Wildlife populations around the world have declined by more than half since the 1970s, with elephants, wolves and salamanders among the creatures affected, and human activity is largely to blame, a new environmental report warns.
The numbers of mammals, birds and fish fell an average of 58% between 1970 and 2012, the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) said in The Living Planet report published Thursday.
Ken Norris, director of science at ZSL, said human behavior continues to drive the decline, particularly in freshwater habitats.
Specifically, issues such as farming, fishing, poaching, wildlife trafficking, mining, climate change and pollution are pushing wildlife “to the edge," the report said.
“Importantly, however, these are declines — they are not yet extinctions — and this should be a wake-up call to marshal efforts to promote the recovery of these populations," Norris said.
Wildlife populations could decline by 67% compared to 1970 by the end of the decade if nothing is done, the report said.
“For decades scientists have been warning that human actions are pushing life on our shared planet toward a sixth mass extinction. Evidence in this year’s Living Planet Report supports this,” said Marco Lambertini, WWF director general.
"We are feeling the impact of a sick planet — from social, economic and climate stability to energy, food and water security — all increasingly suffering from environmental degradation,” he added.
Moving toward a more resilient planet would require a huge shift toward more sustainable, renewable energy and for people in rich nations to eat less animal protein and reduce waste, the report said.
Lambertini said there is evidence that things are beginning to change, noting global carbon dioxide emissions have stabilized over the past two years, but more needs to be done.
"Without action, the Earth will become much less hospitable for all of us," the report said.