The Living Planet Report 2014: 10 animals we may never spot again

WWF’s just released Living Planet Report 2014 says we have wiped out half the world’s wildlife in just 40 years. Here are 10 creatures we will miss entirely.

The Living Planet Report is the world’s leading science-based analysis on the health of our planet and the impact of human activity. The report believes that the insights can help make better choices that translate into clear benefits for ecology, society and the economy today and in the long term.

Their 2014 report, tracking more than 10,000 vertebrae population over 3,000 species, has created much alarm among scientists, conservationists and the larger community. The most staggering revelation of the report is that there has been a decline of 52% in the biodiversity of the world, in just 40 years, from 1970-2014. While the average decline is half, there are species that have even worse rate of declines – the LPI for freshwater ecosystems show a whopping 76% decline, while terrestrial species show a decline of 39%.

How are we contributing?


Pic courtesy: WWF

“By taking more from our ecosystems and natural processes than can be replenished, we are jeopardizing our future,” wrote Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, in a foreword to the Living Planet Index. “Nature conservation and sustainable development go hand-in-hand. They are not only about preserving biodiversity and wild places, but just as much about safeguarding the future of humanity — our well-being, economy, food security and social stability — indeed, our very survival.”

Habitat loss, change and degradation make up almost 45% of the primary causes of decline for wildlife populations, just ahead of exploitation through hunting and fishing at 37%. Climate change, at 7.1%, is the next most common primary threat.

We need 1.5 Earths to meet the demands we currently make on nature. If all people on the planet had the footprint of the average resident of Qatar, we would need 4.8 planets. If we consumed the same as the U.S., we would need 3.9 planets. South Korea consumes at a rate of 2.5 planets, while South African consumption patterns require 1.4 planets


The Living Planet Index

As co-habitants of Planet Earth, here’s even worse news: 10 animal species that have been pushed the dinosaur way, thanks in great part to our disproportionate growth and usage of resources on Planet Earth:

1. The Great Indian Bustard

Image Source:

Image Source:

Found in the Indian subcontinent, the Great Indian Bustard is one of the heaviest flying birds. Rampant poaching and loss of habitat has led to a massive decline in the number of this species, as fewer than 250 Bustards remain in the wild today.

2. Javanese Tiger

Image Source:

Image Source:

The story of extinction of the Javan Tiger is easily one of the most saddest. Considered to be a plague because of their huge population, the tiger was declared extinct in 1994. Between 1934-1970, the extirpation of the species was compounded by several factors. Growth of human population led to decrease in habitat and prey in Java. Increasingly, tigers were killed by poachers and also hunted down by the locals, and this led to an exponential decline in their numbers, eventually leading to extinction.

3. Golden Toad

Image Source

Image Source

Considered to be a “poster animal” for the endangered amphibians crisis, this species used to be one of the most populous of the amphibians in the Costa Rican region. It was discovered in 1964 and in just 17 years was declared extinct. Global warming and temperature change and pollution are the cause that have been attributed to the demise of the the golden toad.

4. Pyreanean Ibex

Image SOurce:

Image Source:

This species of the ibex was found in France, Spain, Portugal and some other European countries as well, but it was predominantly endemic to the Iberian Peninsula. It was also one of the more abundant species of ibexes. The numbers had never dwindled before 1900s, but post 1910, their numbers never rose above 40. The last of the Pyrean Ibex died in 2000 and although scientists tried to revive the species by cloning, but the cloned ibex dies seven minutes later after birth due to lung failure, and hence the species was declared extinct.

5. Baiji River Dolphin

Image Source:

Image Source:

This dolphin is one of the prime examples of a species falling prey to industrialization and over use of natural resources. Nicknamed “Goddess of the Yangtze”, this was found in the river Yangtze, China and the population was estimated to be 5000 in the 1950s. But, due to heavy use of the river for transportation, fishing and hydro electricity, the population of the dolphin fell down to less than 200 in the 70s. Even after repeated conservation efforts, the last of the Baiji died in 2000 and was declared extinct.

6. The Ganges Shark

Image Source:

Image Source:

One of the critically endangered species of sharks, this one is found, or rather rarely found in the Ganges and the Brahmaputra river belts. The Ganges shark is extremely sensitive to habitat change and overfishing, habitat degradation because of industrial pollution and human settlements, and construction of dams and barrages have been the primary reason for its endangerment. It also considered to be a part of the shark fin trade. This specie is so rare that very few verified documented records of its numbers exist.

7. Olive Ridley Turtles

Image Source:

Image Source:

Also known as the Pacific Ridley turtle, it is found majorly in Pacific and Indian ocean waters. In India, it is found the southern region, primarily in Tamil Nadu and Odisha. There are a variety of threats which affect the population of these turtles. As they nest on land, they are threatened by dogs and other native canines. In waters the primary cause of their mortality is boat collisions, getting caught in trawling and fishing nets. However, the greatest single cause of loss of eggs, is by destruction of nests by other nesting females. Their population is also threatened by humans because of demand for  food( eggs), bait, oil, leather, and fertilizer. It is currently considered to be an endangered species.

8. The Zanzibar Leopard

Image Source: Wikipedia

Image Source: Wikipedia

This species of leopard is native to Tanzania and is considered extinct. Increasing conflict between the native human population led to the decline in the population of this highly elusive animal. Superstition was a major reason why the natives killed the Zanzibar leopard as they were believed to be kept by witches and sent to harm people. An elaborate story is behind this belief, and this further cemented the fear of the leopard in the natives. The actual cause was a loss of habitat due to agriculture and human encroachment, which led to increased encounters of the leopard with the humans. Island wide anti-witchcraft and leopard killing campaigns led to the demise of this beautiful animal specie and efforts to conserve and revive the leopard proved to be in vain.

9. West African Rhino

Image Source:

Image Source:

This is the extinct sub-species  of the African rhino family. The West African rhino was predominantly a part of the southern African region. In the early 20th century, it was heavily hunted, primarily for its horn and its hide. Conservation efforts could never take any sort of concrete shape as poaching proved to be the ultimate bane for this species of the rhinoceros.

10. Gharial

Image Source: Wikipedia

Image Source: Wikipedia

Also known as the the fish eating crocodile, this member of the crocodilian family is native to the Indian subcontinent. The global population of this species is estimated to be fewer than 230 individuals. The primary reason for the decline in the numbers is the loss of riverine habitat in which they thrive, loss of food because of the fishing industry. Once they used to inhabit all the major river systems in India, but that currently they are just down to 2% of their erstwhile population. Usage of fishing nets, and building of dams and barrages have contribute to their steep decline and even though conservation efforts are taking place, it may be too late for this reptile.

The list does not end here. The loss of flora and fauna in the last four decades has been exponential and is still happening at an alarming rate.

What can you do? A lot!

Here are 4 small changes you can make to save wildlife

1. Avoid Plastic
This has been said a million times, and probably will be said again a million times more, but this seemingly small issue has far reaching consequences. Hundreds of Olive Ridley turtles die every year, because they ingest the plastic thrown carelessly around in the beaches. There has been enough instances of wildlife, plants included, being harmed just because of careless littering.

2. Minimize use of Herbicides and Pesticides
Herbicides and pesticides may keep your yard looking nice but they are in fact extremely hazardous pollutants that affect wildlife at many levels. Most herbicides and pesticides take a very long to break down, or degrade and permeate through the soil and harm the food cycle and build up successively through out the food chain. This makes amphibians and other animals which depend on the soil for subsistence extremely vulnerable to these chemical pollutants in their habitat.

3. Reuse, Recycle, Reduce
This may seem unrelated, but the cumulative effect of this is far reaching. Reducing one’s carbon footprint goes a long way in helping the wild life and has a positive impact on the environment. Here are seven gadgets that will help you reduce your carbon footprint.

4. Be a responsible traveller
As a wild life traveller, ensure that you are not harming the ecosystem that you are visiting. Following the rules of the sanctuary or the park is of prime importance, as they have guidelines regarding which areas you can travel to and at what time of the day. The onus of keeping the area clean is on the traveler himself/herself and the ecosystem remains undisturbed is of utmost concern.


  Top Stories on TA

  Top Stories in SOCIETY

   Get stories like this in your inbox


Discuss this article on Facebook