Unprecedented show of support for wildlife on UN World Wildlife Day

Updated on 12 January 2021

People around the world, particularly the youth, celebrate wildlife during the world’s
most important global annual event dedicated to wildlife

/sites/default/files/i/news/2015/wwd_logo_english.gifThe global community observed World Wildlife Day for the fourth time on 3 March 2017 with countries, people and organizations from across the globe rallying around the theme “Listen to the young voices”.

This special day for wildlife on the UN calendar gave the world a chance to reconnect with our planet’s wild side and to acknowledge our shared responsibility in bringing illicit trafficking in wildlife to an end.

The CITES Secretariat, as the UNGA-designated facilitator for the global observance of World Wildlife Day, is delighted to advise that this year’s response was a tremendous success with the scale of participation and level of engagement of countries, organizations and people from around the world exceeding all expectations. In just four years World Wildlife Day has become the world’s most important global annual event dedicated to wildlife.

Over 90 countries organized events in various forms to celebrate the Day, from major national high-level events to personal engagement.

UNGA High-level event and a side-event at UN Headquarters

The Day’s celebration reached its political climax at the UN Headquarters in New York where over 300 participants representing States, the UN system and other intergovernmental organizations, civil society and youth representatives gathered at a high-level event to discuss the fight against illicit trafficking in wildlife and the importance of youth engagement. President of UN General Assembly Mr. Peter Thomson, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations Ms. Amina Mohammed, Minister of Environmental Affairs of South Africa Dr. Edna Molewa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Mr Yuri Fedotov and the CITES Secretary-General John E. Scanlon opened the Day, which also included high-level participation by Ambassadors from many States, as well as other leaders and youth.

Also at the UN Headquarters, a side event led by the United Kingdom in co-operation the CITES Secretariat, WCS and others, highlighted the range of ongoing international actions to combat illicit wildlife trafficking and ways to incorporate the outcomes of major conferences into the future work of the UN and others. The panel discussion, which included Ambassadors or First Secretaries from Botswana, Germany, Thailand, the UK and Vietnam, and the discussion that followed, will help to shape the elements to be included in a possible third UN General Assembly resolution on Tackling Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife.

Highlights of country level celebrations

Over the past three years the CITES Secretariat has been encouraging national levels events to celebrate the Day. We were heartened this year by the tremendous initiative taken by many countries to hold national level events,  including through the efforts of many CITES Management Authorities.

In addition to major conferences, there were street parades, TV talk shows, street banners, brochures, exhibitions, competitions and massive social media campaigns. Here is a small sample of some interesting stories from the Day that have caught our attention:

  • A themed exhibition was held in abandoned military tunnels and bunkers under the city of Tirana, Albania, to help raise awareness of wildlife conservation and to fund the conservation of bat species.

  • The first wildlife-themed cafe in China was opened in the major city of Nanjing in the east of the country, while youth volunteers in Pingjiang,  a small town in southern China’s Hunan Province, organized a “Tour de Town” on bike to circulate leaflets to urban residents and villagers and to collect signatures for a petition in order to raise awareness of endangered species of wild animals and plants.

  • At the Banda School in Nairobi, Kenya, a school-wide wildlife dress-up day was organized to celebrate the Day. Children came to school dressed up as an animal, a conservationist or a wildlife themed idea of their choice. The school then spent the day engaging in wildlife themed activities.

  • Students from the all-girl Hewitt School in New York, USA, donated a massive painting of pangolin to the United Nations Headquarters in support of the protection of these most trafficked mammals in the world.

  • Responsible Shark & Ray Tourism: A Guide to Best Practice, the world’s first-ever guideline for shark and ray tourism, was launched to provide practical, science-based guidance to help tourism operators, NGOs and local communities.

Through young eyes photo competition

/sites/default/files/i/wwd/2017_photo_contest/wwd2017_pc.gifThe ‘Through young eyes’ photo competition, organized by the CITES Secretariat, received an overwhelming response with more than 500 entries coming from youth across every continent.  A distinguished judging panel narrowed down the entries to 10 stunning photos as finalists. Gàbor Li from Hungary, as the grand prize winner, received the certificate at UN headquarters in New York from Minister of Environmental Affairs of South Africa Mrs Edna Molewa, Dr Bryan Ayayo, and the CITES Secretary-General.



Outreach through celebrities and social media

The CITES Secretariat launched a new WWD website one month before the Day, where posters designed by professional designers in all 6 UN languages, outreach videos, action cards, social media package and a map to submit events are provided and freely available.

Reaction and support on social media was once again nothing short of phenomenal. In China alone, 30 youth celebrities led to millions of engagements on social media, as did a series of short awareness videos. Many UN system organizations and conservation organizations joined the social media campaign, including the UN Secretariat, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, UNODC, INTERPOL, FAO, WWF, IUCN, IFAW, United for Wildlife, WCS, as well conservation conventions, including the CBD and CMS.

HRH The Duke of Cambridge, as well as celebrities such as Leonard DiCaprio, supported World Wildlife Day on social media too. The unprecedented buzz created on social media during the Day showed how engaged many citizens from across every continent are in protecting the world’s wildlife

None of this would have been achieved without the extraordinary support by the UN system and other intergovernmental organizations, civil society and, most of all, countries and people around the world. We would therefore like to express our most sincere gratitude to each one of you for all of your support!

Image result for António GuterresHere is what UN Secretary General António Guterres had to say for World Wildlife Day: "Poaching and illegal trafficking pose a significant threat to wildlife, especially some of the world’s most iconic and endangered species.  Strict enforcement of laws is important, but so too is awareness.  As consumers, we have the power to demand that all wildlife products come from sustainable sources.  I particularly appeal to young people to protect their inheritance by becoming informed and acting to protect wild animals and plants from the threat of extinction."

World Wildlife Day succeeds through voluntary support

Last but not the least, on World Wildlife Day, CITES celebrated its 44rd birthday. The Secretariat has not received any additional funding to facilitate the global celebration and it does not seek to charge anyone to use any of the materials produced for the Day or in any other way. It relies upon its dedicated staff and volunteers, as well the contributions of many other organisations and people, to make the Day a great success.

And the success of this years' World Wildlife Day was possible due to the collective efforts of many people coming from many different places. It goes to show what is possible when we work together for a common cause.

Thank you all for your support and see you on 3 March 2018. In the meantime let’s make every day a special day for the world’s wildlife!

John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General


See more: