Scottish Govt must demonstrate leadership after shocking global wildlife report, say WWF Scotland


Major WWF report finds that humanity has destroyed 60 per cent of the world’s wildlife populations since 1970

THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT must “seize all opportunities” to protect and restore Scotland’s wildlife and natural environments, the acting director of WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Scotland has argued following the publication of a shocking WWF report indicating that 60 per cent of the Earth’s mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have been wiped out in less than 50 years as a result of humanity’s actions.

The environmental campaign group’s latest ‘Living Planet’ report, produced by 59 scientists across the world and published every two years, names the overexploitation and growing consumption of the Earth’s food and natural resources by the global human population as the biggest threats to the balance of nature and potentially to humanity’s continued existence.

“We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff.” WWF executive of science and conservation Mike Barrett

Animal species which have dropped massively in number between 1970 and 2014 – the most recent year for which data is currently available – include once-common UK species such as hedgehogs and puffins, as well as animals already threatened by poaching, habitat destruction, pollution and climate change, such as elephants, polar bears and rhinos.

Commenting on the report’s findings, WWF executive director of science and conservation Mike Barrett said: “We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff.

“If there was a 60 per cent decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.”

Speaking to CommonSpace, Dr Sam Gardner, acting director at WWF Scotland, said: “This stark report shows that global wildlife populations have declined by 60 percent in less than 50 years.

“In the coming months and years the Scottish Government must seize all opportunities to demonstrate the leadership required to restore our incredible natural environment.” WWF Scotland acting director Dr Sam Gardner

“The same sad story is to be seen played out across Scotland where habitat loss and climate change are combining to threaten our precious wildlife.  Nature is not just a nice thing to have – we depend on nature for the food we eat, the air we breathe and the medicines that keep us healthy. We cannot survive without it.”

The WWF’s report has argued that a “global deal” similar to the Paris climate agreement is necessary in order to save the global environment and the wildlife dependent upon it, but warns that current international efforts fall far short of what is required.

As WWF chief executive Tanya Steele puts it: “The collapse of global wildlife populations is a warning sign that nature is dying. But instead of putting the world on life support, we’re using a sticking plaster.”

Addressing Scotland’s potential role in this global effort, Dr Gardner continued: “The scale of the global response does not yet match the urgency of the situation. In the coming months and years the Scottish Government must seize all opportunities to demonstrate the leadership required to restore our incredible natural environment.” 

In 2016, the State of Nature report, produced by 50 wildlife and research organisations, suggested that one in 11 native species of animals and plants in Scotland were at risk of extinction, attributing the decline to changes in agricultural practices, including the use of pesticides and the loss of hedgerows.

Earlier this year, a further report – produced by the Mammal Society at the request of the UK Government and described as the most comprehensive analysis of British animal depopulation to date – found that one in five wild mammals in the UK face a high risk of extinction within a decade, while overall populations are falling. The report identified the Scottish wildcat as one of the most endangered species in the UK, with only 200 remaining.

Picture courtesy of Peter Trimming