World Wildlife Day

Humans share our planet with other species who coexist with us. The term wildlife traditionally refers to undomesticated animal species but has come to include all organisms that grow or live wild in an area without being introduced by humans. Wildlife can be found in all ecosystems – deserts, forests, rainforests, plains, grasslands, and other areas, including the most developed urban areas, all have distinct forms of wildlife. While the term in popular culture usually refers to animals that are untouched by human factors, most scientists agree that much wildlife is affected by human activities with many wild animals, even the dangerous ones, have value to human beings which may be economic, educational, or emotional. Humans have historically tended to separate civilization from wildlife in many ways, including the legal, social, and moral senses. Global wildlife populations have decreased by 68% since 1970 as a result of human activity, particularly overconsumption, population growth and intensive farming, according to a 2020 World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report and the Zoological Society of London’s Living Planet Index measure, which is further evidence that humans have unleashed a sixth mass extinction event. According to CITES, it has been estimated that annually the international wildlife trade amounts to billions of dollars and it affects hundreds of millions of animal and plant specimens.

According to data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, over 8,400 species of wild fauna and flora are critically endangered, while close to 30,000 more are understood to be endangered or vulnerable. In 2019, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services‘ Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found that a quarter of species on Earth already face the threat of extinction and that global ecosystems had declined by an average of nearly half, relative to their earliest estimated states. Continued loss of species, habitats and ecosystems also threaten all life on Earth, including us. People everywhere rely on wildlife and biodiversity-based resources to meet all our needs, from food to fuel, medicines, housing, and clothing. Millions of people also rely on nature as the source of their livelihoods and economic opportunities.

Between 200 and 350 million people live within or adjacent to forested areas around the world, relying on the various ecosystem services provided by forest and forest species for their livelihoods and to cover their most basic needs, including food, shelter, energy and medicines. Roughly 28% of the world’s land surface is currently managed by indigenous peoples, including some of the most ecologically intact forests on the planet. These spaces are not only central to their economic and personal well-being but also their cultural identities.

On 20 December 2013, at its 68th session, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed 3 March – the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973 – as UN World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. The UNGA resolution also designated the CITES Secretariat as the facilitator for the global observance of this special day for wildlife on the UN calendar. World Wildlife Day has now become the most important global annual event dedicated to wildlife. This day was proposed by Thailand to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora and member countries reaffirmed the intrinsic value of wildlife and its various contributions, including ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic, to sustainable development and human well-being.

World Wildlife Day will celebrate forest-based livelihoods and seek to promote forest and forest wildlife management practices that accommodate both human well-being and the long-term conservation of forests and promote the value of traditional practices that contribute to establishing a more sustainable relationship with these crucial natural systems. The animals and plants that live in the wild have an intrinsic value and contribute to the ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic aspects of human well-being and to sustainable development.

The planet’s forests are home to some 80 per cent of all terrestrial wild species. They help regulate the climate and support the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people and some 90 per cent of the world’s poorest people are dependent in some way on forest resources, particularly the indigenous communities that live in or near forests.

Some 28 per cent of the world’s land is managed by indigenous communities, including some of the most intact forests on the planet which provide livelihoods and cultural identity. The unsustainable exploitation of forests harms these communities and contributes to biodiversity loss and climate disruption. Every year, the world loses 4.7 million hectares of forests, an area larger than Denmark and the major cause is unsustainable agriculture as well as global timber trafficking, which accounts for up to 90 per cent of tropical deforestation in some countries and also attracts the world’s biggest organised crime groups. The illegal trade in wild animal species is another threat, increasing the risks of zoonotic diseases, such as Ebola and COVID-19.

World Wildlife Day has a different theme every year and in 2022 will be celebrated under the theme “Safeguarding key species for ecosystem restoration” with the celebrations seeking to draw attention to the conservation status of some of the most critically endangered species of wild fauna and flora, and to drive discussions towards imagining and implementing solutions to conserve them. The day will therefore drive the debate towards the imperative need to reverse the fate of the most critically endangered species, to support the restoration of their habitats and ecosystems and to promote their sustainable use by humanity.

World Wildlife Day is an opportunity to celebrate the many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora and to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits that their conservation provides to people. At the same time, the Day reminds us of the urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime and human-induced reduction of species, which have wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts. Given these various negative effects, Sustainable Development Goal 15 focuses on halting biodiversity loss.

Forests, forests species and the livelihoods that depend on them currently find themselves at the crossroads of the multiple planetary crises we currently face, from climate change to biodiversity loss and the health, social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So on this day, pledge to protect the forests and the flora and fauna which live in them. We deserve to leave this planet a better place than when we started using it.

2 thoughts on “World Wildlife Day

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.