Nearly 70% of wildlife has disappeared since 1970, according to WWF

Nearly 70% of wildlife has disappeared since 1970, according to WWF


The planet has lost an average of nearly 70% of its wildlife populations in about 50 years, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) baseline assessment released Thursday, which highlights the increasingly marked link between biodiversity loss and global warming. 

Between 1970 and 2018, an average of 69% of the populations of this wildlife – fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles – disappeared, according to the Living Planet Index, a reference tool published every two years by the WWF.

The destruction of natural habitats, in particular to develop agriculture, remains the main cause, according to the report, followed by overexploitation and poaching.

Climate change is the third factor, but its role is “increasing very, very quickly”, warns Marco Lambertini, director general of the WWF. This is followed by air, water and soil pollution, as well as the dissemination by man of invasive species.

This report is a “red alert for the planet and therefore for humanity”, Mr. Lambertini told an international online press conference, “at a time when we are beginning to really understand that sustainable ecosystems, a rich biodiversity and a stable climate are necessary to ensure a prosperous, fairer and safer future for us, and especially for our children and their children in turn.” 

As we approach the summit of COP15 Biodiversity, in December in Montreal, “WWF calls on governments to seize this final opportunity by adopting an ambitious global agreement to save wildlife”, similar to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change .

To “reverse the curve of biodiversity loss” and “mitigate climate change”, the report calls for the scaling up of conservation and restoration efforts, the production and consumption of more sustainable food and the rapid decarbonization of all economic sectors.

Lowland gorilla

The numbers are “really scary” for Latin America, says Mark Wright, chief science officer of WWF , with 94% disappearance on average in this region “renowned for its biodiversity” and “decisive for climate regulation”.

Europe has seen its wild animal population decline by an average of 18%. “But this masks very extreme historical losses in biodiversity,” before the analysis period, said Andrew Terry, director of conservation at the Zoological Society of London, WWF's partner in establishing the index.

In Africa, the index estimates the loss at 66% on average. “A glaring example is in Kahuzi Biega National Park, DRC, where the number of eastern lowland gorillas has dropped by 80%”, primarily through hunting, explained Alice Ruhweza, WWF Africa Director.

Leatherback turtles, lynx, sharks, corals and tree frogs are also among the most threatened “biodiversity icons” highlighted by the report.

The Living Planet Index takes into account now 5,230 species of vertebrates, distributed in some 32,000 animal populations around the world. 

In 2020, a study published in the reference journal Nature had called into question the value of this index. Examining 14,000 vertebrate populations monitored since 1970, the authors concluded that 1% were in extreme decline and that if removed from the equation, all of the remaining populations showed no upward or downward trend. decline.

A message of “pervasive disaster” can lead to “desperation, denial and inaction,” the authors argued, suggesting using more localized assessments “to help prioritize efforts conservation”.