Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - WWF: Nature ‘pushed to the brink’ by humanity



WWF: Nature ‘pushed to the brink’ by humanity

WWF: Nature ‘pushed to the brink’ by humanity

UNBRIDLED consumption has decimated global wildlife, triggered a mass extinction and exhausted Earth’s capacity to accommodate humanity’s expanding appetites, the conservation group WWF warned on Tuesday.

From 1970 to 2014, 60 per cent of all animals with a backbone – fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals – were wiped out by human activity, according to WWF’s “Living Planet” report, based on an ongoing survey of more than 4,000 species spread over 16,700 populations scattered across the globe.

“The situation is really bad, and it keeps getting worse,” said WWF International director general Marco Lambertini. “The only good news is that we know exactly what is happening.”

For freshwater fauna, the decline in population over the 44 years monitored was a staggering 80 per cent. Regionally, Latin America was hit hardest, seeing a nearly 90 per cent loss of wildlife over the same period.

Another dataset confirmed the depth of an unfolding mass extinction event, only the sixth in the last half-billion years.

Depending on which of Earth’s lifeforms are included, the current rate of species loss is 100 to 1,000 times higher than only a few hundred years ago, when people began to alter Earth’s chemistry and crowd other creatures out of existence.

Measured by weight, or biomass, wild animals today only account for four per cent of mammals on Earth, with humans (36 per cent) and livestock (60 per cent) making up the rest.

Ten thousand years ago that ratio was probably reversed.

“The statistics are scary,” said Piero Visconti, a researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria and one of 59 co-authors of the 80-page report.

“Unlike population declines, extinctions are irreversible.”

For corals, it may already be too late.

Back-to-back marine heatwaves have already wiped out up to half of the globe’s shallow-water reefs, which support a quarter of all marine life.

Even if humanity manages to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius – mission impossible, according to some scientists – coral mortality will likely be 70 to 90 per cent.

A 2C world would be a death sentence, a major UN report concluded last month.

Half-a-century of conservation efforts have scored spectacular successes, with significant recoveries among tigers, manatees, grizzly bears, bluefin tuna and bald eagles.

“If we didn’t make those efforts, the situation would have been much worse,” Lambertini said.

But the onslaught of hunting, shrinking habitat, pollution, illegal trade and climate change has been too much to overcome, he acknowledged.

“Scientists call it the ‘great acceleration’,” he said in a phone interview.

“It is the exponential growth over the last 50 years in the use of energy, water, timber, fish, food, fertiliser, pesticides, minerals, plastics – everything.”

The pace of population increase – long taboo in development and conservation circles – also took off around 1950, the date scientists have chosen as the “gold spike,” or starting point, for a new geological period dubbed the Anthropocene, or “age of man”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen: Full country reopening to be decided in two weeks

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that if the Covid-19 situation remains stable for 15 consecutive days from the end of the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, Cambodia will reopen fully, albeit in the context of Covid-19 whereby people have to adjust their lives to

  • Phnom Penh governor: Show Covid-19 vaccination cards, or else

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng late on October 5 issued a directive requiring all people aged 18 and over and the parents of children aged 6-17 to produce Covid-19 vaccination cards when entering schools, markets, malls, marts, eateries and other business establishments that have been permitted

  • Cambodia seeks probe into 'false reports' on Hun Sen's alleged Cypriot passport

    Minister of Justice Koeut Rith on September 6 wrote a letter to his Cypriot counterpart Stephie Dracos requesting cooperation in investigating and providing the truth in relation to the "exaggerative and false allegations" that Prime Minister Hun Sen holds a Cypriot passport. In his letter, the

  • 'Pandora Papers' expose leaders' offshore millions

    More than a dozen heads of state and government, from Jordan to Azerbaijan, Kenya and the Czech Republic, have used offshore tax havens to hide assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a far-reaching new investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Cambodia voted ‘world’s friendliest country’ in Rough Guides reader poll

    Cambodia ranked number one among the “World’s Friendliest Countries”, according to a reader poll conducted by London-based international website “Rough Guides”. Taking submissions through Twitter and Facebook, “Rough Guides”, a well-known travel agency and publisher of guidebooks, said the Kingdom “was by far the