March 3rd was World Wildlife Day (WWD). WWD was established by the United Nations in 2013. It was a celebration of the day that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was internationally adopted. Thailand proposed it to honor and raise awareness of the world’s wildlife.
WWD introduces a theme every year, to focus on one aspect of aiding the survival of key species. For instance, past themes included 2015’s “It’s Time to get Serious about Wildlife Crime,” 2018’s “Big Cats – Predators Under Threat,” and 2020’s “Sustaining All Life on Earth.” The theme for 2022 is “Recovering Key Species for Ecosystem Restoration.”
Official WWD 2022 Poster by Delphine Gilliard
The theme for 2022 is relevant to our work! Many of our big cats are key species in their ecosystems. They are apex predators that keep the balance. To clarify, an apex predator is an animal at the top of the food chain, who has no natural predators. Apex predators keep the prey population in check. This also controls the vegetation. For example, a tiger will eat a deer, keeping the deer population at a steady number. By doing this, the deer won’t over eat the vegetation. If there are no tigers, the deer population will over-graze their habitat. Consequently, this drives out other species and leaves no food. As a result, this will destroy an ecosystem. Key species, for example tigers, are crucial for the balance.
Improving the tiger population is important for keeping balance in their ecosystem. This is true for all big cats. In other words, gaining the natural stability in a habitat will restore it. When an ecosystem is given the space to work with small human influence, we have seen animals bounce back and balance reached. For a real example, read the wolf story of Yellowstone National Park.
March 3rd was just the beginning. Hopefully, this will be a year of improvement to the healing of key species and ecosystems around the world. TCWR is trying to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act (BCPSA) in America. Most importantly, the BCPSA would make buying, breeding, trading, and selling big cats illegal, for example, tigers, lions, leopards, and cougars. In addition, it would also make private ownership, hands-on interaction, and transporting without permits illegal for the same big cat species. Let us leave these big cats, these key species, in their natural habitats. This is where everything connected to them can thrive.