44% of the 1189 migratory species that United Nations member countries have committed to protecting are declining. Even worse, 20% of these species are at risk of extinction. Revealing this during the United Nations conference on wildlife conservation was the report “State of the World’s Migratory Species” from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which has been studying climate change since 1972 to protect the environment and use natural resources sustainably. It is the first official document to offer such a comprehensive assessment of the state of migratory species.

From African elephants to marine turtles, millions of animals searching for food traverse seas and mountains. Almost all (97%) of the fish species protected by UNEP are particularly at risk of extinction. More than half of the sites considered “important for animals” are not under protection, and even more than half of those that are protected are suffering serious consequences due to human activity. Furthermore, UNEP is missing 399 migratory species that are on the brink of extinction.

“These are creatures that not only act as indicators of environmental change but also play an integral role in maintaining the function and resilience of our planet’s complex ecosystems,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP. Andersen then warned United Nations member countries: “The global community has the opportunity to translate this latest scientific knowledge about the pressures facing migratory species into concrete conservation actions. We cannot afford delays.”

Only humans, who for decades have forced entire herds to migrate or split due to overexploitation of land and pollution, can reverse this terrible trend.

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