Global efforts to protect wildlife are gathering force. Last year, United Nations Member States adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, which include specific targets to end poaching. The General Assembly also unanimously agreed a resolution to limit illicit trafficking in wildlife. These powerful expressions of political determination to end these highly destructive crimes are now being translated into actions on the ground through collective efforts by countries around the world.
However, to protect this essential natural heritage for this and future generations, much more needs to be done by key actors on all continents and across sectors. In particular, conservation efforts need to engage communities that live in close proximity with wildlife.
Time is running out to end the poaching crisis that threatens some of the world’s most iconic species. To combat poaching and trafficking of protected species it is essential to address both the demand and supply of illegal wildlife products through agreed goals and targets and international instruments, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
For too long, the world has been witness to heartbreaking images of the mass slaughter of elephants for their tusks. 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!
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
World Wildlife Day is a very special day on the United Nations calendar. It raises awareness of wildlife conservation and it helps to galvanize national and international action. It is today the world’s most important global annual event dedicated to wildlife.
The theme for this year - ‘Listen to the Young Voices’, aims to inspire young people around the world to actively participate in wildlife conservation efforts.
Our generation has not yet succeeded in securing the future of many wild animals and plants. Meeting this challenge will now be shared with the next generation.
And to succeed we must fully harness the innovation and energy of youth, and combine it with the wisdom that comes with experience, if we are to make the change we need to see happen.
It is the obligation of the current generation to share their knowledge of wildlife conservation with the younger generations, whilst also empowering and encouraging them to actively engage and participate in creative ways.
Investment in our young people will ensure the continued survival of wild animals and plants and help us in the fight against the devastating illicit trade in wildlife.
This year’s theme also comes alongside other strident efforts to encourage youth contribution, such as the work of the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth and the first ever CITES Resolution on youth engagement, which was adopted at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES held in Johannesburg last year. It makes a strong call for the engagement and empowerment of the youth in issues of wildlife conservation.
We have already begun to see the integration of young voices into wildlife conservation issues through the Youth Forum for People and Wildlife in the lead-up to CITES CoP17 and South Africa`s Youth and Conservation Programme – both of which were a great success.
World Wildlife Day 2017 gives us the opportunity to generate enthusiasm for wildlife conservation amongst younger generations, and to provide platforms for them to engage with one another on conservation issues. I encourage youth around the world to take a personal interest in wildlife conservation and to help fight wildlife crimes. Let your voice be heard on the safeguarding of wild animals and plants !
Working across generations for wildlife conservation is in everyone’s interest – and it will benefit economies and people as well as wild animals and plants.
It’s time for all of us to listen to the young voices!
John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES
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), 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 will be celebrated in 2017 under the theme “Listen to the Young Voices.” Given that almost one quarter of the world’s population is aged between 10 and 24, vigorous efforts need to be made to encourage young people, as the future leaders and decision makers of the world, to act at both local and global levels to protect endangered wildlife.
The engagement and empowerment of youth is high on the agenda of the United Nations and this objective is being achieved through the youth programmes of various UN system organizations as well as the dedicated UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth.
In September 2016, Parties to CITES gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) and adopted the very first CITES resolution on ‘Youth Engagement’ – calling for greater engagement and empowerment of youth in conservation issues.
World Wildlife Day 2017 encourages youth around the world to rally together to address ongoing major threats to wildlife including habitat change, over-exploitation or illicit trafficking. Youth are the agents of change. In fact, we are already seeing the positive impacts on conservation issues made by some young conservation leaders around the world. If they can help make a change, you can too!
Governments, law makers, enforcement officers, customs officials and park rangers across every region are scaling up their efforts to protect wildlife. It is also up to every citizen, young and old, to protect wildlife and their habitats. We all have a role to play. Our collective conservation actions can be the difference between a species surviving or disappearing.
It’s time for us all to listen to the young voices.