UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged governments, businesses and people everywhere to scale up efforts to conserve forests and forest species, and to support and listen to the voices of forest communities.
“In doing so, we will contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for people, planet and prosperity,” he said in a message marking the World Wildlife Day that falls on March 3.
The UN chief said the planet’s forests are home to some 80 per cent of all terrestrial wild species and they help regulate the climate and support the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people.
He said some 90 per cent of the world’s poorest people are dependent in some way on forest resources.
“This is particularly true for indigenous communities that live in or near forests. Some 28 per cent of the world’s land is managed by indigenous communities, including some of the most intact forests on the planet,” said the UN chief adding that they provide livelihoods and cultural identity.
He said the unsustainable exploitation of forests harms these communities and contributes to biodiversity loss and climate disruption.
“Every year, we lose 4.7 million hectares of forests – an area larger than Denmark. Unsustainable agriculture is a major cause,” said the UN chief adding that so is global timber trafficking, which accounts for up to 90 per cent of tropical deforestation in some countries.
He said it also attracts the world’s biggest organized crime groups.
“The illegal trade in wild animal species is another threat, increasing the risks of zoonotic diseases, such as Ebola and COVID-19,” said the UN chief.