New York

09 June 2016

Secretary-General's remarks at Wildlife Conservation Society Gala 2016 [as prepared for delivery]

Mr. Cristián Samper, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Mr. James J. Breheny, Executive Vice President of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Director of the Bronx Zoo, Ms. Antonia M. Grumbach, Chair of the Board of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I thank the Wildlife Conservation Society for inviting me to speak tonight.

Over its proud 120 year history, the WCS has significantly helped to advance wildlife conservation around the globe in partnership with governments and local communities.


New York would not be New York without the Bronx Zoo, and the cause of wildlife conservation would not be what it is without your efforts.

I might add that I have been trying to do my part personally.

During a visit to Mongolia, the Government gave me a horse.

In Kenya, I adopted a lion, named Tumani.

And in South Sudan, I was given a bull.

They named it Ban Ki-moo!

As I have seen again and again in my travels around the world, people from all walks of life derive pleasure and meaning from our planet’s natural treasures.

Some are privileged to experience them first-hand.

But immeasurably more are exposed to wildlife through documentaries and films.

So tonight, I am delighted to be with you to celebrate the lifetime achievement of Sir David Attenborough.

He has brought the incomparable magic of wildlife into the homes of millions of people through his mesmerizing documentaries.

I am also honoured to pay tribute to the outstanding contribution of the Walt Disney Company towards wildlife conservation through its stunning movies and its conservation fund.

The work of Sir David and the Walt Disney Company highlights two fundamental truths.

First, wildlife is a fascinating, immensely valuable and indispensable part of our natural and cultural heritage.

Second, it is increasingly under threat.

Essential habitats are being degraded and lost.

Many species, both charismatic and lesser known, are being driven towards extinction by poaching and illegal trafficking.

The businesses and individuals involved are motivated solely by short-term gain at the expense of long-term benefit to communities and habitats. 

In many instances, they act in collusion with transnational organized crime networks and groups actively involved in destabilizing nations.

However, there is some good news.

Global efforts to protect wildlife are gathering force. 

In July last year, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a milestone resolution on tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife.

In September, Member States adopted the Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal 15 specifically targets poaching and trafficking of protected species of plants and animals.

To succeed, we have to address both the supply of illegal wildlife products and the demand for them.

We have to Stand for Wildlife.

Last month, at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, we launched the global UN “Wild For Life” campaign.

Led by the UN Environment Programme, the UN Development Programme, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Convention on the International Trade in Wild Species of Fauna and Flora, the campaign asks for a global commitment to end the illegal trade in wildlife.

Everyone can play a part.

Governments can implement policies to protect species and ecosystems.

Businesses can trade responsibly.

Conservation groups can raise awareness and mobilize action.

And consumers can ensure they do not buy prohibited products.

I know everyone here cares deeply about these issues, and I count on you to support our campaign.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In closing, I would like to commend WCS, Sir David and the Walt Disney Company for their passionate advocacy for wildlife conservation.

I know that, if we act together, we can overcome indifference, combat greed and preserve our natural heritage for the benefit of this and future generations.

I thank you for your commitment and leadership and wish you a wonderful evening.

Thank you.