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March 3 is first-ever World Wildlife Day

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Since 1973 when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was adopted on March 3, the world has made advances in protecting threatened species from the global trade market, but even with 35,000 species on CITES conservation list, wildlife and biodiversity on planet Earth faces new perils every day.

In recognition of the importance to protect plants and animals on a global level the UN General Assembly declared March 3 as the first-ever World Wildlife Day to raise awareness of the conservation benefits gained by mankind.

The World Wildlife Day website lists information and promotes global celebrations.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s statement:

“For millennia, people and cultures have relied on nature’s rich diversity of wild plants and animals for food, clothing, medicine and spiritual sustenance. Wildlife remains integral to our future through its essential role in science, technology and recreation, as well as its place in our continued heritage. That is why the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 3 March — the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) — as World Wildlife Day.”

Wildlife is under siege everywhere, from black-footed ferrets, prairie dogs and bison of the Great Northern Plains of America, to black rhinos, tigers and elephants of the African Savannah.

Poaching, extermination, illicit trafficking and habitat loss are major concerns for protecting wildlife.

Illegal trade in wildlife also poses a security threat that has been linked to terrorism, insurgency and organized crime.

Dr. Susan Lieberman explained it this way in her Huffington Post Op/Ed:

“Poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking are serious crimes, driven by demand, facilitated by corruption, and linked to organized crime and militias in many countries. This trade poses a threat to species, ecosystems, and sustainable development while disrupting local communities and contributing to greater poverty.”

According to a report from the United Nations Environment Program, World Wildlife Day focuses attention on the $19 billion illegal poaching and trade market, including “elephant poaching, great ape theft and the illegal transport of timber.”

"While governments have a key role to play, we as citizens of countries across the globe have a vital role to play in shutting down the markets that sustain this illegal trade which threatens the survival of iconic species such as elephants and rhinos, but also of other threatened animal and plant species,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

World Wildlife Day also celebrates the intrinsic value of what some consider lesser things, like wildlife, trees, plants, birds, reptiles, insects and nature’s contribution to man’s economic, cultural, social and ecological well-being.

“Go wild for Wildlife!” is the new motto and the hope is that it will resonate every day, not just one day a year.

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