The United Nations World Wildlife Day is a global celebration of the beautiful and richly diverse forms of wild animals and plants on our planet. It is also an occasion to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits they provide to people and to drive discussions and work towards transformative change on the urgent threats facing them.
World Wildlife Day takes place annually on 3 March. This year, World Wildlife Day will be celebrated under the theme of “Sustaining all life on Earth”. The aim is to stress wild animal and plant species as an important component of biodiversity and their importance to people, especially those who live closest to nature and depend on them for their livelihoods. It also underlines the importance of sustainable use of biodiversity in view of reaching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 14 (Life Below Water), 15 (Life On Land), 1 (No Poverty), and 12 (Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns). This year’s theme is part of what has been dubbed the ‘biodiversity super year’, which will see several major events placing biodiversity at the center of the global sustainable development agenda throughout 2020.
Wild species of animals and plants are an integral part of the world’s biological diversity, as are genes and ecosystems. The ecosystems where wildlife can be found, such as forests, wetlands, plains, grasslands, coral reefs and deserts, represent another aspect of biological diversity, together with genetic diversity. The vast array of interactions between all of these components over the course of nearly 3.5 billion years is precisely what has made our planet habitable to all species – including our own, which depends entirely on biodiversity for everything from food, energy, material for handicrafts and construction, to the very air we breathe. Unregulated or poorly managed human activities have severely impacted both local and global ecosystems, altering biodiversity and putting the very existence of many species under threat.
According to the 2019 IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, approximately 25% of species are already threatened with extinction and natural ecosystems have declined by 47% on average. This threatens to heavily impact our sources of food, fuel, medicines, housing and many more.
This year’s World Wildlife Day will thus not only seek to celebrate the vibrant diversity of the biosphere, but also highlight the stakes humankind has in conserving this diversity of life and ensuring its long-term survival through a move towards a more sustainable relationship with it.