On 20 December 2013, at its 68th session, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) decided to proclaim 3 March, the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), 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 2016 is being celebrated under the theme “The future of wildlife is in our hands.” African and Asian elephants will be a main focus of the Day under the theme “The future of elephants is in our hands”. Countries around the world are encouraged to highlight species of wild animals and plants from their own countries, adapting the global theme to suit.
The world’s wildlife, whether charismatic or lesser known, is facing many challenges. The biggest threats to wildlife are habitat loss as well as overgrazing, farming and development. Poaching and trafficking in wildlife driven by transnational organized crime groups pose the most immediate threat to many iconic species. Elephants, pangolins, rhinoceros, sharks, tigers and precious tree species are among the most critically poached and trafficked species across the world.
Focus on Elephants – the MIKE Program
While there has been positive progress made in tackling illicit wildlife trafficking, statistics remain shocking. It is estimated that about 100,000 elephants were slaughtered for their ivory between 2010 and 2012.
African and Asian elephants are a main focus of the 2016 Day. The MIKE Program (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants) run by CITES shows the 2015 trends in African elephant poaching, and reveals that the steady increase in illegal killings from 2006 to 2011 has been halted, levels remain unacceptably high overall.
In a statement, CITES Secretary-General, John E. Scanlon, confirmed that some regions in Africa were enjoying a steady decline in poaching trends, but that other areas of the continent are still seeing worryingly high killing trends.
“African elephant populations continue to face an immediate threat to their survival from unacceptably high-levels of poaching for their ivory, especially in Central and West Africa where high levels of poaching are still evident. There are some encouraging signs, including in certain parts of Eastern Africa, such as Tsavo in Kenya, where the overall poaching trends have declined, showing us all what is possible through a sustained and collective effort with strong political support,” he said.
UN Secretary-General’s Message
The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, stressed that despite everything that has been achieved the challenge remains, and called on all sectors of the global community to get involved in protecting the world’s wildlife.
”For too long, the world has been witness to heartbreaking images of the mass slaughter of elephants for their tusks,” he said in a statement. “According to CITES, the killing of African elephants and trafficking in their ivory remain alarmingly high. Asian elephants are also subject to growing levels of poaching.
“Many other species, such as cheetahs, pangolins, rhinos, sea turtles, sharks, tigers, whales and high-value timber, face a variety of different challenges, including from habitat change, over-exploitation or illicit trafficking.
“On this World Wildlife Day, I call on all citizens, businesses and governments to play their part in protecting the world’s wild animals and plants. The actions taken by each of us will determine the fate of the world’s wildlife. The future of wildlife is in our hands!
World Wildlife Day 2016 Events
Hundreds of special events around the world have been organized to mark World Wildlife Day 2016. The official website has created an interactive map to illustrate the locations where these events are happening. You can check the map to find out what s happening close to you.
And for more information on the day, check out the official webpage, WildlifeDay.org, and particular the things you can do to get involved and support the event.
You can also read the full messages from:
Image: World Wildlife Day 2016 highlights the fact that wildlife is in our hands. Image from WildlifeDay.org
Support Your Wildlife Charity
At our sister site, MyCharityMap, you can find thousands of charities that seek to make the world a better place, including hundreds that support animal welfare (like the AMWF), defend animal rights (like the WWF) and provide animals with safe refugee (like the ARWS). And because charities and their projects are displayed on an interactive map, it’s easy to find the wildlife charities operating near you. Visit MyCharityMap now and find the wildlife charity you want to support.