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WWF: Tree loss, illegal trade, land use drive wildlife decline since 1970

A giant panda eats bamboo leaves in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China. A new report says pandas, tigers and many other forms of wildlife worldwide are in biodiversity decline and coordinated global action is needed to halt the losses. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
A giant panda eats bamboo leaves in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China. A new report says pandas, tigers and many other forms of wildlife worldwide are in biodiversity decline and "coordinated global action" is needed to halt the losses. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 10 (UPI) -- A new environmental report Thursday blames deforestation, unsustainable agriculture and the illegal wildlife trade for a substantial loss of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish around the world over the last half-century.

The World Wildlife Foundation and Zoological Society of London said in their Living Planet Report 2020 the research demonstrates a need for "urgent action" to end the destruction of natural habitats and reform food systems worldwide.

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The report also said some land use practices and the wildlife trade have made the world more vulnerable to pandemics.

"The Living Planet Report 2020 underlines how humanity's increasing destruction of nature is having catastrophic impacts, not only on wildlife populations but also on human health and all aspects of our lives," Marco Lambertini, director-general of WWF International, said in a statement.

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The organizations cited increases in global trade, population, urbanization and human consumption as major factors in the global decrease in wildlife.

"Until 1970, humanity's ecological footprint was smaller than the Earth's rate of regeneration," the group said. "To feed and fuel our 21st-century lifestyles, we are overusing the Earth's biocapacity by at least 56%."

The number of eastern lowland gorillas in Congo, for example, decreased by nearly 90% between 1994 and 2015 due to illegal hunting, the report said. The African grey parrot in Ghana similarly lost 99% of its population due to habitat loss and trapping.

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More than 80% percent of freshwater habitats, meanwhile, have been entirely lost in the last 50 years.

"In the midst of a global pandemic, it is now more important than ever to take unprecedented and coordinated global action to halt and start to reverse the loss of biodiversity and wildlife populations across the globe by the end of the decade and protect our future health and livelihoods," Lambertini said.

"Our own survival increasingly depends on it."

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