Billions of people, most especially in Africa, benefit from the use of wildlife species for food, medicine, recreation to mention a few. However, it is sad to note that our beautiful home, the Earth with its rich diversity, is facing tremendous threat of extinction of various species of plants and animals. Many human activities such as mining, farming and construction are constantly putting wildlife in danger, destroying the natural habitats of millions of species and putting the world’s biodiversity at risk. There is a call for various stakeholders to come together in the fight to maintain a thriving ecosystem and a delicate balance between all the different forms of life.
Thankfully, the 3rd of March each year has been marked as a global day for celebrating the diversity of wildlife here on Earth. On this day, people all around the world hold events to celebrate the intrinsic value of wildlife and the contributions therein to sustainable development. This day has also become a platform to raise awareness of the importance of protecting wildlife, amplifying the voice of the multitude of benefits brought about by biodiversity conservation. This day also serves as a reminder on the importance of stepping up the fight against wildlife crime and human-induced species reduction.
When did all this start? The 3rd of March 1973 officially became the signature day for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the year 2023 marks its 50th anniversary. In December 2013, the United Nations General Assembly decided to create a day, World Wildlife Day, to raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants and the importance of protecting them. The CITES Secretariat is the facilitator for the global observance of this special day. CITES @50 recognizes the important role that CITES has played over the years in building strong, strategic partnerships for wildlife conservation.
Hosted by the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and running under the theme “Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation”, the World Wildlife Day celebrations in Zimbabwe were held at the Zimparks Gardens. It was a well-planned day with a lot of exciting activities lined up. As each presenter took to the podium, including the Guest of Honour, Dr Auxilia Mnangagwa’s keynote address, it was evident that the fight against the accelerating global biodiversity crisis, can only be achieved through strategic partnerships. This year’s celebrations were anchored on the call to work together and the need to live more sustainable lives.
UN agencies, private sector organisations, philanthropies, non-governmental organisations and various representatives from the civic society graced the occasion. In her speech, Dr Auxilia Mnangagwa took time to acknowledge the tremendous work being done by the developmental partners and the society at large in their various sphere of influence. However, it is important to note that as much as the biodiversity economy is gaining traction in Zimbabwe, there still remains a lot to be done. One developmental partner we took time to briefly interview highlighted the unsustainable funding gap that exists in the wildlife sector and the urgent need to bridge that funding gap.
Also of great significance, was the presence of students from various high schools who participated in various ways, mostly through poems and dramas. They highlighted in their own special way, the contribution the plants and animals are making. The schools were highly commended for taking the time to teach their students and impact their lives with important knowledge on nature conservation. The youth are the future and they need to be equipped with the right knowledge of how they can take care of the planet and fight for a better tomorrow.
We all have an obligation to rally behind such initiatives and there are various ways one can participate. Why not post on your social media channel and spread the message wherever you can? Sign petitions, share videos, photos and articles with friends and family. Donate time or money to organisations that are protecting wildlife locally or internationally. It is upon us to do the best we can before it is too late. Lastly, remember to mark this date on your calendar and as you journey, be in the know that you have a role and a crucial part to play in defending nature’s diversity.