Some types of cheetah are among vulnerable species Alamy Stock Photo

Human destruction of nature threatens migratory mammals, fish and birds, report declares

Nearly half of migratory wildlife that need international protection are in population decline.

HUMANS ARE DESTROYING the habitats of endangered wildlife species that migrate throughout the year, a new report has declared. 

The populations of nearly half (44%) of 1,189 species identified as needing international protection are declining and 22% are threatened with extinction.

Humans are responsible for damaging and eliminating natural habitats, primarily through agriculture, hunting, and fishing activities and by causing pollution and climate change. 

Conservation scientists have published the first global assessment of the state of migratory species, which includes animals, birds and fish that have a pattern of travelling from one region to another.

The report was launched at a conference in Uzbekistan of countries that are parties to the UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. 

United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Inger Andersen said the report “clearly shows us that unsustainable human activities are jeopardising the future of migratory species”.

The creatures “not only act as indicators of environmental change but play an integral role in maintaining the function and resilience of our planet’s complex ecosystems”, she said.

“The global community has an opportunity to translate this latest science of the pressures facing migratory species into concrete conservation action.

“Given the precarious situation of many of these animals, we cannot afford to delay, and must work together to make the recommendations a reality.”


The report offers several recommendations to combat the decline in migratory species, including protecting areas that are vital for breeding, feeding and stopovers.

Climate change and pollution must be tackled and countries should expand the list of species identified for international protection under the treaty, the report says.

Stronger efforts to tackle illegal and unsustainable hunting and fishing of migratory  species is another key recommendation, as well as reducing accidental catching. 

Species decline

Billions of species migrate every year on land and in the oceans and skies, usually in search of food or a place to reproduce and raise their young.

Human activities like farming, fishing and hunting, coupled with obstacles like busy shipping routes or roads, are disrupting species’ ability to travel freely along their migration routes.

58% of sites that are recognised as important for protected species are being subjected to “unsustainable levels” of human pressure.

Pollution of all kinds is hurting migratory species – pesticides, plastics, heavy metals, nutrients, and noise and light levels.

The affects of the climate crisis are already impacting vulnerable species and are expected to grow even worse in the next few decades, the report says.

14 species have seen an improvement in their conservation status, including humpback whales and white-tailed sea eagles, but many more are in a worse position now than they were in the past.

70 species on the list, including the steppe eagle, Egyptian vulture and the wild camel, have become more endangered over the past 30 years.

A further 399 migratory species are not flagged for international protection under the UN treaty but are threatened or near-threatened by extinction, including albatrosses and ground sharks.

Marine creatures are being hit especially hard, the report identified, with nearly all (97%) fish that are listed for protection currently threatened with extinction. 

Additional reporting by Press Association