Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message on World Wildlife Day, observed on 3 March:
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.