World Wildlife Day provides an important opportunity once a year to reflect on the complex web of life that surrounds and sustains us.
The advancement of humanity has come at the expense of almost all other species. Today, the human race is at the root of the ongoing sixth mass extinction, causing damage to nature on a scale comparable to the forces that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
The dramatic decline in populations of big cats – the focus of this year’s World Wildlife Day – is symptomatic of this loss. The lion population has nearly halved in the last two decades; cheetahs have gone extinct in 29 countries; and 80% of the world’s tigers have vanished from the wild over the past three tiger generations, or 21 years.
We are facing the very real possibility of seeing these titans of nature go extinct in the wild in our lifetime, on our watch.
To prevent the irreversible, we must work with the people living closest to these magnificent, but dangerous predators. Communities across Africa and Asia are the ones who face the threat of attacks by lions, tigers or leopards on humans and livestock as these animals’ habitats shrink. They are also the ones whose engagement is key to halting the decline in big cat species.
The good news is that solutions exist, and a future where wildlife flourishes alongside humanity is in sight. From developing predator-proof fencing and setting up agricultural plots outside of big cat habitats to providing training for wildlife tourism initiatives, IUCN is working with local communities to enable their peaceful coexistence with these species.
For millennia, big cats have been integral to the landscapes they inhabit and they remain essential to the complex and fragile web of life upon which we all depend.
On this special day, we must speak up for the kind of world we want to live in. We all have a role to play in saving the precious wildlife we share this planet with.