Wildlife populations have fallen by more than two-thirds in less than 50 years, according to a major new report by conservation group the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
The report warns that nature is being destroyed by humans at a rate never seen before.
“Wildlife is in free fall as we burn forests, over-fish our seas and destroy wild habitats,” says Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF.
“We are wrecking our world – the one place we can call home – risking our health, security and survival here on Earth. Now nature is sending us a desperate SOS and time is running out.”
The decline is clear evidence of the damage human activity is doing to the natural world, said Andrew Terry, director of conservation at the Zoological Society of London.
“If nothing changes, wildlife populations will undoubtedly continue to plummet, driving species to extinction and threatening the ecosystems on which we depend,” he said.
The WWF report says the Covid-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of how nature and humanity are intertwined.
Factors believed to lead to pandemics – including habitat loss and the trade in endangered species – are also some of the drivers behind the decline in wildlife.
In 2019, an intergovernmental panel of scientists concluded that one million species (500,000 animals and plants, and 500,000 insects) are threatened with extinction, some within decades.
British TV presenter and naturalist David Attenborough said humans need to change how we produce food, create energy and manage our oceans.
“But above all we need a change in perspective. A change from viewing nature as something that’s optional or ‘nice to have’ to the single greatest ally we have in restoring balance to our world,” he said.
The UN will reveal next Tuesday its latest assessment of the state of nature worldwide.