By Rajan Philips
The renowned English poet William Blake extolled the awesome majesty of the tiger thus:
‘Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forest of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?’
No less splendid are the giant panda, polar bear, the rhino, orangutan and millions of other species of plants and animals that add to the enchanting variety of wild life that make our planet so unique.
Yet, sadly, many a species are threatened and some of them on the verge of extinction due to indiscriminate exploitation of nature by humans to meet their insatiable needs and greed.
It is in this context that the first ever celebration of the World Wildlife Day (WWD), yesterday, 3 March, across the globe assumes special significance. The Day was instituted by a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on 20 December 2013 with the aim to raise awareness of the diversity of world’s wild life, both fauna and flora and the grave dangers they face.
The date chosen (3rd March) coincides with the date the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora was adopted in 1973.
While establishing the Day, the General Assembly of UNO emphasised the inherent benefits of wildlife to ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational spheres.
The Day is an ideal opportunity to celebrate the many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora on earth even as it reminds us of the urgent need to step up the fight against organized and wanton crimes against wildlife.
UN recognises the important role of CITES in ensuring that international trade in wild life does not threaten the species’ survival. With 179 member states backing it, CITES is obviously one of the world’s most powerful agency for conservation of the earth’s biodiversity. It regulates international trade in over 35,000 species of wild life. It wages a resolute battle against illegal trafficking of wildlife and their products, a very profitable and attractive form of illicit trade, possibly next only to trafficking of arms and drugs. The CITES has created a dedicated World Wildlife Day Facebook page to share news, resources and stories of the observance of the Day.
The first World Life Day celebrations were marked by major awareness initiatives and events across the world. An Exhibition entitled ‘Wild and Precious’ in a Geneva, World Wildlife Day conference on combating Wildlife Crime hosted by the United Nations University in Tokyo, the UN Environment Programme sponsored Africa Environment Day held in tandem with WWD were just a few of these.
Leaders who provided inspiring messages on the occasion include The Duke Of Cambridge Prince William, the President of ‘United for Wildlife’ organisation and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who called for concerted action by the global community to combat deliberate crimes against Wild Life that is under threat of extinction due to the twin problems of habitat loss and rise in illicit trafficking.
The relative lack of social stigma, small risk of arrest, and the ridiculously light penalties for the guilty coupled with huge money involved, (annual profits estimated at around $ 20 billion), make crimes against wild life a lucrative one.
Given the growing threat of extinction faced by valuable species, we cannot sit back any longer. It is time for action. If we do not act with conviction and determination it may be too late. We owe it to ourselves and to the future generations. The World Wildlife Day is just the right reminder to protect and celebrate the incredible beauty and variety of wild life we share our unique planet with.
The only good cage is an empty cage. — Lawrence Anthony
The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world it leaves to its children. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer