The population of the largest freshwater animals in the world has fallen by 88 percent since 1970, scientists write in a study published Thursday. Within the group are several catfish, turtles and crocodiles. Other species such as the Chinese flag dolphin have already been declared extinct.

Humans are responsible for the (almost) extinction of countless animals, the scientists conclude. Too many animals are hunted, such as the Mekong giant catfish and gavials, a type of crocodile.

Meat, skin and eggs are said to be very popular, especially in Asia. The Mekong giant catfish, which can weigh no less than 300 kilos, would no longer occur in Chinese rivers such as the Mekong. A fishing ban could not protect the animal.

In the case of the Chinese Yangtze sea turtle, there would only be three specimens left, all males. The population of the animal has fallen by 97 percent in the last five decades.

The largest species of freshwater animals in Europe are also disappearing

In Europe, for example, the sturgeon is hardly ever found. The fish can weigh 220 kilos and live to be a hundred years old, but is now only found in the French river Garonne. The total population of sturgeon has fallen by 99 percent in the last fifty years.

For the research, scientists looked at 126 species of animals, which were monitored in 72 countries. Researcher Zeb Hogan of the University of Nevada calls the results "a wake-up call".

"Many animals are threatened with extinction, almost all endangered species need our help. It is a race to see what we can do before it is too late," said Hogan.

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