Today, we celebrate the first World Wildlife Day, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly. Since time immemorial, humanity has marvelled at the wild animals with which we co-exist and on which we depend. Prehistoric peoples have depicted wildlife through rock art and engravings, many of which are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. UNESCO’s global network of World Heritage sites and Biosphere Reserves are home to some of the most emblematic and threatened wildlife species, including mountain gorillas, pandas, tigers and different species of rhino.

Today, wildlife is under threat. If we do not act now and together, the next generation could face the most dramatic wave of extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs. To prevent this, we need to protect and conserve key habitats that are crucial to threatened wildlife. By working with States Parties to safeguard natural sites through the World Heritage Convention and the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, UNESCO is playing a major role in international efforts for wildlife conservation. The Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and UNESCO are working together to share experiences, in such domains as the illegal trafficking of cultural assets and ivory, and to jointly publish data on wildlife conservation. I look forward to taking this cooperation ever further.

On World Wildlife Day, I call upon all actors – including government authorities, non-governmental organizations, customs services, police forces and the scientific community -- to redouble their efforts and deepen cooperation. Only by joining forces can we craft a sustainable future for the planet’s precious wildlife and biodiversity.

Irina Bokova