China Is Killing Its Most Important Animals

Amur Tiger
This Amur tiger is just taking a snooze, but many of its brethren are at risk due to habitat loss and hunting.

[credit provider=”Arran ET/Flickr” url=””]

China is killing its animals.  Tigers, pandas, elephants, alligators, and at least eight other keystone species have been pushed to the brink in the past decades amid the country’s aggressive city growth, a new study from the World Wildlife Fund revealed Wednesday.  

Two years ago, China overtook the United States to become the world’s largest energy consumer. The country was already the leading carbon emitter, and continues to set global records as a reflection of rapid urbanization and industrialisation.

China’s animal populations, particularly species that are considered critical for ecosystems (i.e. forests, deserts, and lakes) to function, have been especially hard hit by the country’s expanding appetite for consumer goods and services, which puts an ever-growing demand on natural resources.  

The China Ecological Footprint Report lists 12 species that have experienced rapid decline in the last decades. The numbers paint a grim picture. The Giant Panda population plummeted by 60 per cent between 1970 and 1985, before strict regulations for killing the nation’s iconic bear were enacted; the Amur tiger population fell by 92 per cent from 1975 to 2009; and the Yanghtze river dolphin population shriveled by more than 99 per cent from 1980 to 2006. 

“The factors threatening key species, including poaching, human population growth, urbanization, infrastructure construction and global climate change, are faced by Chinese ecosystems to varying extents,” Professor Yang Qisen from the Institute of Zoology said in a statement.  

A chart from the study lists declining population trends of China’s keystone species. 

(Click to enlarge). 

WWF China Chart

[credit provider=”2012 China Ecological Footprint Report/WWF”]