Saturday 21 July 2018

World Wildlife Day coincides with CITES anniversary

Jim Hurley - Nature Trail

Saturday of this week is World Wildlife Day. Each year, March 3 celebrates and raises awareness of the world's wild animals and plants.

World Wildlife Day is a United Nations initiative that coincides with the anniversary of the signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), an international agreement between governments to regulate international trade in wild species of animals and plants to ensure that their survival does not become threatened by such trade.

World Wildlife Day is celebrated under a different theme each year. This year the theme is 'Big Cats: predators under threat". Using the expanded definition of big cats, the day will raise awareness on the conservation of the lion, tiger, leopard and jaguar, as well as the cheetah, snow leopard, puma, clouded leopard and related species.

Big cats are among the most widely recognised and admired animals across the globe. However, today these charismatic predators are facing many and varied threats, which are mostly caused by human activities.

Overall, their populations are declining at a disturbing rate due to loss of habitat and prey, conflicts with people, poaching and illegal trade. For example, tiger populations plummeted by 95% over the past 100 years and African lion populations dropped by 40% in just 20 years. But a range of measures is underway to arrest this decline.

Big cat species are found in Africa, Asia, and North, Central and South America, representing a virtually global distribution, and representations of big cats such as for car logos, by sporting clubs and the fashion industry, are used globally.

Over the past century we have been losing big cats, the planet's most majestic predators, at an alarming rate. World Wildlife Day 2018 gives us the opportunity to raise awareness about their plight and to galvanize support for the many global and national actions that are underway to save these iconic species.

Ireland ratified CITES in January 2002 and the convention entered into force here on 8 April 2002. Over 4,000 animal species, including big cats, and 25,000 plant species are accorded varying degrees of protection by the CITES convention. Regulations implementing CITES in the European Union list the species relevant to this part of the world and the EU experience of illegal trading in endangered wildlife.

Irish laws follow the EU Regulations and lay out the terms and conditions for possession, use and trade in protected species that are both native to Ireland and non-native species listed under CITES.