Tag Archives: Zoological Society of London

Global wildlife halved in 40 years, reveals WWF

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Pic: WWF

Global wildlife populations have halved in just 40 years, according to new research by scientists at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Creatures across land, rivers and the seas are being decimated as humans kill them for food in unsustainable numbers, while polluting or destroying their habitats, the WWF’s Living Planet Report 2014 found.

The key findings are:

  • Populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by an average of 52% since the 1970s.
  • Freshwater species populations have suffered a 76% decline, an average loss almost double that of land and marine species.
  • The worst declines have been observed in the Tropics.

The report draws upon the Living Planet Index, a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London, which monitors trends in over 10,000 populations of 3038 species since the 1970s. It also looks at how human consumption levels have increased in the same time period. It shows that the biggest recorded threat to biodiversity comes from the combined impacts of habitat loss and degradation, driven by unsustainable human consumption.

“If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news,” said Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science. “But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.” He said nature, which provides food and clean water and air, was essential for human wellbeing.

“We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now,” said Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF. He said more of the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation, while food and energy had to be produced sustainably.

One in five reptiles face risk of extinction

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There was some worrying news about the future of reptiles from the Zoological Society of London last Friday, when they they revealed that one in five of world’s 10,000 species of reptiles are threatened with extinction.

Their new study, published in the journal Biological Conservation, estimates that 19% are now struggling to survive. Of those under threat, 12% of reptile species were critically endangered and 41% endangered and 47% vulnerable.
It highlights three critically endangered species:

  • The jungle runner lizard, Ameiva vittata, which has only ever been spotted in an area of the Bolivian jungle that is under threat from the growth of agriculture and logging.
  • The Anolis lizard from Haiti, where six of the nine species are at risk of extinction due to increased deforestation.
  • Freshwater turtles — 50% are at risk of extinction from hunting because turtle parts are in high demand as ingredients in traditional medicine.

The study,  published in conjunction with the IUCN species survival commission, reveals that 30% of freshwater reptile species are also in danger of disappearing. The spread of farming and deforestation in tropical regions represents two of the greatest threats to reptiles.

Monika Bohm,  the lead author, said: “Reptiles are often associated with extreme habitats so it is easy to assume that they will be fine in our changing world. But many reptile species are very high specialized in terms of habitat use and the climatic conditions they require for day to day functioning. This makes them particularly sensitive to environmental changes.”