Message from Inger Andersen, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

Our forests, forest species and ecosystems services play an irreplaceable role in sustaining the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people globally.

The unprecedented challenge facing the natural world are in equal measure, a challenge for human well-being. This World Wildlife Day, we must draw attention to the role of sustainable, legal and equitable wildlife trade as a powerful nature-based solution to protect biodiversity, improve livelihoods and protect human health.

Sustainable trade in wildlife trade can improve the resilience of vulnerable communities, particularly in rural and remote areas and incentivize conservation efforts. But as we know, unsustainable utilization and trade are key factors that drive the decline in wildlife. Nearly 20 percent of the IUCN Red List’s threatened and near- threatened species are directly threatened by hunting (Coad et al., 2018). And when global wildlife trade is illegal or unsanitary, there is a greater risk of animal-to-human spillover or zoonotic diseases as is evident in the global pandemic COVID-19.

Equally important is to protect the custodians of the natural world – indigenous peoples and local communities. Comprising less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, indigenous people protect 80 per cent of global biodiversity. We cannot sustain the natural world without the leadership of indigenous people.

COVID-19 has demonstrated what can happen when we disturb the finely attuned web of life, and so on this World Wildlife Day, let us recommit to resetting and rejuvenating our relationship with the natural world, for people and planet.

We at UNEP continue to be proud to host and support the Secretariat of The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora or CITES, as, together, we work to strengthen the Convention and enhance national and global capacities to safeguard our wildlife.