On 5 June 2016, people from across the globe will celebrate World Environment Day (WED) by taking part in environmental action and becoming agents of change for positive impacts on the planet.
This year’s theme is on the illegal trade in wildlife, which is eroding Earth’s precious biodiversity, robbing us of our natural heritage and driving species to the brink of extinction.
Wildlife crime endangers iconic species such as elephants, rhinos, tigers, gorillas and sea turtles. In 2011, a subspecies of Javan rhino was declared extinct in Vietnam, while the last western black rhinos vanished from Cameroon in the same year. Great apes have disappeared from Gambia, Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo, and other countries could quickly follow. Lesser-known victims include helmeted hornbills and pangolins as well as wild orchids and timbers like rosewood – yes, flowers and timber are also considered wildlife! The illegal trade is also undermining economies and ecosystems, fuelling organized crime, and feeding corruption and insecurity across the globe.
In a worldwide call to action to Make Wildlife Personal and to support the global effort against the illegal trade in wildlife, people all over the world are joined by star studded ambassadors in the UN’s unprecedented #WildforLife campaign that aims to mobilize millions of people to make commitments and take action.
As celebrations take place all over the world, celebrities are giving their name to change the game for these threatened species. Campaign Leaders include: UNEP Goodwill Ambassadors, Lebanese singer song-writer Ragheb Alama for helmeted hornbills; Chinese actress Li Bingbing and four-time African Footballer of the Year Yaya Touré (Manchester City, Ivory Coast) for elephants; Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen for sea turtles; GRASP Ambassador and Indonesian model Nadya Hutagalung for orangutans; and actor Ian Somerhalder (Vampire Diaries, Lost) for pangolins.
They are being joined by major celebrities including, Bollywood star Jacqueline Fernandez for tigers, Vietnamese singer Thu Minh for rhinos and North American actress Nikki Reed for Rosewood.
Brazilian footballer Neymar Jr. has also thrown his weight behind the campaign to support Gisele and has garnered over half a million likes for the campaign in 48 hours. All are calling for citizen support to end the demand that is driving the illegal trade.
There are many activities you can take part in to celebrate WED 2016, whether this be through arts and crafts exhibitions, film festivals, competitions, public celebrations, drama and poetry, flash mobs, online and social media activities, sports activities and more. Whatever you decide to do, check out the five quick steps to consider in making your day a success.
This year’s WED celebrations are hosted by Angola, a country seeking to restore its elephant herds, conserve Africa’s biodiversity-rich wildlife, and safeguard the environment as it seeks to become “a new Angola in which both people and animals can experience peace and prosperity and where environment becomes part of the heart and minds of its people, integrated with the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Minister of Environment, Mme Maria de Fátima Jardim.
Angola is home to the beloved Giant Sable Antelope and for WED 2016, you can act to save the Giant Sable from extinction by taking part in our naming contest. In July, rangers will fit the remaining sables with radio-collars. The first three animals will receive names that were chosen online by the WED community. These names will be announced on June 5 during the WED celebrations in Angola’s capital, Luanda. In 2010, the WED community named three baby gorillas, Waka Waka, Legacy and Zoya. https://vimeo.com/album/1606069
The contest and ceremony will raise the profile of this urgent conservation effort. The collars will help rangers track some of the last 100 antelopes in two remote reserves and protect them from poachers. Scientists can use the data to learn more about the species and how to help it recover.
Positive energy of global citizens across all sectors of society in show zero tolerance for the illegal trade will contribute to the extraordinary change already being made across the globe.
In April, Kenya destroyed nearly all of its elephant ivory and rhino horn stockpiles in a ceremony at Nairobi National Park. 105 tonnes of ivory from over 7,000 elephants and 1.35 tonnes of rhino horn were burned in an urgent call to action to end the poaching crisis. This comes after an announcement last year by two of the largest ivory markets in the world – the US and China – that they would be closing their international and domestic trade in elephant ivory.
Your pledge and engagement will empower people to understand the damage the illegal trade in wildlife is doing to our environment, economies, communities and security.
Whoever you are, and wherever you live, please ‘Go Wild for Life,’and save our planet!
Join the campaign by visiting www.wildfor.life and using the #Wildforlife hashtag on Twitter to share your kindred animal and pledge.