The 4%

Wild animals now make up only 4 percent of the mammalian biomass on Earth.

I was born at 93.6 LPI. I’m referring to the Living Planet Index, which is an annual assessment of the state of global biodiversity, against a 1970 baseline. Currently, the LPI sits at 30.9, meaning that biodiversity – of vertebrates specifically – appears to have declined on average by more than 60% in my lifetime. Moreover, although it’s now common for people to highlight “born at 331ppm” or the like on social media platforms, in reference to changing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere over time, the same isn’t true of LPI or other biodiversity measures. 

For both of these reasons, the dramatic drop in wild species and the lack of sufficient consciousness or alarm about that, I pay a significant amount of attention to biodiversity – and their loss – in my reporting.

Land use change is the primary driver of biodiversity change and loss. Direct exploitation, meaning humans’ use of wildlife, is directly behind that. For marine-based lifeforms, direct exploitation is the leading cause of their loss and change.

But while land use change is the subject of news coverage to some extent, direct exploitation receives less attention. Moreover, when it comes to the wildlife trade, reporting on this direct exploitation tends to focus on illegal activities and broadly speaking gives the legal trade a pass, despite the two being interlinked.

George Orwell’s musings on journalism explain the situation well, I believe. In his famous foreword to Animal Farm, Orwell wrote of the British media and arts culture at the time that “there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question.” Currently, the legal trade often receives tacit acceptance, in the media and beyond, because, as Orwell went on to note, it’s just “not done” to say otherwise.

Amid an extinction crisis, I believe this is the time for questioning. That’s why I have and will continue to interrogate this exploitation in my writing, alongside reporting on other issues relevant to wildlife.

Featured image by big-ashb via Flickr

“The whole of creation is waiting for us to become human”

– Karl Amman, The Tiger Mafia