More than 60pc of the planet’s animals have been wiped out by humans

30 Oct 2018

Image: © Christina M Selby/

A damning report issued by the WWF has shed light on just how efficient a killer humans can be, potentially threatening the entire planet.

It is estimated that 99pc of all species that have ever lived on planet Earth are now extinct, driven in large part by evolution, changing climates and, of course, human intervention.

However, a new study published by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) shows that our desire for greater amounts of food, crop farming, and hunting has gone above and beyond what can be considered normal, threatening the planet’s fragile ecosystem.

Undertaken by the Zoological Society of London, the Living Planet Index saw 1,704 populations of animals – encompassing more than 4,000 species of mammals, birds, fish and others – analysed for population drop-off. The startling results showed that their populations fell on average by 60pc between 1970 and 2014; four years ago, a similar study returned a result of 52pc.

The study of animal populations is one of the most comprehensive ever taken, with 59 scientists from across the world involved.

Other worrying findings include that the Earth may have lost half of its shallow water corals during the same time. On top of that, 20pc of the Amazon rainforest has disappeared over the past 50 years, with Brazil’s newly elected president seemingly eager to remove even larger swathes of it for farming.

‘A warning shot across our bow’

This need for farmland was found as the greatest cause of animal deaths over the past few decades, followed by our insatiable demand for meat and fish. Chemical pollution of our oceans was also identified as a major factor, wiping out half the population of killer whales in the process.

In terms of where has been hit hardest, South and Central America have seen an 89pc drop in vertebrate populations due to the wiping out of areas as large as many capital cities every few months. It is rivers and lakes where the damage is being felt the most, where populations of wildlife have fallen by as much as 83pc.

“This report sounds a warning shot across our bow,” said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF US.

“Natural systems essential to our survival – forests, oceans and rivers – remain in decline. Wildlife around the world continue to dwindle. It reminds us we need to change course. It’s time to balance our consumption with the needs of nature, and to protect the only planet that is our home.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic