Celebrating 50 Years Of CITES Conserving The World’s Wild Animals And Plants On World Wildlife Day 2023 


March 3, 2023


Friday, 3 March 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of a landmark convention that stands at the crossroads of wildlife conservation and sustainable trade. Today we also celebrate the day when 10 years ago the United Nations General Assembly agreed an international day to honour the importance of wild animals and plants. Both anniversaries fall at a time of unprecedented challenge for nature and biodiversity, with millions of species of wild animals and plants affected by the triple planetary crisis of biodiversity loss, climate change, and pollution.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (or CITES) was opened to the world’s governments for signature on 3 March, 1973 in Washington DC, at the end of the Plenipotentiaries Conference hosted by the United States of America – this meeting became known as the ‘World Wildlife Conference’.

Since then, it has grown in its membership from the original 10 Parties to 184, and these Parties to the Convention continue to work to ensure that the world’s animals and plants will not be driven to extinction in the wild through regulating international wildlife trade so that it is legal, sustainable and traceable.

In 2013, the United Nations General Assembly set aside 3 March as the UN World Wildlife Day (WWD), giving the responsibility for organizing the annual celebrations to the CITES Secretariat. This year’s theme is ‘Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation’ in recognition of the many partners, big and small, that collectively contribute to halting and reversing the planet’s decline in biodiversity so that we can enjoy its existence and benefits to humankind for generations to come. 

CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero, noted, “We are at a crucial moment confronting a crisis of rapid biodiversity loss, changing climate and rising pollution on our planet. For the last half a decade, CITES Parties and stakeholders have been building partnerships to support the conservation of our wildlife. Those partnerships must be continued and strengthened to address our environmental challenges and allow us to achieve our shared vision to change our relationship with nature and not ask from it more than it can give us. Washington DC is the birthplace of CITES, and there is no more fitting place to renew our commitment and embark on the next 50 years of our work.”

The official World Wildlife Day 2023 event, in Washington DC, is co-organised between the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and CITES Secretariat, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Jackson Wild and the National Geographic Society. This unique partnership is aimed to visualize the issues that are facing our wildlife, and for the many actors of society to take part in a transformation towards a healthier planet for the benefit of all.