What do the orangutans of Borneo, the elephants of Sumatra, and the Black Rhino all have in common? Aside from all being totally cool animals that we watch on YouTube, the more sobering truth about these creatures is that they’re all critically endangered species. But on World Wildlife Day, the UN and its partners are planning to raise awareness of the gravity of this dire situation.
An animal is only placed on the critically endangered species list if the International Union for Conservation of Nature believes the animal faces a very high risk for extinction – extinction as in going the way of the dinosaurs and dodo. So what does critically endangered look like? Current estimates put the number of living Black Rhinos at around 2,500 in the entire world. Russia’s Amur Leopard, found in the far eastern recesses of the country, is on the verge of extinction, with only about 40 left in the world. Unfortunately, this list goes on and on.
To raise awareness of endangered species and what we all can do, the UN is celebrating World Wildlife Day on March 3, marking the day the group signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
World Wildlife Day - History
UN announces 2018 theme
The theme for World Wildlife Day 2018 is "Big Cats: predators under threat."
UN announces 2017 theme
The theme for World Wildlife Day 2017 is "Listen to the young voices."
UN announces 2016 theme
The theme for World Wildlife Day 2016 is "The future of wildlife is in our hands," with the sub-theme "The future of elephants is in our hands."
UN announces 2015 theme
The theme for World Wildlife Day 2015 is "It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime."
March 3, 2014
World Wildlife Day is celebrated
The first World Wildlife Day is celebrated.
December 20, 2013
World Wildlife Day is established
Proposed by Thailand, the United Nations establishes the holiday to raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants.
How to Observe World Wildlife Day
1. Share some amazing facts
One of the best ways to catch the attention of your friends and spread a message at the same time — especially with animals — is to share a cool fact. Maybe it’s on social media, or maybe it’s around the office water cooler. Either way, it’s a great opportunity to share a little known fact about an endangered animal, and hopefully spark some curiosity about conservation.
2. Throw a Planet Earth party
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who vehemently says no to watching the BBC’s groundbreaking TV series Planet Earth. Now with two seasons readily available for online streaming, use World Wildlife Day as a time to watch this amazing series again, or introduce it to those who were unfortunate enough to miss it first time around.
3. Get involved
People all over the world are expected to come together on March 3 to discuss ways to discuss the biggest threats to the world’s wildlife, including habitat change, over-exploitation and illegal tracking. Governments, natural parks leaders, citizens and lawmakers will all be holding events to raise awareness, so find one near you, and get to work.
Why World Wildlife Day is Important
A. It keeps our food chain in check
To put it very simply, if certain creatures were to die out, it would send our food chain far out of whack. In a strong ecosystem, if any link in the food chain breaks, it causes ripples far and wide. Without wolves, elk and deer have no fear, and stay in one place longer, eating plants down to their roots. This kills the plants, causing further ripples, and so it goes. And this is only one specific scenario of what can happen.
B. It’s probably our fault
While there are certainly reasons beyond humanity’s control for a species to die off, in many cases today, it’s due to human activity. However, the good news is that if we caused it, that means we have the power to fix it. Overhunting, illegal game trade, overfishing and deforestation are all culprits, but none of these are beyond our control. By celebrating World Wildlife Day, we can send a message that these human activities can’t go unchecked.
C. We all share one planet
Ensuring Earth remains a thriving, living, breathing planet means taking care of everything in it. Overfishing can result in disastrous economic problems for coastal communities dependent on the trade. The loss of a species can lead to changes in the local environment, which can directly affect the humans living there. Wildlife conservation is an integral part of creating a sustainable world.