The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced a positive change to the giant panda’s official status in the Red List of Threatened Species when a 2014 nationwide census found 1,864 giant pandas in the wild in China, a 17 per cent rise in its population since 2014. While no longer “endangered”, the iconic giant panda, WWF’s logo since 1961, remains at risk. “This reclassification recognizes decades of successful conservation efforts led by the Chinese government and demonstrates that investment in the conservation of iconic species can pay off – benefiting our society as well as species,” said Lo Sze Ping, CEO of WWF-China. WWF Director General Marco Lambertini added, “the recovery of the panda shows that when science, political will and engagement of local communities come together, we can save wildlife and improve biodiversity”.
WWF International’s President Yolanda Kakabadse presented Susi Pudjiastuti, the Republic of Indonesia’s Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, with its Leaders for a Living Planet Award. “Ms Pudjiastuti has spent a lifetime fighting illegal fishing, ensuring science-based sustainable fisheries management, and promoting marine health by expanding Indonesia’s network of marine parks and protected areas. Throughout her career, Ms Pudjiastuti has put in place significant policies to safeguard ocean health, including ratifying the Port State Measures Agreement; introducing minimum catch sizes for certain species; banning harmful fishing gear; establishing marine protected areas; and improving marine species protection”. Recipients of the award inspire environmental leadership and demonstrate personal responsibility to protect the environment. Added together, multiplied and magnified, their actions make a major contribution to WWF’s global priority conservation goals.
With just 115 animals in 2004, the western North Pacific gray whale faced the enormous threat of a significant offshore oil and gas development in its feeding habitat off Sakhalin Island, Russia. But major campaigns by WWF and its partners led to an innovative outcome – the banks financing the project made it a contractual requirement that the company work with, and take advice from, a group of independent scientists to minimize the impact of its activities. Over a decade and 539 recommendations later, the whale population has grown to 174, showing how powerful such lending conditions can be. “With major infrastructure and extractive projects threatening species and habitats all over the world, this is a model that, if followed by other lenders, could play a major role not only in wildlife conservation but in overall environmental sustainability,” said Wendy Elliott, Deputy Leader (interim), Wildlife Practice.
Eleven leading conservation organizations, including WWF, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), BirdLife International and Conservation International, are to identify, map, monitor and conserve Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) – places that include habitats of threatened species. “By working together to identify and conserve the world’s most vital natural places, we can benefit both people and nature”, said WWF Director General Marco Lambertini, “KBAs will offer an invaluable tool for good planning and development, ensuring respect for the natural infrastructure that supports our society, economy and well-being”. The partnership will also advise governments in expanding their protected area networks, and work with corporates to ensure they minimize and mitigate their impact on nature. To date, more than US$15 million has been committed over the next five years.
WWF welcomes the move by the government of Balochistan, southwest Pakistan, to enact legislation to ban the catching, retention, marketing and trade of sawfish, whale shark, silky shark, oceanic whitetip shark, thresher shark, hammerhead shark, mobulid ray, and guitar fish. Enacted in early September, the move follows similar measures put into place by the government of Sindh province in May, following a WWF-led process to formulate the country’s first National Plan of Action for Sharks earlier in the year. Pakistan is one of the top 10 catchers of sharks and rays, and a priority country for the Shark & Ray Initiative. The new regulations, which cover both coastal provinces, are a key step in halting elasmobranch declines.
Every autumn, about 100 kilometres north of Mexico City, millions, perhaps billions, of monarch butterflies gather on small areas of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, colouring its trees orange and literally bending their branches under their weight. Monitoring has found that 72.3 hectares of forest in the reserve were degraded between 2015 and 2016: 74.6 per cent due to trees falling in very strong winds and storms, 16.4 per cent due to illegal logging, and 9 per cent due to drought. During the same period, illegal logging declined by 40 per cent thanks to a combination of enforcement by the federal government and financial support offered to the local communities by the Monarch Fund, WWF and Mexican and international philanthropists and businesses. Although the decline in illegal logging is a positive sign, it must yet be eradicated and the degraded areas need to be restored.
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