‘A million species in danger’, say experts

Boing! The Amur leopard can jump over three metres into the air from a standing position. © Moscow Zoo

Is it too late to prevent a sixth mass extinction? A new report from the World Wildlife Fund has warned that humans are destroying nature at a rate that has never been seen before.

What’s happening

It grows to weigh nearly 50kg. It can run at 37mph and its tail is almost a metre long. It has beautiful, thick, spotted fur.

But the Amur leopard is in terrible trouble. There are only 84 left in the wild. Now, a report warns it is just one of a million species in danger of extinction.

Find out more

The Living Planet Report is produced every two years by the WWF. It looks at how well the natural world is doing. It examines what threats the planet faces and what humans need to do to reduce the problems.

This year, the WWF studied 21,000 species. It found that population numbers of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles have fallen by 68% in 50 years.

This is partly due to global warming. Rising sea temperatures and changing climates mean some creatures are struggling.

But the report says that human activities are also to blame. Too much fishing means animals like dolphins, hippos and beavers have less access to food; deforestation destroys habitats; elephants, rhinos and leopards are hunted for sport.

Is it too late to stop more extinctions?

Some say…

Sadly, yes. There is no way to turn back time. We have destroyed too many habitats and some species have been lost forever. To stop it happening again, we would have to change the way we farm, fish, build and travel. All over the world, millions of lives would need to change. It’s too big a task: people are set in their ways.

Others think…

We cannot turn back time, but we can change the future. The report says that we can prevent many extinctions if we “conserve and restore nature”. That means stopping more deforestation and overfishing from taking place. It means fighting climate change. If we all work together to help the environment recover, we can make a difference.

You Decide

  1. Is extinction our most urgent problem?

Activities

  1. Take this WWF quiz to test your Wild Wisdom knowledge. Compare your score with the rest of the class.

Some People Say...

“The future of humanity and indeed, all life on Earth, now depends on us.”

Sir David Attenborough, British naturalist

What do you think?

Word Watch

Extinction
When an animal and all the rest of its species dies out completely – not a single one is left anywhere on Earth.
WWF
The short name for the World Wildlife Fund. An independent international organisation, its mission “is to create a world where people and wildlife can thrive together”.
Examines
Looks at something very closely and carefully
Population
All the people or specific animals living in a particular area
Rising sea temperatures
Warmer seas are a result of global warming. Now some animals now have to travel much further to colder areas to find the food they need to survive.
Deforestation
Cutting down trees from a forest. The heavy deforestation taking place in the Amazon, clearing the land for cattle and crops, is the largest in the world.
Habitats
The natural home of a plant or animal. For example, a gorilla’s natural habitat is a green area like a forest or jungle.

Subjects

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