Three students from my Marine Conservation Ecology class were invited to attend the UN World Wildlife Day. I asked them to blog about it and here was the response of one student, Jamie Rae Hanson…..
UN World Wildlife Day (3/3) at the ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) Chamber
“The future of wildlife is in our hands”
Andrew Chang, Rebecca Snyder, Nikita Iyengar, Peter Manyara, Lauren Sevigny, Sylricka Foster, Arnaud Goessens, Richard Day, and myself attended the UN World Wildlife Day panel and film awards at the ECOSOC Chamber at the UN Headquarters in New York to learn more about the pressures wildlife face, including trafficking, and to connect with global leaders in wildlife issues. This was especially valuable for those of us in the Workshop in Applied Earth Systems Management III, currently working on a consulting project for the Wildlife Conservation Society. Ten students are working on this WCS consulting project. The goal of this project is to analyze species proposals that will potentially be submitted to CoP17 in South Africa by parties of CITES. While the specific nature and details within the species proposals are somewhat confidential, I can relate to you which wildlife species we are analyzing: The African Rhinoceros, Devil Rays, African Grey Parrot, and Pangolin species – all of which have been significantly impacted by trade for their parts and products in the international market, much of this illegal.
Arnaud Goessens, a colleague of mine in the MPA-ESP program at Columbia, currently is working as a consultant at the UN. Upon hearing that an event would be held at the UN Headquarters, celebrating World Wildlife Day and addressing wildlife trafficking, coordinated our attendance.
World Wildlife Day (WWD) is the product of a Thailand-sponsored UN Resolution adopted at CoP16 of CITES, held in Bangkok, Thailand. The date, March 3rd, was formally recognized at the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly in December, 2013. March 3rd marks the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which occurred on March 3rd, 1973.
“The world’s wildlife, whether charismatic or lesser known, is facing many challenges. The biggest threats to wildlife are habitat loss as well as overgrazing, farming and development. Poaching and trafficking in wildlife driven by transnational organized crime groups pose the most immediate threat to many iconic species. Elephants, pangolins, rhinoceros, sharks, tigers and precious tree species are among the most critically poached and trafficked species across the world.”
— John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General
CITES is “regarded as one of the most successful of all international environment-related agreements (John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General).” Today, 181 member nations have signed on to CITES. CITES is an international agreement between these nations, which aims to ensure that the trade in specimens of wild animals and plants, between nations, does not threaten the survival of these species. This is an important issue in today’s world, given that just the illegal trade of wild flora and fauna, not including marine or timber species, has an estimated value of $20 million dollars. This illegal trade devastates populations of many species worldwide including sharks, tigers, elephants, rhinos, and tuna, amongst many others.
WWD increases public and governmental awareness and should strengthen party commitments to CITES, which assists in reducing the harm brought on by the illegal trade, “including through developing compliance procedures, bringing new marine and timber species under CITES trade controls, making the best use of emerging technologies and strengthening cooperative implementation and enforcement efforts.”
The first WWD was in 2014. This year, 2016, was the third observance by the UN–celebrated with the kickoff of many worldwide events, including the Panel and International Elephant Film Awards, held at the ECOSOC Chamber at the UN Headquarters in New York on March 3rd. This year’s theme was ‘the future of wildlife is in our hands’ – with a sub-theme ‘the future of elephants is in our hands’.
The event was titled, Celebration of World Wildlife Day 2016 on 3 March at the UN Headquarters. It featured high level speeches, panel discussions and announcement of winners of International Elephant Film Festival.
The panel was moderated by John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General and featured the following panelists:
- Heiko Thoms, Ambassador, Charge de Affaires a.i. of Germany to the UN
- Robert Dreher, Associate Director, USFWS
- Nik Sekhran, Chief of Practice & Director, Sustainable Development Cluster, Bureau of Policy and Programme Support, UNDP
- John Robinson, Executive Vice President, Conservation and Science, WCS
- Tania Paratian, Manager Intergovernmental Relations, WWF International
World Wildlife Day ‘celebrates and raises awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants’. The CITES Secretariat serves as the facilitator for global observance of WWD for wildlife. Nations, states, and organizations were encouraged to use the day to celebrate and raise awareness of local species of wildlife and plants. It should also be noted that in 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted a specific resolution (the first of its kind) on ‘tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife’. The Sustainable Development Goals, put forward at the NYC UN headquarters in September 2015 also includes specific targets to stop the illegal trade in wildlife. These international UN actions were highlighted during WWD this year.
As future policy communicators, environmental professionals, and science advocates, it remains of utmost importance that we as students engage with experts and world leaders at events such as the ECOSOC WWD celebration at the UN in New York. We were able to listen, learn, discuss, and ask questions of important voices in wildlife conservation and international UN leaders who have a stake in the issue of illegal wildlife trafficking.
“The current wildlife crisis is not a natural phenomenon – unlike a drought, a flood or a cyclone. It is the direct result of people’s actions. People are the cause of this serious threat to wildlife and people must be the solution, which also requires us to tackle human greed, ignorance and indifference. … Wildlife loss threatens our own personal well-being, the livelihoods of local communities and, in some cases, even national economies and security.”
— John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General
From left to right: Jamie Hanson, Arnaud Goessens, Nikita Iyengar, Rebecca Snyder, Lauren Sevigny, at the UN Headquarters in New York, with a placard displaying the theme and social media slogans for this year’s World Wildlife Day (March 3rd) : The Future of Wildife is #InOurHands.
High-level panel event and announcement of winners of the International Elephant Film Festival, in celebration of World Wildlife Day at the ECOSOC Chamber of the UN Headquarters of New York. The panel was moderated by John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General, and featured Mr. Heiko Thoms, Ambassador, Charge de Affaires a.i. of Germany to the UN, Robert Dreher, Associate Director of the USFWS, Nik Sekhran, Chief of Practice & Director, Sustainable Development Cluster, Bureau of Policy and Programme Support at the UNDP, John Robinson, Executive Vice President, Conservation and Science in the WCS, and Tania Paratian, Manager of Intergovernmental Relations at WWF International.
An example of the promotional material developed for this year’s World Wildlife Day theme: The future of wildlife is In Our Hands (2016).
Links for more information:
- Official website of World Wildlife Day: http://www.wildlifeday.org/
- Messages from world leaders on WWD, 2016: http://www.wildlifeday.org/content/messages
- CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (International UN agreement): https://www.cites.org/
- UN General Assembly Resolution adopted July 30, 2015 [A/69/L.80 and Add.1] 69/314. Tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/69/314
- EU Statement – United Nations General Assembly: Tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife: http://eu-un.europa.eu/articles/en/article_16713_en.htm
 Keynote Address – Plenary Opening Session by John E. Scanlon: CITES Secretary-General