Safeguarding key species for ecosystem restoration

  • Ivonne Higuero
    Ivonne Higuero Secretary-General of CITES
Tweets by World Wildlife Day

The planet’s forests are home to some 80 per cent of all terrestrial wild species. They help regulate the climate and support the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people.

Some 90 per cent of the world’s poorest people are dependent in some way on forest resources. This is particularly true for indigenous communities that live in or near forests.

Some 28 per cent of the world’s land is managed by indigenous communities, including some of the most intact forests on the planet. They provide livelihoods and cultural identity.

The unsustainable exploitation of forests harms these communities and contributes to biodiversity loss and climate disruption.

Every year, we lose 4.7 million hectares of forests – an area larger than Denmark.

Unsustainable agriculture is a major cause. So is global timber trafficking, which accounts for up to 90 per cent of tropical deforestation in some countries. It also attracts the world’s biggest organized crime groups.

The illegal trade in wild animal species is another threat, increasing the risks of zoonotic diseases, such as Ebola and COVID-19.

So, on this year’s World Wildlife Day, I urge governments, businesses and people everywhere to scale up efforts to conserve forests and forest species, and to support and listen to the voices of forest communities.

In so doing, we will contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for people, planet and prosperity.

Message from Ivonne Higuero, Secretary-General of CITES for World Wildlife Day 2021

Forests are one of the principal sources of life on our planet. They are home to nearly four fifths of all terrestrial species of wild fauna and flora. They are also home to several hundred million people, including countless members of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

Globally, up to 350 million people live within or adjacent to forested areas, relying on forests and their species to cover their basic needs, form food, to shelter, fuel and medicines. These groups have long lived in good harmony with their environments, which in turn have become a central part of their social and cultural identities.

These communities also have centuries of experience living from the near limitless ecosystem services provided by forests. They have historically acted as the principal custodians of their lands: just under a third of the world’s surface is managed by Indigenous Peoples, encompassing some of the most well-conserved forests on the planet.

Forest and forest wildlife also provide for the incomes and well-being of countless people that do not necessarily live near them. Worldwide, some 80 million jobs, both in the formal and informal sectors, are directly sustained by forest resources. Moreover, as many as 2.4 billion people use wood-based energy for cooking, both in rural and urban settings and in developed and developing countries.

Forests have long provided a safety net for some of the most vulnerable groups around the world.

Yet, these essential ecosystems and wild species are the very center of the most urgent challenges we face today, as are the communities they help sustain. As the combined effects of climate change, biodiversity loss and the social and economic consequences of the current global health crisis all continue to disrupt lives and ecosystems everywhere, they are a particular threat to the people and communities whose livelihoods and well-being are most closely tied to natural systems like forests.

Growing land conversion, rapid urbanization and other forms of encroachment on forested areas are leading to forest loss, degradation and fragmentation. This threatens to upend the lives of Indigenous Peoples and local communities who depend on forests for their incomes and basic needs, exposing them to growing risks of poverty and instability.

As we seek to repare our relationship with nature, forests, forest species and forest communities must be among our highest priorities. That is why, this year’s World Wildlife Day seeks to celebrate the livelihoods and experiences of those who have built strong models for sustainable interactions with forests.

Under the theme of “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet”, we wish to highlight the immense social and economic value of forests for communities in all corners of the world, particularly for Indigenous and local communities.

We also wish amplify the voices of representatives of these groups, so that their experiences and the novel paths they have taken in their march towards sustainability can inspire all global efforts to conserve forests and the species they harbor, without neglecting the needs of those who rely on them for their livelihoods.

We wish a happy World Wildlife Day to all!

Distinguished Participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year’s World Wildlife Day highlights the immense value of forests and forest-dwelling wildlife to the livelihoods of the communities based there, and to the well-being of people living much further away. Perhaps never before has it been so important to remember that in order to sustain people and the planet – the theme for this year’s event – forests must be managed sustainably.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of forests to biodiversity, or the extent to which humans depend on both for a wide range of valuable ecosystem services. Forests are home to the majority of life on land – both animal and plant species.

At least 1 billion people rely directly on forests for food in the form of edible plants, mushrooms, insects, fish and wildmeat, and many more depend on them for water, medicine, energy, shelter and income. Given the intricate relationship between humans and forests, the repercussions of upsetting this fine balance are grave indeed.

The past 12 months were a wake-up call to the dangers of stepping out of kilter with nature, as we know that more than 70% of emerging infectious diseases, and almost all recent pandemics, have originated in livestock and wildlife.

Forests have traditionally served as a natural barrier to disease transmission between animals and humans, but as we increasingly encroach on wildlife habitats to pursue expansion of agriculture, settlements and infrastructure, the risk of diseases spilling over from animals to people rises exponentially.

The growing demand for wildmeat, especially in urban settings, is increasing humans’ exposure to zoonotic diseases and hunting pressure in forests. Wildmeat is an essential source of food for millions of indigenous and rural people, accounting for more than 50 percent of protein intake in many tropical and subtropical regions.

But unless hunting and consumption are conducted in a sustainable manner, that supply will gradually diminish, with serious implications for food security. Already, recent studies estimate that 285 mammal species are threatened with extinction due to hunting for wildmeat.

At FAO, we know that efficient food production must co-exist with biodiversity conservation if there is to be any real hope of ending poverty and hunger. To achieve those objectives, we advocate for more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems that feed humanity.

FAO encourages a transition from unsustainable to sustainable levels of hunting and fishing for wildmeat through new and inclusive policies, practices and income-generating opportunities that make the most of both traditional knowledge and the latest technologies.

As part of this innovative approach, we are working with international partners through the Sustainable Wildlife Management Programme to address the food and nutritional security, forest livelihoods and health challenges that affect us all.  We work in 15 of our Members with funding from European Union (EU), the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM) and the French Development Agency.

For example, in Madagascar, the Programme is addressing the twin goals of eradicating hunger and conserving unique fauna by supporting women and youth in the sustainable production of poultry, and developing innovative techniques to farm endemic fish species, as alternative food supplies to wildlife.

In Guyana, where road-building and expanding village populations increase pressures on wildlife, the Programme contributes to restoring hunting and fishing to sustainable levels, maintaining traditional knowledge on wildlife through education, and supporting the local private sector in diversifying sources of safe and nutritious food for rural communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the close links between human, animal and environmental health. This approach is the cornerstone of the multidisciplinary One Health approach, to which FAO is strongly committed.

Forests sustain life – human life and wildlife. It is our firm conviction that innovative, science-based, green solutions are the pathway to preventing zoonotic diseases, and to ensuring a sustainable supply of food as well as livelihoods to forest communities and beyond.

Together, for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, leaving no one behind.

About


About

On 20 December 2013, at its 68th session, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed 3 March – the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973 – as UN World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. The UNGA resolution also designated the CITES Secretariat as the facilitator for the global observance of this special day for wildlife on the UN calendar. World Wildlife Day has now become the most important global annual event dedicated to wildlife.

World Wildlife Day (WWD) will be celebrated in 2022 under the theme “Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration”. The celebrations will seek to draw attention to the conservation status of some of the most critically endangered species of wild fauna and flora, and to drive discussions towards imagining and implementing solutions to conserve them. All conversations will be inspired by and seek to inform efforts towards the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goals 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero hunger) 12 (Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns), 13 (Climate Action) 14 (Life Below Water) and 15 (Life on Land).

According to data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, over 8,400 species of wild fauna and flora are critically endangered, while close to 30,000 more are understood to be endangered or vulnerable. Based on these estimates, it is suggested that over a million species are threatened with extinction.

Continued loss of species, habitats and ecosystems also threatens all life on Earth, including us. People everywhere rely on wildlife and biodiversity-based resources to meet all our needs, from food, to fuel, medicines, housing, and clothing. Millions of people also rely on nature as the source of their livelihoods and economic opportunities.

In 2022, World Wildlife Day will therefore drive the debate towards the imperative need to reverse the fate of the most critically endangered species, to support the restoration of their habitats and ecosystems and to promote their sustainable use by humanity.

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Events


World Wildlife Day 2022 Virtual Global Event: The 2022 celebration will be held online, and will seek to bring together representatives of UN member States, UN System organizations and multilateral environmental agreements, civil society, and the private sector for a series of discussions along the theme of "Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration".

We will be posting details and useful links on the upcoming event, including the agenda and links to for public viewing as we get closer to the date. Stay tuned for more soon.

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