3 March 2014

Secretary-general's remarks at the opening of the World Wildlife Day Exhibition [As delivered]

I am pleased to join you on this first World Wildlife Day.

The General Assembly chose March 3rd because it is the date of adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

I thank the Government of Thailand, which is generously co-hosting this event with the United Kingdom and Switzerland, for bringing this recommendation to the General Assembly.

People and cultures have relied for millennia on nature’s rich diversity of wild plants and animals for food, clothing, medicine and spiritual sustenance. 

Wildlife is integral to our future through its essential role in science, technology and recreation.

It is intrinsic to our continued heritage and sustainable development. 

That is why one of the Millennium Development Goal targets is to significantly reduce biodiversity decline.

Yet, despite this commitment, wildlife is under threat. 

The causes include: deforestation and habitat degradation; climate change and changes in land use; overconsumption on land and sea; and illegal trafficking of wild plants and animals. 

This is economically, socially and environmentally damaging. 

It is important that we raise awareness not just of the value of wildlife but its sad decline in our modern world.

One way is through exhibitions such as this.

I would like to acknowledge our distinguished guest Yann-Arthus Bertrand.

Mr. Bertrand has long been a valued ambassador for the UN.

As a photographer, journalist, film-maker and environmentalist, he has been bearing witness to the Earth’s beauty for half a century.

His pictures are worth thousands of words.

In this exhibition we see dancing mantas, magnificent elephants, iconic apes and majestic trees.

Sadly, many of the world’s most charismatic species, as well as lesser known but ecologically important plants and animals, are in immediate danger of extinction. 

That is why I encourage the world’s citizens to think responsibly when buying products from wild animals and plants.

Illegal and unregulated wildlife trafficking of wildlife has reached unprecedented and dangerous levels.

Last year alone, more than one thousand rhinos in South Africa were illegally killed for their horns.

Elephant poaching is not just a menace to an advanced species, it is a threat to peace and security in a number of countries.

Wherever illicit trade exists, we find links to corruption, transnational organised crime, and even insurgency and terrorism.

Many brave people, such as park rangers and law enforcement officers, are risking their lives.

And they are being supported in their efforts by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization, the World Bank and, of course, CITES, which helps regulate wildlife trade in 180 countries.

But they need our help.

On this first World Wildlife Day, I urge all sectors of society to work together to combat illicit trafficking of wildlife.

Let us all commit to trade and use wild plants and animals sustainably and equitably.

Wildlife is part of our shared heritage.

We need it for our shared future.

Today, I say, let’s work together for a world where people and wildlife coexist in harmony. 

Let’s go wild for wildlife!

Thank you.