By Ruth Cawley

Every year on March 3rd, the United Nations World Wildlife Day (WWD) is celebrated, increasing awareness and appreciation for all wild animals and plants. This occasion promotes recognition of different life forms and their contributions to the planet, educating people about their importance. The date of March 3rd is significant as it was the day that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was signed in 1973.

What was the theme of World Wildlife Day 2024?

The fact is that many of humanity’s basic needs (i.e. food, fuel, medicines, housing, clothing) are sated using resources that naturally occur in the planet’s wildlife. Therefore, it is paramount that people engage in wildlife conservation and activism to preserve our ecosystems. These actions aim to increase the longevity of animal and plant species as well as educate the masses about their vital roles and benefits to us. World Wildlife Day offers a specific date when people can appreciate these efforts and learn more about important conservation work on a global scale.

The theme for 2024 was Connecting People and Planet: Exploring Digital Innovation in Wildlife Conservation. This means that the day was dedicated to leveraging technology and digital innovations to enhance and drive global conservation efforts. It also aimed to foster greater engagement between individuals and nature. According to the official WWD website, only around 66% of the global population has access to easy connectivity and Internet usage. In contrast, approximately 2.7 billion people on a global scale are entirely offline and thus unreachable through digital means. WWD2024 aims to integrate this offline subset into the digital network.

Through new technological developments, wildlife conservation efforts have been vastly upgraded. Now, organisations have the use of advanced DNA analysis, geo-tracking, more detailed research, and wider webs of communication. Such extensive resources speed up progress and generate more ideas. In the twenty-first century, digital barriers are lowering gradually as new initiatives and programmes are offered to enhance peoples’ digital skills. With this education and upskilling, they become enmeshed in the network and active in the global solution.

However, these novel technologies are not enough to sustain the planet on their own. The WWD2024 emphasises the importance of ensuring regular access to such tools as well as ethical and effective use of them. It developed a space for introducing younger generations to its mission and encouraging them to hold presentations, brainstorming sessions, artwork, and debates on the issues at hand. The goal is to provide solutions to the most prominent problems faced by wildlife conservation and develop new digital innovations for the future. With them, the world’s wildlife can evolve and persevere through the present and upcoming threats.

Examples of Digital Innovations for Wildlife Conservation

1)  Online Education & Outreach Initiatives: Getting as many people as possible involved in developing solutions for upcoming challenges is one of the most effective ways to improve wildlife conservation. Such organisations can foster stronger connections and interest in younger generations through more advanced and interactive digital resources. People participate in presentations, interactive learning modules, and virtual workshops where they become educated on the issues at large and available solutions. These events cover topics like sustainability practices and eco-systems stewardship.

2) Smart Sensor Networks: By installing networks of smart sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) devices in remote and protected areas, people can monitor and learn about ecosystems. This smart tech provides opportunities for experts to detect changes in biodiversity indicators, observe environmental parameters, and mitigate human-wildlife conflicts using early warning systems. This information is used in developing adaptive management strategies.

3) Virtual Reality (VR) & Augmented Reality (AR): Creating immersive experiences through VR and AR applications enables people to explore natural habitats and indigenous animals. People can learn and observe remote wilderness, interact with virtual wildlife, and understand more about challenges and solutions for their conservation. This approach offers more opportunities for engagement with the material. 

The aim of such innovations is to foster a sense of responsibility in individuals and incite them to action. The wildlife of planet Earth is precious yet has been in precarious position for quite some time. Celebrated dates like WWD2024 offer vital opportunities for people to truly understand the world we all live and how we can properly care for it – and each other.

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