Wildlife species around the world are under serious threat of decline, a major new study by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has claimed.
In its Living Planet Report, which the animal charity publishes every two years, the WWF said that three-quarters of the world had now been impacted by humans with safe havens for animal populations dwindling.
The report found that current rates of species extinctions are 100 to 1,000 times higher than the background rate – which is the estimated rate of extinction before human pressure became a prominent factor.
“Exploding human consumption is the driving force behind the unprecedented planetary change we are witnessing, through the increased demand for energy, land and water,” the report said.
“For too long we have taken nature for granted, and this needs to stop.”
The report claims that in the UK, hedgehog populations have declined 75 per cent in urban areas between 2002 and 2014, as a result of loss of habitat and vehicle deaths among other factors.
The Indo-Pacific whale shark population is also estimated by the WWF to have reduced by 63 per cent over the last 75 years, while it said African elephant populations in Tanzania declined by 60 per cent between 2009 and 2014, primarily due to poaching.
As a result of climate change, it claimed, polar bear numbers are projected to decline by 30 per cent by 205 because as sea ice melts, their ability to hunt seals, find mates and access remote denning sites is reduced.
Tanya Steele, Chief Executive at WWF said: “We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last one that can do anything about it. We need urgent action from our leaders and a new global deal for nature and people that kick starts a global programme of recovery.”