Every March 3, World Wildlife Day urges us to look into the state of our wild fauna and flora and take action. This message is universal, from the Amazon rainforests to the polar bear habitats. Thanks to the United Nations General Assembly, who established the event, we are constantly reminded of the significance of wildlife to our ecosystems' survival.
Besides promoting understanding, World Wildlife Day also encourages action towards global, national, and local initiatives for wildlife conservation. Each year, the day focuses on a different theme within wildlife conservation. For instance, the latest theme was "Partnerships for wildlife conservation." Read on to learn more about this important celebration.
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On December 20, 2013, a proposal from Thailand and a resolution by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) established World Wildlife Day. During the 68th annual session of the world's leaders, they called upon the rest of the world to protect life on Earth. They chose March 3 because the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was signed on the same day in 1973.
John W. Ashe, the UNGA President, and John E. Scanlon, the Secretary-General of CITES, helped make World Wildlife Day a success. They worked tirelessly, along with many others, to develop the worldwide event. Since the event's inception, a new era has begun, where governments, NGOs, and citizens collectively protect wildlife.
The first-ever World Wildlife Day on March 3, 2014, carried the theme, "Wildlife Crime is serious. Let's get serious about wildlife crime." This event was the first collective step toward acknowledging the urgency of wildlife conservation.
In 2020, the World Wildlife Day Film Showcase was organized. It was an international competition that used narratives to emphasize the need for conservation, reminding us of the power of stories to protect our planet's biodiversity.
Global wildlife face threats such as habitat destruction, climate change, pollution, and the illegal wildlife trade. According to the World Wildlife Fund, these factors have caused an average decline of 69% in wildlife populations since 19703. And as of this writing, the IUCN Red List reports that 42,100 wild species face extinction, representing 28% of all evaluated species.
Among the causes of this mass extinction is deforestation, prompted by urbanization and agriculture. Habitat destruction has displaced multiple species around the world. The illegal wildlife industry has also decimated global wildlife; international trade in rare animals is fourth among global illicit activities.
For instance, traffickers only focus on particular species, creating ecological imbalances that lead to extinction. Since the wildlife trade brings in from $5 to $23 billion in yearly profits2, it continues to exert pressure on threatened species.
Regarding marine wildlife, overfishing has caused massive population declines. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 34.2% of global fisheries operate at their biological limits4, meaning they catch more fish than they can recover. If left unchecked, human actions will bring the wildlife crisis to its tipping point.
Today, climate change has added to the current crisis. Its far-reaching consequences go beyond temperature changes; it affects habitats and disrupts food chains. In fact, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services cites climate change as third of the top five direct drivers of change in nature1.
Many organizations and initiatives are working to conserve the world's wild fauna through strategies to stop species decline. For instance, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has developed the Living Planet Report, providing information on global biodiversity patterns, influencing policies, and raising public awareness.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) also maintains the Red List of Threatened Species, which regularly updates the status of endangered species worldwide, tracking the state of life on Earth.
In Africa, local communities play an increasingly prominent role in biodiversity conservation efforts. "Community Wildlife Conservancies" are gaining popularity as a means of combating poaching and promoting sustainable tourism.
Around the world, governments, private sector organizations, and non-profit organizations are collaborating to establish terrestrial and marine protected areas. To encourage these efforts, IUCN set up a Green List that sets sustainability standards for nature conservation.
These collective efforts are producing results. For instance, the WWF's Save the Tiger campaign has significantly increased the wild tiger population. Another example is the Sea Turtle Conservancy program in Costa Rica, which helps confront and overcome the threat of sea turtle extinction.
Celebrating World Wildlife Day highlights each species' critical role in maintaining the planet's delicate ecological balance. Every species is an essential piece of the complex puzzle that is the global ecosystem, and we must take action now. Each of us can make a significant contribution to our world's wildlife. Let's start today!
World Wildlife Day is an annual global event celebrated on March 3 to raise awareness about the importance of wildlife conservation and the need to protect endangered species.
World Wildlife Day is crucial because it highlights the urgent need to protect wildlife. It helps to mobilize individuals, organizations, and governments worldwide to take action for wildlife conservation, promote sustainable practices, and enact policies that protect endangered species and their habitats.
You can participate by spreading awareness about the cause, supporting conservation organizations financially, volunteering, and making sustainable choices in your daily life.
Wildlife faces various challenges, including habitat loss due to deforestation, illegal wildlife trade, pollution, climate change, and human-wildlife conflict.
Doody, J. S., Reid, J. A., Bilali, K., Diaz, J., & Mattheus, N. M. (2021). In the post-COVID-19 era, is the illegal wildlife trade the most serious form of trafficking? Crime Science, 10(1).
WWF (2022) Living Planet Report 2022 – Building a nature-positive society. Almond, R.E.A., Grooten, M., Juffe Bignoli,
FAO. (2020). The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020. Sustainability in action. Rome.