It’s World Wildlife Day today! This year’s theme ‘Big Cats: Predators under threat’ is dedicated to celebrating the diversity of big cats and raise awareness on the threats to their survival.
The UN General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed 3 March as UN World Wildlife Day at its 68th Session on 20 December 2013, the same day of the opening for the signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) back in 1973, to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s fauna and flora.
This year’s edition is dedicated to Big Cats. They are all captivating creatures: handsome, graceful and elegant but powerful, strong and remarkable hunters. As large predators, they play a critical role maintaining their ecosystems healthy and regulating prey populations. They are part of our natural heritage. And they are an important source of income in many countries via wildlife tourism.
But they are in big trouble. Big cats face various urgent threats and pressures to their scarce populations and these include poaching and trafficking for their body parts. African lion population has declined by 40 percent over the last 20 years, with approximately only 20,000 individuals left in the wild. The case of tigers, the largest of the big cats, is alarming. Estimates calculate that there are less than 4,000 tigers in the wild today and some of the subspecies are critically endangered, as the Malayan tiger, with less than 250 individuals left in the wild. The persistent, illegal market in East and South East Asia for tiger products, including their bones (tiger bone paste is popular in certain parts of South East Asia), meat, skins for decoration and their canines and claws (also for decoration and jewelry) continues to increase despite the fragile status of tiger populations.
All big cats are precious and irreplaceable. Because extinction is forever, we must act now!