Today celebrates World Wildlife Day. 24 hours dedicated to appreciating and raising awareness about the amazing animals and plants inhabiting our planet.
80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity is found in forests
Climate change and habitat loss are two of the most critical problems faced by wildlife today and are directly linked to mankind’s exploitation of the world’s forests. Forests occupy one third of the Earth’s land area and are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. However, up to 58 million square miles of forest are lost each year, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Deforestation is occurring across the world for many reasons, including logging and clearing for agriculture. Tropical rainforests are particularly under threat.
Rainforests cover less than 2% of the Earth’s total surface area and yet are home to 50% of the Earth’s plants and animals. Deforestation is therefore threatening the habitats of the millions of species that rely on forests to survive. Additionally, trees absorb and store away CO2, meaning that forests form “carbon sinks” trapping tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. So trees have a vital role to play in helping us mitigate human-made global warming, and deforestation is undermining trees’ crucial functions.
Planting, protecting and promoting trees and forests
At ITF, we work with our partners in the UK and Africa to plant, promote and protect trees and forests. We support communities to take action to restore their landscapes, which helps tackle the issues of habitat loss and climate change. And these are just some of a long list of other benefits that trees provide. We are passionate about the important part trees play in our planet’s ecosystem. On World Wildlife Day, (as well as on any other day of the year), we are working to help protect wildlife and biodiversity, essential to life on Earth.
“Listen to the Young Voices”
The theme of this year’s World Wildlife Day is “Listen to the Young Voices.” It aims in particular to engage young people to act on both a local and global scale to protect wildlife. Almost one quarter of the world’s population is aged between 10 and 24, so engaging younger people, as the future decision makers and leaders of the world, is key to the future of our planet.
My 20 Trees and Me: Growing Up Together!
Engaging the next generation in environmental protection has been an important part of our projects both in Africa and in the UK. In Kenya, over half of the population is aged under 18. Our Centenary Campaign 20 Million Trees for Kenya’s Forests has involved children in tree planting from the very start, through the My 20 Trees and Me: Growing Up Together! initiative. Our partner on the ground, Mount Kenya Environmental Conservation (MKEC) are working with 6 primary schools near to Mount Kenya Forest. 120 children have planted a total of 1,200 trees, which they will care for over the years until they leave school – growing up together!
Tree Power and Fruit-full Communities in the UK
Closer to home, in the UK we are working with school children through our Tree Power programme, which inspires new generations about the local and global importance of trees and forests through an innovative combination of global learning and outdoor learning.
We are also supporting young people to plant orchards through the Fruit-full Communities project. This project engages with young people from 50 YMCA’s in England and Wales to design and plant orchards. Those involved will learn about the importance of trees in protecting the environment and the orchards will attract diverse wildlife by transforming their neighbourhoods into beautiful green spaces.
Happy World Wildlife Day, to those of all ages the world over – and to all of our wild friends!