Humanity is an inextricable part of the rich tapestry of life that makes up our world’s biological diversity. All human civilizations have been and continue to be built on the use of wild and cultivated species of flora and fauna, from the food we eat to the air we breathe.
However, it seems that humanity has forgotten just how much we need nature for our survival and well-being. As our population and our needs continue to grow, we keep exploiting natural resources - including wild plants and animals and their habitats - in an unsustainable manner.
In its 2019 Global Assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) highlighted how the current global rate of species extinction is rampant and accelerating - tens to hundreds of times higher than before humans inhabited the planet.
By overexploiting wildlife, habitats and ecosystems, humanity is endangering both itself and the survival of countless species of wild plants and animals. Today, close to a quarter of all species on the planet are in danger of becoming extinct in the next decades.
On this World Wildlife Day, let us remind ourselves of our duty to preserve and sustainably use the vast variety of life on the planet. Let us push for a more caring, thoughtful and sustainable relationship with nature. A world of thriving biodiversity provides the foundation we need to achieve our Sustainable Development Goals of a world of dignity and opportunity for all people on a healthy planet.
We are extremely fortunate to count on the presence of an endless diversity of wild animals, plants, and other lifeforms that together make up life on our planet.
Humans around the world benefit every single day from wildlife. In many ways, our history is the story of our species’ interaction with, and adaptation to, the diverse lifeforms present in our close vicinity. Since time immemorial, we have used wild plants and animals for out most basic needs: from the air we breathe, to the food we eat, to the materials we use for shelter and comfort.
The human well-being and prosperity that is derived from the direct exploitation of wildlife, habitats and ecosystems should not be to the detriment of the building blocks of a rich and diverse biosphere. The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) was agreed in 1973 to avoid this by regulating international trade in wildlife and ensure that this trade is legal, sustainable and traceable.
More and more, however, the unsustainable exploitation of wild fauna and flora and their ecosystems is threatening their survival. Every single piece of the puzzle of life is essential and losing even the smallest of these pieces leaves us, and the entire planet, poorer. When human actions endanger hundreds of thousands of species, as they are doing today, it is the entire biosphere - of which we too are a part - that is threatened.
We now face the immense challenge of living in harmony with nature so that we can fulfill our own needs without neglecting those of the many lifeforms with which we share this planet on sea, land and air.
The inclusion of endangered species in the CITES Appendices, the conservation efforts undertaken by our Parties, and the added endeavors of partners in other Conventions or organizations working on biodiversity and development helps to counteract the loss of biodiversity on the planet.
However, transformative changes are needed as we find ourselves at a critical turning point both for our species and for the entire biosphere. Now more than ever we must come together in a joint effort to sustain all life on Earth.
We are proud to do our part in advocating for a responsible and sustainable use of wildlife to conserve our world’s biodiversity. CITES is proud to host this year’s World Wildlife Day with the theme "Sustaining all life on Earth", and we invite all of the planet’s citizens to join us in the celebration of one of the milestones of this “Biodiversity Super Year”.
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) in 1973 – 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 has now become the most important global annual event dedicated to wildlife.
World Wildlife Day will be celebrated in 2020 under the theme "Sustaining all life on Earth", encompassing all wild animal and plant species as key components of the world's biodiversity. This aligns with UN Sustainable Development Goals 1, 12, 14 and 15, and their wide-ranging commitments on alleviating poverty, ensuring sustainable use of resources, and on conserving life both on land and below water to halt biodiversity loss.
Earth is home to countless species of fauna and flora – too many to even attempt counting. This rich diversity, and the billions of years during which its myriad elements have interacted, are precisely what has made our planet inhabitable for all living creatures, including humans. Historically, we have depended on the constant interplay and interlinkages between all elements of the biosphere for all our needs: the air we breathe, the food we eat, the energy we use, and the materials we need for all purposes. However, unsustainable human activities and overexploitation of the species and natural resources that make up the habitats and ecosystems of all wildlife are imperiling the world’s biodiversity. Nearly a quarter of all species are presently at risk of going extinct in the coming decades, and their demise would only speed up the disappearance of countless others, putting us in danger as well.
On World Wildlife Day 2020, we will celebrate the special place of wild plants and animals in their many varied and beautiful forms as a component of the world’s biological diversity. We will work to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits of wildlife to people, particularly to those communities who live in closest proximity to it, and we will discuss the threats they are facing and the urgent need for governments, civil society, private sector actors and individuals to add their voices and take actions to help conserve wildlife and ensure its continued use is sustainable.
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