Wildlife numbers cause for alarm

WWF once stood for entertainment. Big blokes in silly outfits playing outrageous characters and taking part in highly physical, but staged, fights made the World Wrestling Federation a global sensation.

That global reach brought it into conflict with the World Wildlife Fund, which successfully obtained exclusive use of the WWF trademark in 2002.

Those three letters perhaps stand for something else — not at all entertaining — this week.

What? Why? Then an F word of your choosing.

There was sobering — alarming, really — news out of the WWF yesterday when it released its latest biennial Living Planet report. Inside, the numbers tell starkly of what we are doing to the wildlife on this planet.

Based on contributions from some 125 experts from around the world, it finds there has been an average decline in wildlife populations of a staggering 68% since 1970.

Fifty years of rampant growth, industrialisation, deforestation, illegal wildlife trading, climate change and mass agricultural production have led to unprecedented environmental destruction, leaving hundreds of global vertebrates without a place to live.

The report highlights the plight of wildlife populations in freshwater habitats, down a frightening 84% in that span, and the key numbers in our own patch (the Ministry for the Environment estimates 76% of freshwater fish are threatened with extinction, and 4000 of our native species are endangered), lest we think this is a problem elsewhere.

As WWF International head Marco Lambertini summarises, this is all a very big problem. The decline of wildlife "affects directly nutrition, food security and the livelihoods of millions of people".

It is impossible to flick through this report and not feel an overwhelming sense that we have done a wretched job as the caretakers of this planet and, moreover, that we are creating (have created?) a looming catastrophe.

We know the way we live, and consume, is unsustainable, and that, while good progress is being made in some areas, more needs to be done to protect global biodiversity.

The WWF is calling for "unprecedented and co-ordinated global action" to address this crisis, and hopes next week’s 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly — at which updates will be presented on the progress made in sustainable development and the Paris Agreement — will take note.

It is time to act. It is time to unite, as a human race, to do better for the other living creatures on the planet. We rely on them, remember.


While New Zealand fans yesterday anxiously awaited news of the Rugby Championship and where it would be hosted later this year — Sanzaar was meeting last night to thrash it out, and it wasn’t looking promising — they received one unexpected and extremely exciting boost.

It was announced that the All Whites were to play against England at Wembley, probably the world’s most storied football venue.

The November 13 clash against Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Trent Alexander-Arnold and other superstars comes a month after the All Whites play the world’s No 1-ranked nation, Belgium, in Brussels.

Covid-19 means the Wembley game will be played behind closed doors, but this should be a memorable occasion for our national men’s football side.

Playing England — for just a third time — is another great chance for the All Whites, who have made real progress in recent years, to play against high-level opposition.

It’s also got a feelgood factor about it — playing at Wembley, against star players most New Zealand football fans watch in the English Premier League every week — that is timely as the sporting landscape rebuilds after the chaos of a pandemic.



You say it is time to act, to do better towards other living creatures on this planet but you offer no solutions, insight, suggestions or even debate but instead quickly move on to write about sport.

Robin Freeman, who led the research at ZSL, said: “It seems that we’ve spent 10 to 20 years talking about these declines and not really managed to do anything about it. It frustrates me and upsets me. We sit at our desks and compile these statistics but they have real-life implications. It’s really hard to communicate how dramatic some of these declines are.”


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