Humans have wiped out two-thirds of the world’s wildlife5 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
Yes, it’s true. And we’ve done it over the last 50 years.
Humans have not had a harmonious relationship with nature in a long time. With industrialization and overpopulation, we have constantly destroyed wild habitats for our own needs. So, it comes as no surprise that when WWF (World Wildlife Federation) released its Living Planet Report 2020 last week, we learned that the world’s wildlife population has been decreasing at an average rate of 69%.
This report was based on a study of 4,392 species of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians.
What is extinction? It’s when there are no members (or a few in their advanced life stages) of a particular species or organism in the entire world and there is little to no hope of their revival. Extinction can happen due to many reasons but the main cause of late have been human beings.
What does this mean?
It means that nature is collapsing around us and we are responsible for it. Rising temperatures, wildfires, natural disasters, wildlife trade, and destruction of natural habitats are some of the main reasons for the extinction and if you take a hard look at how many of these are man-made, then you’ll realize that they all are! Wildlife trade, wherein animals are hunted for certain parts of their body (fur for coats, skin for leather, rhino horns for medicines), is also leading to an increase in pandemics across the world.
Apart from the WWF report, the United Nations also published its Global Biodiversity Outlook Report last week. It doesn’t have great news. This report looked at the progress (which wasn’t much) of 196 countries that had signed the Aichi Biodiversity Targets in 2010. They are environment and wildlife protection targets, 20 in number, and were supposed to be reached by 2020.
According to the UN, the world failed to reach even a single goal among the 20!
How exactly have we gone about destroying the world?
Which animal species are now extinct?
Thousands of species have become extinct in the last 50 years. But here are a few:
The Golden Toad:
This Frog, known for its bright golden colour has become the symbol of animal extinction. Spotted first in Costa Rica in 1964, it’s last known sighting was 1989. That’s 31 years ago!
The Javan Tiger
Restricted to the island of Java in the Indonesian Achipalego, the Javanese tiger became extinct because of the increasing destruction of its natural habitat. The last known sighting of this animal was in 1976.
Round Island Burrowing Boa
Although the name places it in Round Island, this snake is native to Mauritius and was given the name because it was introduced to the Round Islands by humans. It became extinct in 1996.
Baiji River Dolphin
This freshwater dolphin is the first of its kind of be driven to extinction by human impact. When China began to use its rivers heavily for fishing, electricity and transportation, their population began to decline. The last known Baiji dolphin was spotted in 2002.
Can nothing be done to stop this?
There are a few things we can do, and we need to do it fast. The UN report mentioned that conversation efforts across the globe have helped save animals like the Snow Leopard and Crested Ibis from extinction. It has also slowed down the rate of extinction of birds and animals.
So what does this tell you? We started the problem and we can help solve it.
What can you do as a student?
- Save water at home and school
- Learn more about endangered animals and make your peers aware of why they are in danger of extinction
- Instead of visiting a zoo to look at animals, choose a conservancy or sanctuary that can also teach you about them
- Support state and national parks in your area by being an ambassador for change and a mindful visitor
- Buy sustainable and cruelty-free products
Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Dinopedia
With excerpts from NPR, Smithsonian and BBC
Would you like to know how to save our planet? Sir David Attenborough explains what we can do in this video: