World Wildlife Day is on March 3rd and the theme of the year is “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet”. This will be the 7th annual celebration since the designation by the United Nations on December 20th, 2013. Every year World Wildlife Day gets bigger and bigger, with celebrities, organizations, and even political powers chiming in to show their support. This year there will be a WWD Film Showcase and Youth Art Contest to provide a fun way to learn about some of the important aspects of this year’s topic. “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet” is a critical topic in this day and age for some reasons that are easily overlooked.
Today it is very common to hear people talking about how important the forests and wildlife are. We need the trees and forests for oxygen, homes for wildlife, and of course resources. Something that has only recently started to become a bigger conversation is the dependency that many people have on the forests and wildlife around the world for survival. One example of this dependency comes with the Red Panda, where locals require the trees that Red Pandas live in for wood to build and heat their homes. This sort of situation puts Red Pandas at risk as they lose their habitat and homes, but to ask the people to stop cutting the trees would force them to leave entirely or risk hardship as no alternate means are available. As you can imagine, if you don’t have many options to even heat your homes, income may be an issue as well, and for some that income might come from poaching Red Pandas for the pet trade.
To help solve these situations around the world the most common solution is for non-profit organizations and charities to step in. For Red Pandas, one of those organizations is the Red Panda Network who have stepped in to reduce deforestation through higher efficiency homes and stoves and created a new source of income through tea farms and sales. These solutions aren’t always perfect, and it can be hard to find solutions in other regions, such as Southeast Asia, where one of the most diverse and most endangered ecologies of sharks in the world can be found. The sharks in this area are both food and funds for these people, so separating their lives from these ancient fish may not be easy.
Lions, Giraffes, Gorillas, and many other African animals are in a similar predicament. They face urbanization, deforestation, and desertification threats every day, but unlike the Red Pandas and sharks, these animals aren’t as frequently overhunted for food or profit or simply losing their environment for firewood. Most of these animals face a loss of habitat due to growing populations, increasing agricultural practices, and rapid urbanization. Tourism is surprisingly one of the few things that are keeping these animals safe and protected. Without the funds brought in through tourism it is unlikely that there would be enough money and political protection to keep protected areas open and to fund the operations that keep these animals guarded. If tourism, international groups, and non-profit organizations weren’t as active as they are, its entirely likely some areas would succumb to more industrial practices like mining, agriculture, and lumber.
Covid-19 has had a never-before-seen effect on the world and has halted industries, endangered futures, and resulted in more loved ones lost than anyone should be comfortable with. One of the many heavily impacted industries has been the tourism industry and while it is commonplace to assume that tourism will be booming again in no time, we have to consider the effects felt by those dependant on it. Not only the livelihoods supported by tourism but the animals and wildlife that may only be protected because of it. Reserves, zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries, and many others had to close their doors to the public because funding is at a minimum. These organisations are the last hopes for some species like the Scimitar-horned Oryx or the Giant Panda and without the interest that everyday people show in supporting a greener world and bringing these species back from the brink they may just fade into the night.
Support World Wildlife Day and help show the world and governments how much nature means to us. Some easy ways to show your support are to use your green spaces like parks and hiking trails, or to visit your local sanctuary, zoo, or aquarium to show they have worth and deserve funding. You can also spread the word using the hashtags #ForestPeoplePlanet #WorldWildlifeDay and #WWD2021 on social media to get the word out there. For more ideas take a look at the World Wildlife Day website to see what ways best suite you. Remember, we may not be able to gather in large groups, but there are plenty of ways we can show our support.
- Naomi C et. Al (2021) The sharks and rays at Singapore’s fishery ports. Fisheries Research. 235: 105805 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fishres.2020.105805