On December 20th 2013 at its sixty-eighth session, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) decided to proclaim March 3rd the day of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as World Wildlife Day.
The General Assembly requested the CITES Secretariat, in collaboration with relevant organizations of the United Nations system, to facilitate the implementation of World Wildlife Day in order to celebrate and to raise awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora, and to also recognize the important role of CITES in ensuring that international trade does not threaten the survival of species. In its resolution, the General Assembly reaffirmed the intrinsic value of wildlife and its various contributions, including “ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic, to sustainable development and human well-being.”
On its first World Wildlife Day, the United Nations is trying to increase an awareness of the urgent need to stop wildlife crime, which has wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts. “Despite its intrinsic value to sustainable development and human well-being, wildlife is under threat. Some of the world’s most charismatic species, as well as lesser-known but ecologically important plants and animals, are in immediate danger of extinction. A major cause is habitat loss. Another is the increase in illicit trafficking,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
“The environmental, economic and social consequences of wildlife crime are profound. Of particular concern are the implications of illicit trafficking for peace and security in a number of countries where organized crime, insurgency and terrorism are often closely linked,” explains Ki-moon.
One of the greatest threats to many species is poaching, where wildlife parts and products are illegally sold both locally, and on an International market. Poaching is particularly rampant in Africa, and Asia, where elephant tusks are turned into ivory trinkets, and rhinoceros horns, bear gall bladders, and tiger bones, are used for medicinal purposes, and as aphrodisiacs to name just a few.
The UN Secretary General says that in addition to the harm done to animals, and the increased possibility of permanently destroying the existence of some species, this activity also has peace and security implications in a number of countries “where organized crime, insurgency and terrorism are often closely linked.” Some rebel and militia groups have in recent years turned to ivory trafficking to help fund their terrorist activities. The “deadly path of conflict ivory starts with the slaughter of innocent animals and ends in the slaughter of innocent people,” said the elephant advocacy organization, Elephant Action League (EAL).
Ki-moon says that “[w]hile the threats to wildlife are great, we can reduce them through our collective efforts. On this inaugural World Wildlife Day, I urge all sectors of society to end illegal wildlife trafficking and commit to trading and using wild plants and animals sustainably and equitably.”
Although, most of Ki-moon’s suggestion is adequate, the last few words need to be changed from “commit to trading and using wild plants and animals sustainably and equitably,” to commit to trading and using wild plants sustainably and equitably, and leave wildlife where they belong, in their own habitat in the wild.
World Wildlife Day should be a day of appreciation for the magnificence, and diversity of wildlife, and a time to reflect on how they can be protected against the tyranny of human greed, and exploitation.
The United Nations invites everyone to participate in this global event: “Wildlife has an intrinsic value and contributes to the ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic aspects of sustainable development and human well-being. For these reasons, all member States, the United Nations system and other international organizations, as well as civil society, non-governmental organizations and individuals, are invited to observe and to get involved in this global celebration of wildlife.”
Let us work together for a future where people and wildlife coexist in harmony, and humans become their guardians, rather than their adversaries.
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