obese or overweight.

This is also apparent from the findings provided by WWF meat tends to have the greatest environmental impact, partly because cattle emit methane through their digestive process — something called enteric fermentation — but also because most meat comes from crop-fed cattle.

And that about 850 million people around the world depend on coral reefs for their food and livelihoods.

The WWF report also references the invasive alien species: Invasive non-native species are those that arrive in places where they historically did not live and outpace local biodiversity for resources such as sunlight and water. This causes the native species to die out, shifting the composition of the natural ecosystem.

The future depends on undoing the loss of nature

“The world is waking up to the fact that our future depends as much on reversing the loss of nature as it does on tackling climate change. And you can’t solve one without solving the other,” said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF-US.

“This sharp decline in wildlife populations could have serious implications for our health and economies,” said WWF chief scientist Rebecca Shaw.

“If wildlife populations decline at this rate, it means dramatic changes will affect their habitats and the food and water they depend on. We should be very concerned about unraveling natural systems, because these same resources sustain human life.”

In view of all of the above, the causes of the rapid destruction of the variety of life have been scientifically identified, as well as the dangerous consequences. However, the dominant private company continues to see more profit in destroying than in saving.

© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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