Safeguarding key species for ecosystem restoration

  • Ivonne Higuero
    Ivonne Higuero Secretary-General of CITES
Tweets by World Wildlife Day

The planet’s forests are home to some 80 per cent of all terrestrial wild species. They help regulate the climate and support the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people.

Some 90 per cent of the world’s poorest people are dependent in some way on forest resources. This is particularly true for indigenous communities that live in or near forests.

Some 28 per cent of the world’s land is managed by indigenous communities, including some of the most intact forests on the planet. They provide livelihoods and cultural identity.

The unsustainable exploitation of forests harms these communities and contributes to biodiversity loss and climate disruption.

Every year, we lose 4.7 million hectares of forests – an area larger than Denmark.

Unsustainable agriculture is a major cause. So is global timber trafficking, which accounts for up to 90 per cent of tropical deforestation in some countries. It also attracts the world’s biggest organized crime groups.

The illegal trade in wild animal species is another threat, increasing the risks of zoonotic diseases, such as Ebola and COVID-19.

So, on this year’s World Wildlife Day, I urge governments, businesses and people everywhere to scale up efforts to conserve forests and forest species, and to support and listen to the voices of forest communities.

In so doing, we will contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for people, planet and prosperity.

Message from Ivonne Higuero, Secretary-General of CITES for World Wildlife Day 2022

Watch the message


"World Wildlife Day is an opportunity to think about the plants and animals we share the planet with and consider what they do for us - and what we should be doing for them. Our wildlife gives us food, cleans our air and provides us with fuel and shelter. We could not survive without them, yet their survival is threatened by us. This day is a chance to celebrate the partnerships that are working to re-establish the natural balance between species, while at the same time acknowledging the challenges, we still face to stop irreversible change. Our actions have brought us to this critical point; it is only by working together that we will find a way to conserve and sustainably use the diverse wildlife that supports us. 

The fates of individual species and entire ecosystems are intimately linked. This year’s celebration of World Wildlife Day focuses on how we can protect key species – species that play a particularly vital part in shaping how their ecosystem functions – and their contributions to ecosystem health.  The theme of “Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration” is such an important idea that this decade, from 2021 through to 2030 is the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, where we need to make real progress on this crucial area of work.  

We all have a role to play in protecting wildlife and restoring ecosystems. At CITES, governments set the rules for international trade in wildlife. These rules also affect the hunting, harvesting and collecting of specimens that are subsequently traded. CITES uses a rigorous system of trade permits to ensure that trade in at-risk species is sustainable. When a plant or animal is threatened by extinction, CITES often goes further and bans all commercial trade in that species until its recovery. CITES’ decisions are science-based, implementation-oriented and pragmatic. 

Other international treaties, organizations and programmes address different aspects of the biodiversity crisis. The Convention on Biological Diversity, for example, takes a broad overview of the conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of genetic resources. The Convention on Migratory Species recognizes that animals cross human borders when they migrate and international agreements help preserve their habitats and way of life as they range.  

We each need to play our part and it is only through this partnership that we can hope to succeed in tackling the enormous challenges that we face. Animals and plants cannot flourish if their habitats are being destroyed. Habitats cannot be sustained unless their flora and fauna are effectively conserved. And without a thriving wildlife and healthy habitats our human needs cannot be met.  

International regimes and national, government-led national policies are critical for protecting wildlife. But some of the most important work being done today is by local people and organizations dedicated to local issues and projects. On 3 March, our international celebration of World Wildlife Day will recognize some of these people and hear about the work that they are doing.  

From global treaties like CITES to small-scale local projects, these diverse efforts can boast many success stories and important advances. While the biodiversity crisis remains serious, we can draw inspiration from the many positive actions being taken today by governments, NGOs and concerned citizens alike. 

I encourage everyone to view World Wildlife Day as an opportunity to celebrate the joy and the benefits that wild plants and animals provide to us. At the same time, let us use this opportunity to explore the synergies and the connections between wildlife conservation and ecosystem restoration. Let us also acknowledge and appreciate the many conservation success stories that do exist, while at the same time exploring the challenges we face and the potential solutions for the future.  

We understand the damage we are doing to wildlife; we understand how this damage affects our present and future; and we know what we need to do to reverse course. Let’s do it! 

I wish you an enjoyable and a thoughtful World Wildlife Day."

Distinguished Participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year’s World Wildlife Day highlights the immense value of forests and forest-dwelling wildlife to the livelihoods of the communities based there, and to the well-being of people living much further away. Perhaps never before has it been so important to remember that in order to sustain people and the planet – the theme for this year’s event – forests must be managed sustainably.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of forests to biodiversity, or the extent to which humans depend on both for a wide range of valuable ecosystem services. Forests are home to the majority of life on land – both animal and plant species.

At least 1 billion people rely directly on forests for food in the form of edible plants, mushrooms, insects, fish and wildmeat, and many more depend on them for water, medicine, energy, shelter and income. Given the intricate relationship between humans and forests, the repercussions of upsetting this fine balance are grave indeed.

The past 12 months were a wake-up call to the dangers of stepping out of kilter with nature, as we know that more than 70% of emerging infectious diseases, and almost all recent pandemics, have originated in livestock and wildlife.

Forests have traditionally served as a natural barrier to disease transmission between animals and humans, but as we increasingly encroach on wildlife habitats to pursue expansion of agriculture, settlements and infrastructure, the risk of diseases spilling over from animals to people rises exponentially.

The growing demand for wildmeat, especially in urban settings, is increasing humans’ exposure to zoonotic diseases and hunting pressure in forests. Wildmeat is an essential source of food for millions of indigenous and rural people, accounting for more than 50 percent of protein intake in many tropical and subtropical regions.

But unless hunting and consumption are conducted in a sustainable manner, that supply will gradually diminish, with serious implications for food security. Already, recent studies estimate that 285 mammal species are threatened with extinction due to hunting for wildmeat.

At FAO, we know that efficient food production must co-exist with biodiversity conservation if there is to be any real hope of ending poverty and hunger. To achieve those objectives, we advocate for more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems that feed humanity.

FAO encourages a transition from unsustainable to sustainable levels of hunting and fishing for wildmeat through new and inclusive policies, practices and income-generating opportunities that make the most of both traditional knowledge and the latest technologies.

As part of this innovative approach, we are working with international partners through the Sustainable Wildlife Management Programme to address the food and nutritional security, forest livelihoods and health challenges that affect us all.  We work in 15 of our Members with funding from European Union (EU), the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM) and the French Development Agency.

For example, in Madagascar, the Programme is addressing the twin goals of eradicating hunger and conserving unique fauna by supporting women and youth in the sustainable production of poultry, and developing innovative techniques to farm endemic fish species, as alternative food supplies to wildlife.

In Guyana, where road-building and expanding village populations increase pressures on wildlife, the Programme contributes to restoring hunting and fishing to sustainable levels, maintaining traditional knowledge on wildlife through education, and supporting the local private sector in diversifying sources of safe and nutritious food for rural communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the close links between human, animal and environmental health. This approach is the cornerstone of the multidisciplinary One Health approach, to which FAO is strongly committed.

Forests sustain life – human life and wildlife. It is our firm conviction that innovative, science-based, green solutions are the pathway to preventing zoonotic diseases, and to ensuring a sustainable supply of food as well as livelihoods to forest communities and beyond.

Together, for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, leaving no one behind.


Thanks to all who joined us on YouTube for the live Global Event!

You can watch the video here.


On 20 December 2013, at its 68th session, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed 3 March – the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973 – as UN World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. The UNGA resolution also designated the CITES Secretariat as the facilitator for the global observance of this special day for wildlife on the UN calendar. World Wildlife Day has now become the most important global annual event dedicated to wildlife.

This year, World Wildlife Day (WWD) has been celebrated under the theme “Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration”. The celebrations sought to draw attention to the conservation status of some of the most critically endangered species of wild fauna and flora, and to drive discussions towards imagining and implementing solutions to conserve them. All conversations have been inspired by and sought to inform efforts towards the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goals 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero hunger) 12 (Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns), 13 (Climate Action) 14 (Life Below Water) and 15 (Life on Land).

According to data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, over 8,400 species of wild fauna and flora are critically endangered, while close to 30,000 more are understood to be endangered or vulnerable. Based on these estimates, it is suggested that over a million species are threatened with extinction.

Continued loss of species, habitats and ecosystems also threatens all life on Earth, including us. People everywhere rely on wildlife and biodiversity-based resources to meet all our needs, from food, to fuel, medicines, housing, and clothing. Millions of people also rely on nature as the source of their livelihoods and economic opportunities.

In 2022, World Wildlife Day has therefore driven the debate towards the imperative need to reverse the fate of the most critically endangered species, to support the restoration of their habitats and ecosystems and to promote their sustainable use by humanity.

Official Posters

Official poster for World Wildlife Day 2022 - English Official poster for World Wildlife Day 2022 - English Official poster for World Wildlife Day 2022 - English


World Wildlife Day 2022 Virtual Global Event: The 2022 celebration was held online on March 3rd 2022, and sought to bring together representatives of UN member States, UN System organizations and multilateral environmental agreements, civil society, and the private sector for a series of discussions along the theme of "Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration".

The provisional agenda can be found on this link.

The event was livestreamed on YouTube on March 3 2022. Click to go to the World Wildlife Day official YouTube channel.

World Wildlife Day is not about any one single event. The Day has been observed in the in the past by people, groups and authorities around the world and in various ways. Find out more about the events held globally here.




Influencer Quotes


❝ To create resiliency within ecosystems there must be biodiversity, that is why it's so important to recover key species that play pivotal rolls within any given ecosystem. I am so pleased that this year's World Wildlife Day is focusing on recovering key species within ecosystems.❞ 

Bonnie Wright - Actress, conservation activist and influencer and author of Go Gently, a practical guide to climate action.