Message from Kaddu Sebunya, President of African Wildlife Foundation

March 3, marks the World Wildlife Day, the day proclaimed by the UN General Assembly to celebrate and raise awareness of the world's wild animals and plants. This is a day that presents us with an opportunity for reflection on the relevance of wildlife to the people and the economies and also brings attention that these diverse and magnificent species are in danger of being extinct. The theme of this year is “Big cats: predators under threat”.

Like our wild lands, Africa’s big cats are dying off—the African lion population has declined by 43% between 1993-2014, the population of cheetahs has declined by over 30% in the last 15 years to an estimated 6,674 individuals and has lost 89% of their historic range.

Africa is at a critical juncture. If we do not make deliberate efforts to safeguard our wildlife and wild lands, our current development boom could burst our future.

Spreading deserts are threatening arable lands on the continent.

Human activities and pollution are accelerating climate change – affecting agriculture produce and the uniquely African way of life.

Deforestation rate of nearly 10,000km annually to human activities. Human sprawl, infrastructure development, detrimentally illegal practices like poaching and trafficking of illegal wildlife products and other factors—all brought about by mostly human activities.

This is too important an issue to be left to conservationists only. It needs a coalition of stakeholders – at all levels – economic, social and political.  The conservation of Africa’s wildlife and wild lands must sit high up on the agenda of Africa’s economic surge and growth, to achieve sustainability of human populations and biodiversity.

Conservation is an urgent story to share, for the development decisions we make now will determine what kind of continent we leave for future generations. Ten, 20, 50 years from now, how will the African story unfold? We have the opportunity to write a happy ending befitting our continent’s unmatched natural heritage and remarkable rise, one of a thriving Africa with wildlife and wild lands at its core.

Let us ensure that through World Wildlife Day, these charismatic predators will generate the level of attention they all deserve to be sure they are with us for generations to come. And we ask all Africans to join us in this effort.