World wildlife populations fall 60%, koalas declining even faster

This koala was tossed and bitten by cattle while it was trying to cross the paddock in Southeast Queensland, October 2012. Sadly its injuries were so severe it had to be euthanised by a vet (Image Credit: WWF-Australia).

GLOBAL wildlife populations have fallen by 60% since 1970, but koalas are now declining at an even faster rate.

The worldwide species decline is revealed in today’s Living Planet Report 2018, WWF’s comprehensive study of the health of the planet and a grim reminder of the pressure we exert on Nature.

It indicates that global populations of vertebrate species have, on average, declined by 60% in just over 40 years – a rate of 13.6% per decade.

But koalas in Eastern Australia are declining at a rate of 21% per decade.

Shrinking koala numbers are largely explained by another statistic in WWF’s flagship report: Eastern Australia is named as one 11 global deforestation fronts. Australia is the only developed country on the list.

WWF calculates that by 2050, koalas could disappear from the wild in New South Wales, after the axing of forest protection laws by the state government.

Clearing for livestock is listed as the primary cause of Eastern Australia’s forest loss with unsustainable logging an important secondary cause.

“It is a wakeup call for our east coast to appear alongside notorious forest destruction hotspots such as the Amazon, Congo Basin, Sumatra and Borneo,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman.

“The plight of koalas is matched by alarming declines for many other uniquely Australian species who are losing their forest homes.

“The NSW government needs to urgently reverse its recent axing of laws that has led to a tripling of koala habitat destruction in north west New South Wales.

“Buying land is welcome but will only save a fraction of koala habitat – stronger forest protection laws are crucial,” Mr O’Gorman said.

“Nature has been silently sustaining and powering our societies and economies for centuries, and continues to do so today,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International.

“In return, the world has continued to take nature and its services for granted, failing to act against the accelerating loss of nature. It is time we realized that a healthy, sustainable future for all is only possible on a planet where nature thrives and forests, oceans and rivers are teeming with biodiversity and life,” added Lambertini.

“We need to urgently rethink how we use and value nature – culturally, economically and on our political agendas. We need to think of nature as beautiful and inspirational, but also as indispensable. We – and the planet – need a new global deal for nature and people now,” he said.

The Living Planet Report 2018 highlights the unparalleled yet rapidly closing opportunity the global community has to protect and restore nature leading up to 2020, a critical year when leaders are expected to review the progress made on the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Living Planet Report 2018 suggests a roadmap for the targets, indicators and metrics the 196 member states of the CBD could consider to deliver an urgent, ambitious and effective global agreement for nature, as the world did for climate in Paris, when they meet at the 14th Conference of the Parties to the CBD in Egypt in November 2018.

The CBD CoP14 will bring together world leaders, businesses and civil society to develop the post-2020 framework for action for global biodiversity and thus marks a milestone moment to set the groundwork for an urgently needed global deal for nature and people.