In just 500 years, humans have been the cause of 322 animal extinctions, with two thirds of those occurring in the last century alone.
In a recent issue of the journal Science, researchers took a closer look at animals that have disappeared at the hands of humans, and what this might mean for the future.
One study showed that the human population has doubled in the last 35 years, and along with that increase, the number of invertebrate animals such as beetles, butterflies and worms has decreased by an alarming 45%.
The most famous mass extinction in Earth’s history took place around 252 million years ago, wiping out 90% of marine life and 70% of terrestrial life, but history may be repeating itself and this time the apocalypse is us.
We Are Already In The Midst of The 6th Mass Extinction
From the passenger pigeon to the Tasmanian tiger, and most recently the freshwater baiji dolphin, we are killing animals at an unsettling rate, and according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, another 20,000 or more animals are also on the verge of extinction.
Before we had even achieved civilization, we had already helped to hunt some of the world’s biggest animals including wooly mammoths and giant sloths to extinction, and now with our destructive use of fossil fuels over the last several centuries, we have dangerously altered the climate for our fellow species.
Utilizing every inch of land we can for cities, logging and food, we exploit the habitats of our fellow animals and plants, forging unsustainable conditions for them to survive in.
With the current extinction rate being estimated at 1,000 times faster than ever before, we are in the midst of the fastest extinction event on record and it’s the animals that are paying the biggest price.
As species start to disappear it is not just their presence that is lost, but also the loss of critical ecosystem functioning in which they play a central role.
Urgent Measures Must Be Taken to Protect the Earth’s Inhabitants
Ecologists, zoologists and other scientists all agree that urgent steps must be taken if we are to stand a chance at protecting the precious life we have left.
We are facing a global tipping point and if we don’t proceed with caution we may never be able to recover. Keeping animals alive and healthy isn’t easy when they are surrounded by problems that threaten their ecosystem’s stability.
Despite everything we are up against, there are steps that can be taken to help right the wrongs we have caused.
Nature-based tourism is a big business. Studies show that animals are worth more alive than dead, with activities like whale watching, shark watching and turtle spotting directly supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs, generating billions of dollars each year and accounting for a massive chunk of economic growth in nations the world over.
Conservation also plays a key role with the intentional movement of animals to restore populations and to protect them from disappearing forever, as well as working to curb our hazardous practices that are ravaging their natural habitats.
There is still hope, but the question is are we ready to make the necessary changes or will we blindly continue forward until it is too late to go back?
Photo Credit: Vineet Radhakrishnan