WWF report shines light on rapidly dwindling wildlife populations
HALIFAX -- According to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the global wildlife population had fallen by a staggering two thirds in less than 50 years.
"For us, this is growing evidence to show that we are in the midst of a catastrophe in many ways in terms of a collapse of wildlife around the world," said James Sinder, with the World Wildlife Fund.
The report analyzed nearly 21,000 populations of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians. It found, on average, a 68 percent drop in monitored species from 1970 to 2016.
The WWF says there are a number of factors leading to decline but the biggest is habitat loss.
"Habitat loss, conversion and degradation and it's important to note that's both the cause of wildlife and biodiversity decline as well as of course a major cause of the emissions that we're seeing actually causing climate change, as much as 30 per cent of our total emissions are from that land use and land conversion," said Sinder.
According to the report, animal populations in the Caribbean and Latin America are the most affected. However, the report found at-risk species in Canada have seen their populations decline by 42 percent in the last five decades.
The wood turtle and North Atlantic Right Whale are some of the species in our region seeing the greatest decline.
Raymond Plourde, with the Ecology Action Centre, calls the report stark and shocking.
"I wish I could say that I'm surprised by the findings but I'm not," he said.
"Sixty-eight per cent of wildlife worldwide, fully two thirds of wildlife, has been wiped off the face of the planet in the last 50 years -- that is less than a human lifetime," said Plourde. "If you do the math, you realize that what we're facing is a world where we will have almost no wildlife and other species, insects, plants. And that biodiversity is collapsing worldwide. We may in the future only have things like cows and chickens."
Andrew Holland, with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, was also not surprised by the report. He says Canada and the United States have lost 2.9 billion birds in the last 50 years.
"Migratory shore birds have diminished a lot in Atlantic Canada and we know that and this report reinforces that, whether it's semipalmated sandpipers that come to the Bay or Fundy in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, whether it's piping plovers, an endangered shore bird that comes to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island," said Holland.
Those who work to protect wildlife and the environment say it's not too late to change.
Holland says everyone can play a part, even something as simple as keeping your cat inside can help protect the bird population.
"Consider supporting a land conservation group, whether it's ours or another charitable organization that protect habitats for species at risk, species that are vulnerable or threatened or listed of concern. That's what the Nature Conservancy here in the Maritimes since 1971. We buy land or people donate land to us for conservation and these are privately owned lands where there are species at-risk, species that are endangered or listed of concern," said Holland.
"Governments in the Maritimes and Canada can take immediate action by protecting more wildlife habitat, protecting what is already there. In the case of Nova Scotia, we have a Parks and Protected areas plan that remains unfinished, we have hundreds of sites waiting to be designated, the government could do that," said Plourde. "The government is also committed to a new ecological forestry paradigm for forestry and it could enact that. In New Brunswick, the same thing; improvements to land use practices including reducing significantly clear cut forestry and things like spraying herbicide and pesticides in the environment."