World has lost half of its animals in last 40 years
Half of the world's wild animals have been lost in the past 40 years because of habitat destruction, hunting and deforestation, according to a report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
The Living Planet report found that populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have fallen on average by 52pc per cent since 1970.
The WWF looked at 10,380 populations of 3,038 species across the world.
The situation is worst in low-income countries, where wildlife populations declined on average by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2010. Latin America has had the biggest losses, with a drop of 83pc, but European species have also suffered, including the turtle dove, red squirrels and white seals.
The decline can almost entirely be attributed to human activity, through habitat loss, deforestation, climate change, overfishing and hunting, the report said.
The WWF said its Living Planet report demonstrated that people should reduce consumption and think more about conserving natural habitats. It warned of the effects of human activity, with forests cut down too quickly, seas overfished and more carbon dioxide being created than the planet can absorb.
David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF in the UK, said: "The scale of destruction should be a wake-up call to us all. We all have an interest, and a responsibility, to act to ensure we protect what we all value: a healthy future for both people and nature.
The Living Planet report said human activity is outstripping the resources the Earth can provide, cutting down forests too quickly, overfishing and putting out more carbon dioxide than the planet can absorb, leading to climate change.
It is estimated that the Earth would need to be 1.5 times larger to soak up the damage caused by man.
Prof Ken Norris, of the Zoological Society of London, which updates the species database, said: "This damage is not inevitable, but a consequence of the way we choose to live. We need to explain to the public that what they do is directly behind the trends we are seeing."
(© Daily Telegraph, London)