To celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora, the United Nations General Assembly at its 68th session on December 20, 2013 declared March 3 as World Wildlife Day. Similarly the United Nations General Assembly resolution designated the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Secretariat as the facilitator for the global observance of this special day for wildlife on the UN calendar. The World Wildlife Day has now become the most important global annual event dedicated to wildlife, and each year would be dedicated to a new purpose and idea to keep people abreast of the changing nature of the world.
On World Wildlife Day we focus on the important role the wild animals and plants play in the sustainability of our societies
Slogan for 2018
On World Wildlife Day we focus on the important role the wild animals and plants play in the sustainability of our societies. This year, the spotlight falls on the world’s big cats. The World Wildlife day theme for 2018 is “BigCats: Predators Under Threat”. This focuses the attention on the need for international, as well as national and individual level actions to ensure the survival of all big cat species. These magnificent predators, include species such as cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, pumas, snow leopards and tigers, found from Africa to Asia and the Americas.
Over a century ago, there were about 100,000 wild tigers in Asia, and currently a fewer than 4,000 exist. It is evident that their populations are declining at a disturbing rate, and these fascinating creatures are increasingly in danger of extinction. They are facing a wide range of threats from land degradation, loss of habitat and prey, climate change, poaching, illicit trafficking, and human-wildlife conflict.
Over a century ago, there were about 100,000 wild tigers in Asia, and currently a fewer than 4,000 exist
Why Wildlife Conservation is important
Wildlife is vital to the balance of nature, because from a broader sense it refers to both plants and animals found in any type of ecosystem. it is a source of inspiration that nurtures a sense of wonder. Thus, it is important to maintain the ecological balance for the provision of man’s basic needs. Presently, threats to Wildlife are mostly caused by human activities. Everyday many endangered species are being threatened, and extinction is at an extraordinarily high rate. Ecosystems and the services they provide are owned by all and protected by none; thus the significance of ecosystems is not recognized adequately. As such they tend to be over-used or improperly used. In acknowledging the challenge of environmental and natural resources degradation, the Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project (ESCAMP) funded by the World Bank; executed by the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment; and implemented by the Forest Department, and Department of Wildlife Conservation aims to enhance the management and sustainable use of ecosystems in selected parts of Sri Lanka through a series of complementary and synergistic components. ESCAMP will be scaling up its efforts to protect ecosystems, wildlife and their habitats. ESCAMP is designed along four main components, out of which three directly deal with ecosystem conservation and management. These components are: -
1. Pilot Landscape Planning and Management
2. Sustainable Use of Natural Resources and Human-Elephant Co-existence
3. Protected Area Management and Institutional Capacity
Component 1 will support the preparation of strategic conservation landscape plans on a pilot basis for two landscapes (a biodiversity rich Wet zone and a Dry and Arid zone forest landscape), and implementation of selected priority interventions. The planning will include, guidelines for smart green infrastructure compatible with surrounding ecosystems. Landscape management plans will highlight habitat needs of flagship species and related biodiversity considerations, and connectivity of forests. Component 2 will support communities living in adjacent areas of Protected Areas (PAs) and other sensitive ecosystems to plan natural resource use and develop biodiversity compatible, productive and climate resilient livelihood activities such as community-based ecotourism that promote sustainable use of natural resources. These activities will reduce deforestation and forest degradation. This component will also upscale successful pilot models to address human-elephant conflict.
Component 3 will support demand-driven interventions in PAs in compliance with the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (FFPO) and Forest Ordinance (FO); strengthening the institutional and investment capability of conservation and management; and providing assistance to develop the long-term financial sustainability for managing and improving the quality of nature-based tourism in PAs.
Typical activities will include rehabilitation and development of water resources within PAs for wildlife; habitat management, habitat creation and habitat enrichment; improvement of park infrastructure for better management of forest and wildlife resources; species monitoring and recovery programs; wildlife rehabilitation; protection on inviolate areas for species conservation; implementation of real time field based monitoring systems; strengthening enforcement through the introduction of SMART patrolling; and improving mobility of PA staff for better management and enforcement.
According to a research there are about 1,000 leopards across Sri Lanka and they are a keystone species in the country (Daily Mirror – “700 - 1000 leopards in Sri Lanka; researcher” - 04/01/2017).
Yala, the oldest and second largest national park in Sri Lanka consists of the highest population density of leopards in the world. There are also about 44 varieties of mammalian species.
The Leopard and Human conflicts has become a serious issue for rural communities living in the area around Yala. Leopards roaming outside the boundaries of the park, and protected areas attack the domesticated animals especially the cattle grazing around the buffer zone. This has led to the increase in the number of leopards being killed annually. ESCAMP focusses on protecting the keystone species in Sri Lanka by protecting the vast landscapes they inhabit. Yala is one of ESCAMP’s project areas where we have planned to enhance the habitat area, and reduce threats to animals by improving nature-based tourism. ESCAMP also gives full consideration to the needs of local people, because when local communities benefit from wildlife conservation, wildlife strategies are much more likely to succeed.
On ‘World Wildlife Day’ we call upon people in Sri Lanka to help raise awareness and to take action to help ensure the survival of the wildlife and all its priceless biological diversity. As wildlife conservation is a shared responsibility, we all have a role to play.