Canadian wildlife losses fuelling global extinction crisis

New approaches needed to tackle 42% decline; Living Planet Report Canada 2020

TORONTO, September 2, 2020

Canadian wildlife at risk of extinction — nationally and globally — is undergoing staggering losses.

The Living Planet Report Canada 2020, published today, found species of global conservation concern (wildlife assessed as at risk of global extinction by the International Union of Conservation of Nature) saw their Canadian populations fall by an average of 42 per cent since 1970.

Furthermore, populations of Canadian species assessed as nationally at risk of extinction by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC — the scientific body that determines a species’ risk of extinction) have declined by an average of 59 per cent.

The report examined population trends between 1970 and 2016 using a new dataset that has been hailed by the Zoological Society of London as one of the most comprehensive national-level datasets. WWF-Canada experts also found that these species face an average of five threats, including the increasing and accelerating threat of climate change.

This tells us that Canada, as a whole, is not doing enough to protect its most imperiled species. We now also know that conservation actions that target only one threat at a time are unlikely to be successful in the long term.  New approaches — ones that tackle multiple threats including climate change — like nature-based climate solutions and Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas are needed.

The report also highlights species of national and global conservation importance while featuring Indigenous knowledge and voices, which are critical to equitable and just conservation efforts.


Much like a stock market index measures economic performance, a Living Planet Index measures ecological performance at global, national or local scales. It is used to measure ecological performance by tracking patterns in vertebrate abundance (population size) over time.


  • More than 300 sources of data.
  • 3,781 monitored populations with data spanning varying time periods between 1970 and 2016.
  • 883 monitored vertebrate species (100 mammal species, 389 bird species, 357 fish species and 37 amphibians and reptiles).
  • Invertebrate wildlife is not included, as only a small fraction of this large group has long-term monitoring data.


  • Populations of species of global conservation concern — assessed as threatened on the IUCN Red List — have declined in Canada by 42 per cent, on average, from 1970–2016.
  • Populations of Canadian species assessed as at risk nationally by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) have declined by 59 per cent, on average, from 1970–2016.
  • At-risk species in Canada face an average of five threats, including the accelerating threat of climate change.


Species at risk face multiple, interacting and at times cascading threats such as habitat loss, overexploitation of commercial species, land and shoreline developments, and pollution. Growing biodiversity loss and climate change are accelerating all other threats. New approaches tackling multiple threats at once are needed throughout Canada.


Nature-based climate solutions — like well-sited protected areas and restoration of degraded ecosystems — can help to stop wildlife loss by addressing multiple threats to biodiversity while reducing climate change by storing and sequestering carbon in natural ecosystems.

Recent research has shown that Indigenous-managed lands are more species rich than other areas in Canada and support more at-risk wildlife. To be effective, equitable and just, Canada should be elevating the importance, number and sovereignty of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs).

Megan Leslie, WWF-Canada president and CEO, says:

“To save Canada’s most vulnerable species we need to embrace a new approach to conservation, but we can’t do it alone. In order to effect real change with innovative and inspiring solutions, we as individuals, organizations, communities, governments and businesses need to work together. The time to act is now.”

James Snider, Vice-president of Science, Knowledge and Innovation, WWF-Canada, says:

“The findings of the Living Planet Report Canada 2020 are sobering and require immediate action. Here in Canada, nature-based climate solutions and Indigenous-led conservation are the most effective, efficient and equitable ways we can build a stronger, more resilient future for wildlife, climate and people.”

Valentina Marconi, Zoological Society of London, says:

“The data set behind the Living Planet Report Canada is one of the most comprehensive national-level data repositories on vertebrate population abundance. The availability of long-term monitoring data and years of concerted efforts in bolstering the number of species represented, have resulted in a data set that includes over half of Canadian vertebrate species from across the country.”

Living Planet Report Canada is generously supported by the Patrick and Barbara Keenan Foundation.

About World Wildlife Fund Canada 
WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more information, visit


For more information:

Joy D’Souza, senior communications specialist, [email protected], 647-637-2616

Tina Knezevic, communications specialist, [email protected], 416-873-8448