Conservation and Biodiversity

Fact Sheet: Global Species Decline

The world is facing a mass extinction of species.  All species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, arthropods (insects and arachnids), fish, crustaceans, corals and other cnidarians, and plants have declined, in many cases, severely. Human civilization has had a negative impact on most living things.

  1. We are currently living through a mass species extinction event, the largest known. The speed with which mass extinction has onset appears to be the result of human activity. Scientists estimate that we are losing 10,000 times more species per year than the normal rate.[1]
  2. A new study has suggested that insect populations have declined by 40% globally, and one third are endangered. This is very alarming; insects play a crucial role in pollinating plants, and serve as the base of a food chain that animals and humans depend on.[2]
  3. A recent report finds that animal populations worldwide have declined by 70% over the last 50 years, due to human consumption, urbanization, population growth, and trade increases.[3]
  4. Primates, our closest animal relatives, are under extraordinary threat. Two-thirds of primate species are vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered and 85 percent of our primate species are in severe population  decline. Humans are largely to blame. While deforestation and hunting threaten specific wild primates, a rapidly changing climate threatens nearly 40 percent of all primate species.[4]  
  5. Worldwide, more than 650,000 marine mammals are caught or seriously injured by fishing gear annually.[5] 
  6. Entanglement in fishing gear, known as bycatch, kills an estimated 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) globally each year.[6] 
  7. 74% of grassland bird species are in decline.[7] 1 in 5 bird species in Europe are threatened by extinction.[8]
  8. At present, we stand to lose big cat species, in the next 10 to 15 years. Lions are down to perhaps 25,000 in the African wild, where 450,000 formerly inhabited the region. Leopards now number just 50,000, down from 750,000.[9] The cats have been poached for their body parts. Demand for teeth, bones, and claws of lions in particular in China and Southeast Asia has alarmingly surged.[10]
  9. Lizard populations are especially vulnerable to climate change. A recent study projects that if the current decline in lizard populations continues, 39% of all lizard population will be extinct and 20% of global species will be extinct by 2080.[11] 
  10. The American Bison once numbered in the millions and roamed from Alaska to Mexico. They now occupy less than one percent of their original habitat. Their existing habitat is so small and tightly controlled that surviving bison have been compared to herded cattle.[12]