United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) decided on 20 December 2013 to proclaim 3 March as UN World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants.

Wildlife traditionally refers to undomesticated animal species but has come to include all plants, fungi, and other organisms that grow or live wild in an area without being introduced by humans. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2014 Living Planet Report claimed that between 1970 and 2010 populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish around the globe dropped 52 percent. The report explains “ For more than 40 years, humanity’s demand has exceeded the planet’s biocapacity – the amount of biologically productive land and sea area that is available to regenerate these resources. This continuing overshoot is making it more and more difficult to meet the needs of a growing global human population, as well as to leave space for other species.”

World Wildlife Day this year will be celebrated under the theme “The future of wildlife is in our hands.” According to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) the theme “The future of wildlife is in our hands” reinforces the inextricable link between wildlife, people and sustainable development and that it is the responsibility of each generation to safeguard wildlife for the following generation. African and Asian elephants will be the main focus of the Day under the theme “The future of elephants is in our hands”.

The ivory trade contributed to the African elephant population decline in the late 20th century.The levels of killings of elephants and trafficking in their ivory remain alarmingly high. International bans on ivory imports were introduced, starting with the United States in June 1989, and followed by bans in other North American countries, western European countries, and Japan. CITES approved an international ban on ivory that went into effect in January 1990. Asian elephants mainly suffer from habitat loss and fragmentation and human-wildlife conflict. More recently, growing levels of poaching has also been witnessed for Asian elephants.

“World Wildlife Day 2016 follows the adoption of the historic UN General Assembly resolution on “Tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife” and the new global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a vision for the planet in which humanity lives in harmony with nature” said CITES Secretary-General, Mr. John E. Scanlon.

Website for WWD 2016 is: http://www.wildlifeday.org/

Read WWF’s 2014 Living Planet Report http://www.wwf.eu/media_centre/publications/living_planet_report/

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