An African male lion in the Ugandan wilderness. Photo WCS /Julie Larsen Maher“On World Wildlife Day, I call on people around the world to help raise awareness and to take personal action to help ensure the survival of the world’s big cats and all its precious and fragile biological diversity.” — UN Secretary-General António Guterres
The incalculable value of wildlife
The animals and plants that live in the wild have an intrinsic value and contributes to the ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic aspects of human well-being and sustainable development.
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 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.
“Big cats: predators under threat”
World Wildlife Day is celebrated in 2018 under the theme “Big cats: predators under threat”.
Big cats are among the most widely recognized and admired animals across the globe. However, today these charismatic predators are facing many and varied threats, which are mostly caused by human activities. Overall, their populations are declining at a disturbing rate due to loss of habitat and prey, conflicts with people, poaching and illegal trade. For example, tiger populations plummeted by 95% over the past 100 years and African lion populations dropped by 40% in just 20 years. But a range of measures are underway to arrest this decline.
Lemurs’ Park near Antananarivo (Madagascar). UN Photo/Mark Garten
On 20 December 2013, the Sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly decided to proclaim 3 March as World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora. The date is the day of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973, which plays an important role in ensuring that international trade does not threaten the species’ survival.
Previously, 3 March had been designated as World Wildlife Day in a resolution made at the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP16) held in Bangkok from 3 to 14 March 2013. The CITES resolution was sponsored by the Kingdom of Thailand, the Host of CITES CoP16, which transmitted the outcomes of CITES CoP16 to the UN General Assembly.
The secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), in collaboration with other relevant United Nations organizations, facilitates the implementation of World Wildlife Day.
With 183 Member States, CITES remains one of the world’s most powerful tools for biodiversity conservation through the regulation of trade in wild fauna and flora.
A bee pollinating a flower in Kenya’s Kerio Valley. Photo FAO/Dino Martins
Secretary-General’s Message for 2018
On World Wildlife Day we focus on the important role the planet’s wild animals and plants play in our cultures and the sustainability of our societies. This year, the spotlight falls on the world’s big cats. These magnificent predators, which include species such as cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, pumas, snow leopards and tigers, are found from Africa to Asia and the Americas.
These charismatic creatures are universally revered for their grace and power, yet they are increasingly in danger of extinction. Big cats have undergone a massive decline in recent times. Just over a century ago, there were as many as 100,000 wild tigers living in Asia. Today, fewer than 4,000 remain. They have lost 96 per cent of their historic range.
The story is similar for all the big cats. They are collectively under threat from habitat loss, climate change, poaching, illicit trafficking, and human-wildlife conflict. We are the cause of their decline, so we can also be their salvation.
The Sustainable Development Goals include specific targets to end the poaching and illegal trafficking of protected species of wild fauna and flora. Last year, United Nations Member States adopted the third in a series of ground-breaking resolutions to tackle this major cause of wildlife decline, and governments, civil society and the private sector actors around the globe are combining to translate this resolve into action.
Ultimately, the solution to saving big cats and other threatened and endangered species is conservation policy based on sound science and the rule of law. It must also give full consideration to the needs of local people. When local communities and economies benefit from wildlife conservation, strategies are much more likely to succeed.
Big cats are keystone species. Protecting them also protects the vast landscapes they inhabit and the wide variety of life they harbour. It is a gateway to protecting entire ecosystems that are crucial to our planet’s health.
Many brave park rangers and law enforcement officers are fighting wildlife crimes in the field, putting their lives at risk to protect our most threatened species. But wildlife conservation is a shared responsibility. On World Wildlife Day, I call on people around the world to help raise awareness and to take personal action to help ensure the survival of the world’s big cats and all its precious and fragile biological diversity.
Detail of palm leaves in the Primeval Palm forest in the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve in Praslin Island (Seychelles). UN Photo/Mark Garten