Just over five years later, it would be worthwhile to look back and see what has been achieved in terms of halting biodiversity loss as well as how our governments have performed in terms of protecting biodiversity. It is in fact quite timely to do such a review of how we fared as a recently released report highlights that global wildlife populations have fallen by 58% since 1970 and that if the trend continues the decline could reach two-thirds among vertebrates by the end of 2020¹.
So what have governments been doing?
- Species conservation and species re-introduction projects
If a species is no longer found in the wild, action may be taken to re-introduce it. A successful story of species re-introduction is the case of the black-footed ferrets, once thought to be globally extinct. Over the last thirty years, efforts by many North American state and federal agencies, zoos, Native American tribes, conservation organizations and private landowners have helped restore the black-footed ferret population to nearly 300 animals³.
- Habitat restoration and setting up protected areas
Governments have committed globally but also at regional levels to protect some biodiversity-rich areas of nature. In the EU, this is delivered though the Natura 2000 network and supported by one of the very first pieces of EU environment law ever to be adopted, the EU Birds and Habitats Directive. According to the UN, today it is estimated that every country in the world has a protected area system; protected areas cover around 15.4% of global land area and 3.4% of global ocean area⁴. But the key to delivering on biodiversity is not just the designation of protected sites but their effective management. This is where most administrations may not deliver on expectations due to lack of political appetite, funds or expertise.
- Tackling wildlife crime
For example, it is estimated that 220-450 snow leopards are killed each year by poachers or farmers, a crime which often goes undetected in the remote mountains of central Asia ⁵. Considering that there are as few as 4,000 snow leopards left in the wild, this is a most concerning statistic ⁵.
These are all areas where governments have worked across borders and with other stakeholders to put a stop to biodiversity loss. While this has been very much necessary, what is still needed is a step-change to how we plan and execute human activities at large. Biodiversity should be mainstreamed and should be an integral consideration when it comes to infrastructure, farming, forestry and fisheries policies. Failure to do so will mean that the biodiversity of living organisms on our planet will continue to decline.