It’s not a holiday you may have heard about or celebrated before – but it’s one you should definitely add to your calendar nonetheless (and really, isn’t any excuse to party and celebrate a good one? 😉 ) When the United Nations signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (under CITES), they designated that day, March 3, as the official World Wildlife Day to commemorate the historic event. The goal of the UN convention was to attempt to make sure that international trade in exotic species did not threaten their survival in the wild. First drafted in 1963, and then implemented fully in 1975, CITES has worked hard to ensure the well being of the natural world (in more ways than just trade) is a priority to governments.
When I first began in marine biology in college, I had grand dreams of saving the world through scientific research and wildlife conservation. I had visions of myself (usually involving heroic pictures of me on the bows of boats or in coastal villages) on the front-line of marine conservation. Sometimes I still day dream about it. Obviously, my life has gone down a different path. However, the path I have chosen to follow is no less important in the fight for species’ survival in the natural world.
On today, it’s easy to celebrate the animals and those people on the front-lines – the researchers, the park rangers, the conservationists, the wild life refuges, rehabilitation teams, etc. as they are generally the face of the movement. And they deserve all the praise they can get. They work hard, day in and day out, with constant struggles and frustrations and setbacks. But let’s not forget the others in the wildlife conservation movement – the rest of us! The teachers, the wildlife journalists and photographers, the nature hikers, members of National Parks, zoos and aquariums, the mom who uses reusable bags at the grocery store, the dad that teaches his kids to pick up trash on the beaches, the girl at the gym with a reusable water bottle, the teenagers who forgo plastic straws. We all have an impactful way to fight for nature.
I chose to fight by teaching others in person and online about the beauty of the world around us, like in this post’s picture of a child watching rescued, endangered sea turtles. In this moment there was pure, undiluted joy in experience nature. Also, all the lessons she heard about sea turtles’ struggle for survival became real. She saw, with her own, young and impressionable eyes, the damage improperly discarded fishing line and boat props cause. Every single day at work someone asks why our turtles are missing flippers or are floating like a bobbing cork. I and my fellow instructors make sure to not shy away from answering that question, but to be honest with them (in appropriate children’s terms of course). Our hope is that when students like her go home, they will remember what they saw, what they learned, and grow into conscientious citizens. So shoutout to my fellow educators and science communicators out there! Whether you are in the classroom, in an informal setting like me, sharing science research through social media, or at home with your children, I see you, and I stand with you! Together we will inspire the next Jane Goodall. We will support the next Sylvia Earle. We will educate the next Rachel Carson. World Wildlife Day is a celebration of the amazing diversity of life here on Earth. Let’s all do our part to ensure kids like these have the same amazing diversity to experience when they are our age. Then one day they can take up the mantle and keep the fight going.