Healthy and beautiful environments provide me with such a sense of wonder, it is so special to see a wildlife thrive.But the global trend is one of severe decline; scientists estimate that 10,000 species go extinct every year. These rates are believed to be 1,000-10,000 times larger than the natural extinction rate. Far greater than any other time in the geological record, and unlike any other time, it is caused almost entirely by one species- ours.
In the last 35 years, biodiversity has declined by more than a quarter. Population growth and consumption are the main causes for this loss; creating habitat loss, pollution, climate change and species exploitation.
The Living Planet Report
Two examples of species currently facing threats are the pangolin and orangutang.
There are 8 species of pangolin found on 2 continents. They range from vulnerable to critically endangered on the ICUN red list. Pangolins are one of the most heavily trafficked animals in the world. Their meat is a delicacy in China and Vietnam and their scales are used in traditional medicines. Over 230,000 animals were seized between 2011-2013, experts believe this figure represents only 10% of the total number of pangolin being illegally traded.
Pangolin Pit This photo was part of last year’s Wildlife Photographer of the year Exhibition in London. It captivated me; telling such a horrific story.
Orangutang are the largest tree climbing mammal. They are facing threats thanks to ongoing deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia. Both species of orang are now classified as endangered (Bornean) or critically endangered (Sumatran).One of the main drivers of habitat loss is demand for palm oil; this crop has many different uses and is used in many of the foods we eat, in food packaging and cosmetics. In Sumatra 10.8 million hectares of rainforest have been converted into palm plantation; destroying the natural habitat of special rainforest species. I have tried to stop buying food with palm oil in it in the hope that I am not supporting this industry.
The State of Nature report was released in the UK last year. The report suggested that between 1970 and 2013, 56% of species in the UK faced population declines. Of the 8000 species assessed, 15% were extinct or threatened with extinction. Agriculture and climate change are the main drivers of biodiversity loss in the UK.
There are a number of UK species that are really suffering.
Natterjack toads are now confined to coastal dune areas and sandy heaths. Only found on about 60 sites in the UK. It used to be quite common in Surrey and Hampshire heaths but is now almost entirely gone.
In just the last 10 years, the numbers of hedgehogs has fallen by 30%. This is thanks to habitat loss and intensification of agricultural practices. They are disappearing from our countryside as quickly as tigers are worldwide.
Watervoles have undergone one of the most serious declines of any native mammal in the 20th century. Intensification of agriculture, loss and degradation of habitat, degradation of rivers and waterways and the introduction of the American Mink (1990s spread). Between 1989 and 1998 the population fell by almost 90%.
As someone who cares greatly about the habitats and species around us, I am really saddened to learn about the impact we are having on nature. I am sure together we can do more to reduce species loss.