Wild animals are dying off

Global wildlife populations are set to fall by more than two-thirds since 1970 by the end of the decade, warns the Living Planet report by WWF and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). The assessment of more than 14,000 populations of 3706 species of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles from around the world reveals a 58 per cent fall between 1970 and 2012 – with no sign that the average yearly 2 per cent drop in numbers will slow.

The figures have prompted experts to warn that nature is facing a global “mass extinction” for the first time since the demise of the dinosaurs. Species are being affected by unsustainable agriculture, fishing, mining and other human activities that threaten habitats, as well as climate change and pollution. “Human behaviour continues to drive the decline of wildlife populations globally, with particular impact on freshwater habitats,” said Ken Norris, director of science at ZSL. But he stressed that, so far, these are declines rather than extinctions. “This should be a wake-up call to marshal efforts to promote the recovery of these populations,” he said. (New Scientist)

We need these animal populations to recover for all sorts of reasons, food in the form of the fish in the sea being among the most important, along with bees. You might think of a score of others animals on which we humans rely, one way or another. Epicurus would have pointed out that we depend all of us upon one another, and our careless, uncaring and cruel treatment of the animal kingdom is not only amoral but self-defeating. But don’t expect most of the world leaders we have at the moment to care a tuppenny toss about anyone or anything except their bank accounts and fellow millionaires.

One Comment

  1. I think there’s also a moral reason to preserve wildlife. As the planet’s most intelligent species, we have a duty to uphold the integrity of the natural environment. This doesn’t mean revering nature as a god the way our pagan ancestors did- that was a mechanism to help explain events without a knowledge of science. But our ancestors were right insofar as the natural world has intrinsic value. When a species of animals or plant goes extinct due to human activity, it makes us look selfish and uncaring. So taking care of the environment makes us more altruistic as a species, which will hopefully also lead to us taking better care of ourselves.

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