I started this blog with the idea of discussing cryptozoologically related topics such as bigfoot, black panthers and chupacabras in a reasonable and level-headed manner. I wanted it to be more than that, however, and over the years have added posts on out of place animals and the status of creatures large and small from all over the U.S. and the world. My theory on some of the large cryptid questions out there is that there is a biological entity responsible for many of the sightings and accounts given by witnesses. If my theory is correct, creatures like wood apes and melanistic mystery cats are flesh and blood and subject to the same environmental pressures as known species. I would ask that you keep that in mind as you read this post. I think you will agree the statistics discussed below are quite sobering.
The Earth has lost half of its wildlife population over the last 40 years.
That is the conclusion reached by scientists from the WWF and the Zoological Society of London according to an article by Damian Carrington published on The Guardian website. WWF and ZSL researchers found that animals across the spectrum, river dwellers, sea creatures and land animals, are being decimated as humans harvest them for food in unsustainable numbers while simultaneously polluting and destroying their habitats.
Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science is quoted as saying, “If half the animals died in the London zoo next week it would be front page news but that is what is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.” Professor Norris stressed that nature, which provides food, water and air to humanity was essential for the survival of the planet.
“We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now,” said Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF. Barratt went on to stress that more of the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation and that we must find a way to produce food and energy in a sustainable manner.
Researchers calculated the drastic decline in wildlife populations by analyzing 10,000 different populations, covering 3,000 species in total. The data was then used to create a “Living Planet Index” (LPI), which reflected the state of 45,000 known vertebrates. The LPI is considered to be a robust indicator and has been adopted by the UN’s Convention of Biological Diversity as a key insight into biodiversity.
Professor Jonathan Baillie, the ZSL’s director of conservation, said, “We have missed the ultimate indicator, the falling trend of species and ecosystems in the world.” He added, “If we get our response right, we will have a safe and sustainable way of life for the future.”
Another index cited in the study is the Living Planet Report that calculates mankind’s “ecological footprint.” Loosely, an ecological footprint is the scale at which man is using up natural resources. The report states that, currently, the global population is cutting down trees faster than they regrow, is catching fish faster than the oceans can restock, is pumping water from rivers and aquifers faster than the rainfall can replenish them and is emitting more climate-warming carbon dioxide than oceans and forests can absorb. The report concludes that the current global rate of consumption would need 1.5 planet Earths to sustain it.
The most serious declines in population is occurring among animal populations that live in freshwater ecosystems. Populations have plummeted 75% since 1970. “Rivers are at the bottom of the system,” said Dave Tickner, the WWF’s chief freshwater adviser. “Whatever happens on the land, it all ends up in the rivers.” Pollution is not the only factor in the decline of wildlife populations in freshwater ecosystems. Dams and the increasing abstraction of water damage these systems. Tickner is quoted as saying, “There are more than 45,000 major dams – 15m or higher – around the world. These slice rivers up into a thousand pieces.” The dams prevent a healthy flow of water. In addition, more and more water is being pumped out of river systems. The world population has increased fourfold in the last 100 years but the world’s water useage has increased sevenfold. “We are living thirstier and thirstier lives,” Tickner said.
The picture for land-based wildlife is not much better. According to the study, the Earth has lost 40% of its land animals since 1970. Poaching and habitat destruction are the two main culprits here. Marine animal populations have also fallen 40% during the same time period. Factors in these losses are pollution, global warming and unsustainable harvesting practices.
David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK said, “The scale of the destruction highlighted in this report should be a wake-up call for us all. We all – politicians, businesses and people – have an interest and a responsibility to act to ensure we protect what we all value: a healthy future for both people and nature.”
The findings discussed above are startling and sobering. While most people, I believe, are in support of measures to save wilderness areas and wildlife, I fear the latest findings may fall on deaf ears. Of course, that assumes the message reaches the ears of the public at all. I saw nothing on the CNN, Fox News, CNBC or any other news network discussing this study and its findings. Additionally, I sense that the general public has been deluged with so many doomsday messages regarding pollution, global warming, habitat destruction, etc. that a point of over saturation has been reached. The WWF/ZSL report is just one more such story. It is white noise to many. Those who do consider such matters seriously likely have no idea what, if anything, they can do to help. There is a real sense of it being too late and that the train has already left the station. Another factor in all of this is that developing nations, where most of the habitat and wildlife is declining most severely, balk at the efforts of developed nations who “already have theirs” to limit their industrial practices. We must somehow make it worthwhile for these nations to preserve the few wild places we still have on this planet.
I do not feel it is too late. It might be the fourth quarter, but the game is not over. This is where those with an interest in unknown/undiscovered animals might be able to make a difference. If a new species, previously believed to have been a myth, can be proven real, the interest generated might just be the impetus needed to get politicians and governments from around the world moving on environmental issues. Just imagine if one of the cryptid “big three,” bigfoot, yeti or Loch Ness monster, was scientifically documented. The public cry to protect these species and their habitats would be deafening. Those in power, at least in most nations, would have little choice but to listen. The act of saving habitat for these species would directly, and positively, impact the ability of other known species to survive as well. By saving vast tracts of forested land in North America and Canada in order to preserve and study the sasquatch, we would also be helping countless other species survive. Animals ranging from the smallest insect to largest of mammals would benefit. This alone makes the work of those seriously working to document unrecognized species vital. We need a new “poster child” for a worldwide movement to save the last wild places on this Earth.
Those who are going about the business of documenting unknown species in a professional and scientific manner need our support. The clowns and charlatans who are making a mockery of cryptozoological research are hurting such legitimate efforts. These people should be shunned and ignored. We simply cannot afford to tolerate such shenanigans anymore; the time is growing short.
Carrington, D. (2014, September 29). Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years, says WWF. Retrieved October 6, 2014, from http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/29/earth-lost-50-wildlife-in-40-years-wwf
Yeti Print Photo Credit: Mike Rees