Celebrating 50 years of CITES conserving the world’s wild animals and plants on World Wildlife Day 2023 

Updated on 03 March 2023

Celebrating 50 years of CITES conserving the world’s wild aniWWD logomals and plants on World Wildlife Day 2023 

Friday, 3 March 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of a landmark convention that stands at the crossroads of wildlife conservation and sustainable trade. Today we also celebrate the day when 10 years ago the United Nations General Assembly agreed an international day to honour the importance of wild animals and plants. Both anniversaries fall at a time of unprecedented challenge for nature and biodiversity, with millions of species of wild animals and plants affected by the triple planetary crisis of biodiversity loss, climate change, and pollution.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (or CITES) was opened to the world’s governments for signature on 3 March, 1973 in Washington DC, at the end of the Plenipotentiaries Conference hosted by the United States of America – this meeting became known as the ‘World Wildlife Conference’.

Since then, it has grown in its membership from the original 10 Parties to 184, and these Parties to the Convention continue to work to ensure that the world’s animals and plants will not be driven to extinction in the wild through regulating international wildlife trade so that it is legal, sustainable and traceable.

In 2013, the United Nations General Assembly set aside 3 March as the UN World Wildlife Day (WWD), giving the responsibility for organizing the annual celebrations to the CITES Secretariat. This year’s theme is ‘Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation’ in recognition of the many partners, big and small, that collectively contribute to halting and reversing the planet’s decline in biodiversity so that we can enjoy its existence and benefits to humankind for generations to come. 

CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero, noted, “We are at a crucial moment confronting a crisis of rapid biodiversity loss, changing climate and rising pollution on our planet. For the last half a decade, CITES Parties and stakeholders have been building partnerships to support the conservation of our wildlife. Those partnerships must be continued and strengthened to address our environmental challenges and allow us to achieve our shared vision to change our relationship with nature and not ask from it more than it can give us. Washington DC is the birthplace of CITES, and there is no more fitting place to renew our commitment and embark on the next 50 years of our work.”

The official World Wildlife Day 2023 event, in Washington DC, is co-organised between the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and CITES Secretariat, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Jackson Wild and the National Geographic Society. This unique partnership is aimed to visualize the issues that are facing our wildlife, and for the many actors of society to take part in a transformation towards a healthier planet for the benefit of all.

Martha Williams, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service remarked, "This year marks the 50th anniversaries of CITES and the U.S. Endangered Species Act, both of which are vital to the protection of numerous species in the face of climate change, wildlife trafficking, habitat loss and fragmentation, and other challenges. The successful recovery of species under CITES and the ESA underscores the importance of partnerships - including engaging with Indigenous people and rural and local communities - to protect our planet for future generations." 

UNDP’s new Nature Pledge reflects the organization’s commitment to support some 140 countries in meeting ambitious targets under the new Global Biodiversity Framework. “We stand at a pivotal moment for people and planet,” UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said. “We can achieve the transformational change we need only through partnerships--with governments; key partners like CITES; indigenous peoples and local communities; civil society; women and young people; and the private sector. At this global inflection point, partnerships can't settle for the ordinary.”

The focus for this year’s WWD is a live event at the National Geographic Society’s Grosvenor Auditorium in Washington DC on 3 March. There will be an invited audience of 400 and a public livestream via the WWD YouTube channel - https://www.youtube.com/@WorldWildlifeDay/live 

The event will showcase partnership stories from around the world that made a difference for conservation. It will feature stories from: the Caribbean, Malaysia, Namibia, Nepal, Singapore and the USA. It will also look at how more funding could be attracted into wildlife conservation also from private sources.

The spotlight will also fall on the talent of young artists and filmmakers, both working with this year’s theme of Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation. IFAW has received entries from 80 countries for its Youth Art Competition. Azzedine Downes, President and CEO of IFAW highlighted, “The hundreds of pieces of vibrant artwork submitted as part of this year’s art contest not only display immense talent but also a deep sense of connection to and stewardship of the natural world. These young artists of all ages have reminded us that today is an occasion where we acknowledge the importance of all wildlife species---especially those threatened or endangered---around the world and how critical partnerships are in ensuring their continued survival for generations to come.” 

Jackson Wild will showcase conservation films from around the world, and that will be available for the public to see following the event. “The films in this year’s showcase are some of the most moving and evocative stories of conservation we have seen,” said Lisa Samford, Executive Director of Jackson Wild. “Our aim is to inspire action necessary to protect and conserve wildlife, and these stories do exactly that.” 

Note to Editors: 

For further details or to arrange interviews, please contact: 

David Whitbourn, CITES Secretariat [[email protected], +41 79 552 1507] 

A livestream of the event can be viewed via: 


A Trello Board of media assets is available via: