By Christa Adams
You may have heard there is no Planet B. That this needs to be pointed out underscores just how disconnected humanity has become from the natural world. The fact is, life is much more wild and interwoven than we care to admit. So, what better way to embrace our role as one species among countless others than by celebrating World Wildlife Day on March 3? Intended to raise awareness about threatened and endangered plants and animals, it’s the perfect chance to recalibrate and recognize how all the planet’s inhabitants — humans included — are dependent on each other for survival.
What is World Wildlife Day?
World Wildlife Day was officially declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 2013 to coincide with the signing of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) on March 3, 1973. March 3 serves as an opportunity to celebrate the world’s wild fauna and flora and to bring attention to the pressing issues they face, such as habitat loss, over-exploitation, and climate change. The theme for World Wildlife Day in 2023 is “Partnerships for wildlife conservation,” which is intended to honor the people who make a difference — and encourage people to work together to re-establish and sustain healthy ecosystems, wildlife populations, and biodiversity on a global scale.
5 Fascinating Facts about Animals and Plant Species
1. There are more than 8.7 million species of plants and animals on Earth — with scientists estimating there may be many more still undiscovered.
Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines, is home to the world's greatest concentration of unique mammal species. Ninety-three percent of the island’s land mammals are found nowhere else. However, Brazil is the most biodiverse country on the planet, home to rainforests like Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro and 60% of the Amazon. As a result, there are an estimated 55,000 species of plants, in addition to the highest counts of both vertebrates and invertebrates in the world.
2. Biodiversity is essential for the functioning of ecosystems and the services they provide, such as clean air, water, and soil.
While Brazil is the most biodiverse country, Costa Rica is considered the most bio-intense region on the planet, containing about six percent of the world’s biodiversity in only 0.03% of the Earth’s surface. In fact, the Osa Peninsula crowds 2.5% of the planet’s biodiversity into just 0.001% of its surface area.
3. Many species of plants and animals are endangered or at risk of extinction, including elephants, rhinos, gorillas, sea turtles, and many species of coral.
Habitat destruction, over-exploitation, and climate change have created a man-made global extinction crisis. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), approximately one-quarter of all species on Earth are threatened with extinction. Some species, such as the western lowland gorilla, have populations that have declined by more than 60% in the past 20 to 25 years.
Elephants, rhinos, and gorillas are highly prized by poachers for their ivory horns, and meat, respectively. Sea turtles are threatened by plastic pollution, climate change, and habitat destruction, while coral reefs are facing significant declines due to rising water temperatures, ocean acidification, and disease.
Conservation efforts, such as protected areas, anti-poaching initiatives, and habitat restoration, are crucial for saving endangered species and preserving biodiversity. However, much more needs to be done to ensure the survival of these species and to protect the health of the planet.
4. Wild plants play a crucial role in the Earth's carbon cycle by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
World Wildlife Day isn’t just about animals but plants too. Flora and fauna play a vital role in regulating the Earth’s climate by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in their leaves, stems, roots, and soil. This process, known as carbon sequestration, helps to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, mitigating the impact of climate change. Forests are some of the largest carbon stores on Earth, containing more carbon than the atmosphere. Another major carbon store is our world’s wetlands, storing carbon up to 55% faster than tropical forests.
5. Protecting wildlife and their habitats is not only important for the survival of individual species, but also for the health of our planet.
Wildlife and their habitats are essential components of the Earth’s ecosystems and provide numerous benefits to both human and non-human species. For example, wetlands and coral reefs provide critical habitats for a variety of species and protect coastal communities from storms and erosion.
However, human activity is putting increasing pressure on wild plants and animals. Protecting wildlife and their habitats is not just an ethical or moral obligation, but it is also in our own self-interest. Ecosystem services, such as clean water, fertile soil, and pollination, are essential for our survival and well-being. We need the bees, the rainforests, the wetlands, sharks — all of it.
What You Can Do on World Wildlife Day
By taking action to protect our wildlife and their habitats, we can ensure the survival of vulnerable species, maintain the health of ecosystems, and contribute to the well-being of our planet (and our own survival). Here are some ways you can contribute on World Wildlife Day:
- Live sustainably: It’s as simple as educating yourself and being aware of choices. Are the products you buy sustainably sourced? Are you still using single-use plastics such as shopping bags? Do your research to ensure you’re living in a way that results in the most minimal impact on our planet.
- Raise your voice: If people don’t know, they won’t act. So, get the word out about the importance of endangered species and habitats among your friends and on your social channels.
- Help conservation efforts: Conservation organizations need whatever help you can provide — whether it’s your time or a donation, however small.
- Seek local wildlife: You don’t have to travel to an exotic or tropical locale to appreciate nature. Enjoy a stroll in your neighborhood park or nature reserve and learn about the different animal and plant species you may be taking for granted.
- Cut your carbon emissions: Small acts can shrink your carbon footprint, helping the planet and its abundant life (including humans). Try walking instead of driving — or if it’s too far, hop on a bike or use public transportation. Simply adjusting how you get around can make a difference without too much hassle.
See other ways to get involved here by checking out World Wildlife Day here!