This article will discuss Sustainable Development Goal 15 and its role in preserving and protecting wildlife. It will also explore recent developments and ongoing initiatives in this area.
Image Credit: Matt Gibson/Shutterstock.com
Nature is complex and magnificent, yet fragile and needs protection, mostly from ourselves.
A 2019 UN report on biodiversity estimates that approximately one million species are endangered due to human intervention and climate change, highlighting the urgent need for conservation efforts.
Why is it Important to Protect Wildlife?
Wildlife crucially maintains forest ecosystems and supports the food webs as dispersers, pollinators, and architects of plant communities. Without many animal species, numerous trees and plants would face the risk of extinction.
Humans rely on wildlife for essential services, such as providing food sources, medicinal products, and pollinating crops. Therefore, conserving wildlife is crucial since it offers services that cannot be found elsewhere, making their ecosystem balance vital to our survival on Earth.
The disappearance of just one species can lead to irreversible changes or turn a thriving forest into a lifeless desert.
What is the Sustainable Development Goal 15 and the Key Aims?
Sustainable Development Goal 15 focuses on the "conservation of life on land", which requires targeted efforts to protect, restore, and sustainably use terrestrial and other ecosystems.
Wildlife is an essential component of biodiversity and Sustainable Development Goal 15 emphasizes the significance of protecting and conserving wildlife and their habitats.
However, human activities have drastically affected most terrestrial ecosystems, endangering around 40,000 species, which may become extinct in the next few decades.
Therefore, concerning wildlife, SDG 15 aims to:
- Take immediate and significant action to decrease natural habitat degradation and prevent desertification, land degradation, biodiversity loss, and threatened species' extinction.
- Take prompt action to stop the poaching of protected species and the smuggling and exploiting of wildlife.
- Improve worldwide initiatives to fight smuggling and poaching of protected species by providing local people with sustainable livelihoods.
Initiatives and Technological Developments to Save Wildlife
PAWS: Applying AI to wildlife conservation
The Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security (PAWS) is an artificial intelligence program developed to aid wildlife protection efforts. PAWS assists conservation managers in developing better-educated patrol methods to combat illegal logging, poaching, and fishing.
PAWS employs machine learning to predict the behavior of poachers by analyzing historical poaching data and recording the protected area's geography. Using this information, the program creates poaching risk maps and suggests optimal ranger patrol routes.
In initial testing, rangers followed patrol routes recommended by PAWS. They removed over 1,000 snares, which is twice the number that had been removed before the implementation of the AI program.
Plans include integrating the AI program into remote sensing technologies, such as drones or satellites, to automate the data entry and expanding PAWS to forecast other environmental crimes, such as illegal fishing or logging.
The global wildlife program
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) inaugurated the Global Wildlife Program in June 2015. It is one of the most significant global collaborations established to combat illegal wildlife trade, poaching, and human-wildlife conflict.
The Global Wildlife Program has funded various projects in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, with a total investment of $1.53 billion. These projects have created a collaborative program that promotes cooperation and information sharing among local and national governments and partners to achieve sustainable outcomes and long-term impact on wildlife conservation.
The GEF investment in the Global Wildlife Program is a timely response to the alarming decline in wildlife worldwide, as recently stated by the UN Biodiversity report. Addressing illegal wildlife trade and promoting nature-based tourism as a revenue generation mechanism to support protected areas and local communities is of paramount importance in the agenda of the GEF.
Gustavo Fonseca, Director of Programs, Global Environment Facility
Zoological society of London's efforts in wildlife conservation
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is dedicated to supporting wildlife conservation initiatives globally, and one of their projects in Thailand focuses on protecting elephants, tigers, and pangolins.
ZSL's operations span a no-hunting zone, such as national parks and wildlife preserves, where elephants and humans compete for limited resources. It monitors and mitigates conflicts between these species and trains volunteers to protect elephants and local communities.
The organization is also making conservation efforts to create a safe sanctuary for the diminishing tiger population in Thailand. This involves bolstering law enforcement, improving patrols, and implementing sustainable management practices to create a significant conservation habitat for tigers.
World Wildlife Day 2023 Theme
This year's World Wildlife Day theme was "Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation," which aimed to appreciate and promote all local and international conservation efforts. In addition, it highlighted two specific subtopics:
- Marine life and oceans – 70% of the Earth's surface is covered by water; hence, marine life conservation is of utmost significance.
- Business and finance – conservation activities require funding at a global scale, and such funding must be done in collaboration with businesses, which has traditionally been viewed as unsustainable and exploitative. Therefore, effective conservation partnerships must seek ways to involve businesses in their efforts to prevent biodiversity loss.
March 3, 2023, held special significance as it marked the 50th anniversary of the "Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora" (CITES).
CITES was established to prohibit international trade in animals and plants from endangering their natural habitats. It aims to regulate and monitor trade to ensure conservation and sustainable use of these species.
CITES has focused on creating partnerships and reconciling group differences guided by its regulations. Such collaborations have been vital at national and local levels in every country to prioritize the conservation of species and ecosystems.
This year's theme, 'Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation,' provides an opportunity to highlight companies and individuals making a positive impact in wildlife conservation and celebrate the role that CITES has played in fostering partnerships that contribute to the sustainability and conservation of wildlife and biodiversity.
References and Further Reading
The World Bank. (2023). A Global Partnership on Wildlife Conservation and Crime Prevention for Sustainable Development. [Online]. The World Bank. Available at: https://www.worldbank.org/en/programs/global-wildlife-program/overview (Accessed on February 21 2023)
UN. (2022). The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022. [Online]. United Nations. Available at: https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2022/ (Accessed on February 21 2023)
UNCCD. (2019). Land Degradation Neutrality for Biodiversity Conservation. Briefing Note. [Online]. UNCCD Publication. Available at: https://www.unccd.int/resources/publications/land-degradation-neutrality-biodiversity-conservation-briefing-note (Accessed on February 21 2023)
World Wildlife Day. (2023). What is Wildlife Day? [Online]. Available at: https://wildlifeday.org/en/about-us (Accessed on February 21 2023)
Zewe, A. (2020). Preventing poaching. AI software that predicts poaching hotspots now being deployed to wildlife parks. [Online]. Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Available at: https://seas.harvard.edu/news/2020/06/preventing-poaching (Accessed on February 21 2023)
ZSL. (2023). Pangolin, Tiger And Asian Elephant Conservation In Thailand. [Online]. Zoological Society of London. Available at: https://www.zsl.org/what-we-do/projects/pangolin-tiger-and-asian-elephant-conservation-thailand (Accessed on February 21 2023)