New York

03 March 2016

Secretary-General's message at Commemoration of World Wildlife Day [delivered by Cristina Gallach, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information]

The world’s wild animals and plants face many threats, including from climate change, habitat loss, poaching and illicit trafficking.

In the face of these threats, global efforts to protect wildlife are gathering force. 

In 2015, United Nations Member States adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, which include two specific targets to end poaching. 

The General Assembly also unanimously adopted a resolution to tackle illicit trafficking in wildlife. 

These powerful expressions of political determination to end these destructive crimes are now being translated into action on the ground through the collective efforts of governments, civil society and the private sector around the world.

However, to protect this essential natural heritage for this and future generations, much more needs to be done by key actors on all continents and across sectors. 

According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the killing of African elephants and trafficking in their ivory remain alarmingly high.  Asian elephants are also subject to growing levels of poaching. 

Many other species, such as cheetahs, pangolins, rhinos, sea turtles, sharks, tigers, whales and high-value timber, are under pressure from habitat change, over-exploitation or illicit trafficking.

Human activities pose the main threat to wildlife. 

We must therefore be the solution, by tackling greed, ignorance and indifference.

To combat the poaching and trafficking of protected species it is essential to address both the demand and supply of illegal wildlife products through agreed goals and targets, and through international instruments, such as CITES.

We need to tackle the problem throughout the supply chain – from where wildlife is being poached, to where it is in transit, and where it is being sold.

Many governments, civil society groups and businesses are becoming more aware and engaged.

Today, on World Wildlife day, I am pleased to announce the imminent launch of a One UN Global Coalition Campaign, led by the UN Development Programme, the UN Environment Programme and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, along with CITES, to end illicit wildlife trafficking.

This campaign underscores that fashion, investment, status, or religious or cultural beliefs should not be allowed to contribute to endangering any species.

It calls on all stakeholders – from individuals, businesses and industry, civil society, academia and government – to use their own spheres of influence to end the illegal trade in wildlife.

The campaign is being rolled out today, on World Wildlife Day, and it will be further profiled on World Environment Day, on 5 June, which is also themed on the illegal trade.

Only through sustained effort can we end illicit wildlife trafficking.

Conservation efforts also need to engage and empower communities that live in close proximity to wildlife. 

Conservation policy must be science, and it must be livelihood-based.

It must strengthen the rule of law, giving full consideration to the needs of local people.

When local communities and economies derive a benefit from wildlife conservation, they are more likely to succeed.

This requires stronger governance and law enforcement.

Many brave people, such as park rangers and law enforcement officers, are fighting wildlife crime in the field, putting their lives at risk to protect the most threatened species.

But wildlife conservation is a shared responsibility.

It is the fundamental duty of every citizen to protect it.

World Wildlife Day is an opportunity for people from every country to help raise awareness and to take personal action to help ensure the survival of the world’s wildlife and to combat wildlife crime.

Today, we are also announcing the winners of the first International Elephant Film Festival, which is an important part of this year’s celebration of World Wildlife Day.

I commend the Jackson Hole Wildlife Festival for teaming up with the United Nations and CITES to organize this event, which will greatly amplify the impact of the Day.

I also invite people around the world to share and watch these excellent and inspiring films.
Many are in social media right now.

I thank the filmmakers, photographers, journalists and writers, who are helping to tell these stories of wildlife conservation, as well as the judges.

I call on all citizens, businesses and governments to play their part in protecting the world’s wild animals and plants. 

The actions taken by each of us will determine the fate of the world’s wildlife, large and small, charismatic and lesser known.

The future of wildlife is in our hands!

Thank you very much.