Both Rich and Poor Nations Responsible for Decline in Wildlife

Qatar: outsourcing biodiversity loss. Photo: Santosh G Prabhu

In different ways both rich and poor countries share the blame for a halving in wildlife populations since 1970. Over this time the world’s human population has neatly doubled. Africa has the sharpest increase as I recall.

Most of the decline in mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians over the past 40 years has occurred in poor countries; populations have fallen by 58%.

The rich countries destroyed their wildlife before 1970! The poorer countries are just catching up and have not learned any lessons.

In poorer countries wildlife is usually destroyed because of poaching (for example the elephant for its ivory) and habitat loss because of increased human population and increased industrial activity. Also wild cats like the lion are killed because they interfere with farming. The cheetah in Africa lives on farmland. The population of forest elephants of west and central Africa have declined by 60% over this period. The forest elephant is restricted to around 7% of its previous distribution.

The tiger is poached for its body parts and the reserves it lives on are probably too small and there is too much human activity inside and on the borders of the reserves. Wild tiger numbers have fallen from around 100,000 in 1910 to about 3,200 today.

The interesting reason why rich countries currently share the blame for the destruction of wildlife is because they have a much higher “ecological footprint” than poor nations. An ecological footprint is the number of hectares of land needed to sustain the lifestyle of the average person. It varies dramatically between countries.

Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have the highest ecological footprints or have the worst indirect impact on wildlife. These countries cause wildlife loss in the poorer countries by, for example, importing products such as palm oil from poor countries. These countries deforest their landscape to make palm oil plantations. Much wildlife lives in forests.

Britain is 28th in the league of worst ecological footprints. Each British resident unknowingly needs five hectares to produce the products and services they consume. Kuwaitis require 10 hectares.

The USA resident requires 7 hectares. East Timor residents require half a hectare.

The report from the Zoological Society of London states:

“If all the people on the planet had the footprint of the average resident of Qatar, we would need 4.8 planets”.

Think about that for a bit.

 

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • Very useful article, I share every article of PoC to my facebook so many people can read.

    The situation is really catastrophic, no doubt but in my opinion it is the duty of the state to think and look after these matters and we as public are just toys in the hands of those who should have act with responsibility.

    May God givethem light of positive thoughts, amin.
    What can I say else? :(

    • Agreed that individuals cannot conserve wildlife. We can't beat big business and we can't beat corrupt governments who work with immoral big business. Together they have a stranglehold over wildlife and they are strangling it to death.

  • Michael have vivid memories seeing the cheetah in the wild in Nairobi National park in Kenya in 1967 and the tigers in the wild at the "Tadoba National park" in India in 2014.Will future generations have the privilege of seeing wild-life in its natural habitat a few decades from now ?Was shocked to read that almost 50% of our Planets wild-life has been exterminated.Can the same be reversed ?Its a big hope as our human population marches forward in destroying wild habitat by colonising forests and converting the same into villages or farmland.I can write on India that poaching and habitat destruction is the main reason for its wild-life decline. I am no more in touch with African wild-life , having never ever visited a wild-life reserve since 1967 and hence can't comment on the reasons for its drastic wild-life decline.It would be a holocaust if ultimately wild animals are reduced to just "Zoo specimens" with forest animals totally wiped out beyond a breeding population.Below is a photo of a "Komodo lizard" i clicked at the "Gembira Loka zoo" in Yogyakarta. It was as docile and lethargic as a pet iguana, the result of years of zoo captivity.Hope the wild Komodo dragons on Komodo island exist in their natural habitat, wild and dangerous.

    • Well said. I fear that we are heading towards the catastrophe you describe unless we change our ways very soon which seems highly unlikely. The great iconic animals: elephant, tiger, lion are going to be lost to us in the wild one day.

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