3 March 2018: The 2018 World Wildlife Day convened under the theme, ‘Big cats: predators under threat,’ and an array of global events called for the conservation of species such as the lion, tiger, leopard, and jaguar as well as the cheetah, snow leopard, and puma. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Bank issued reports addressing crosscutting issues such as the role of communities, livelihoods, tourism, and wildlife crime that affect big cat conservation, while other agencies took to social media and film.

Celebration of the Day featured an event at UN Headquarters in New York, US, organized by the Permanent Missions of Gabon, Germany, Kyrgyzstan and Thailand, and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), UNEP, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), African Parks, Panthera, the World Conservation Society, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). At the event, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed explained that the varied causes of biodiversity loss all link to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda.

The varied causes of biodiversity loss all link to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.

Also at a New York-based high-level event, the 14 jaguar range States released the ‘Jaguar 2030 New York Statement.’ In the declaration, the States pledged to up-scale successful conservation practices, catalyze investments, and involve local communities in jaguar conservation. The States also called for the creation of an International Jaguar Day.

UN agencies and conventions also used multi-media outlets to raise awareness on big cat conservation. For instance, the CITES Secretariat announced the winners of the International Big Cats Film Festival, which aired a variety of films at the Jackson Hole Conservation Summit, from 24-26 September 2017. Meanwhile, UNDP released two photo essays, one titled ‘Partners against Crime: Working Together to Save Sumatran Tigers’ and another titled, ‘Results for Rhinos: Using innovative financing to achieve conservation outcomes.’ On social media, UNEP launched the Big Cat Team Challenge through its Wild for Life Campaign. The challenge is a race to see which big cat – jaguars, lions, snow leopards or tigers – can raise the most pledges towards informed buying decisions and away from the consumption of illegal wildlife products. The challenge will result in a donation towards one of the flagship species, to be announced on Earth Day (22 April). At the conclusion of World Wildlife Day, snow leopards were in the lead.

In his message for the Day, Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director, called “on everyone to work with the international community to stop wildlife crime and prevent the world’s big cat species from sliding into extinction.” The World Bank released a publication also focusing on this issue. The publication titled, ‘Tools and Resources to Combat Illegal Wildlife Trade,’ describes investigative tools, techniques and resources, as well as legal frameworks, demand reduction strategies and community engagement to reduce wildlife crime. The Bank also released the title, ‘Supporting Sustainable Livelihoods through Wildlife Tourism,’ which profiles wildlife tourism programs in seven countries in Africa and Asia that can be replicated to promote conservation and livelihoods elsewhere.

Leading up to the Day, on 27 February, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Institute on Environment and Development (IIED), launched a report titled, ‘Wildlife, Wild Livelihoods.’ The publication looks into the history of community wildlife management and how communities can combat illegal wildlife trade. Also addressing the role of communities, in his message for the Day, Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) pointed out that “[conservation] solutions lie in involving local communities in conservation efforts, combating illegal trade and taking environmental considerations into account in planning processes.”

On 20 December 2013, at its 68th session, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed 3 March, the day of signature of CITES, as UN World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. [UN Press Release] [World Wildlife Day Website] [Messages for the Day] [Publication: Tools and Resources to Combat Illegal Wildlife Trade] [Scanlon Statement] [Film Festival Winners] [Publication: Supporting Sustainable Livelihoods through Wildlife Tourism] [UNEP Press Release] [Publication: Wildlife, Wild Livelihoods] [GEF Press Release] [Big Cat Challenge] [UNDP Photo Essay on Big Cats] [UNDP Photo Essay on Rhinos] [Jaguar Statement] [UNDP Press Release on Jaguar Range States]