UNITED NATIONS, March 3 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called for the protection of forests and forest species, which provide livelihoods for the poor and for indigenous communities.
He made this plea on World Wildlife Day, which falls on March 3. This year's theme is "Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet."
The planet's forests are home to some 80 percent of all terrestrial wild species. They help regulate the climate and support the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people, he said.
Some 90 percent 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. About 28 percent of the world's land is managed by indigenous communities, including some of the most intact forests on the planet. Forests provide livelihoods and cultural identity for them.
The unsustainable exploitation of forests harms these communities and contributes to biodiversity loss and climate disruption. Every year, 4.7 million hectares of forests -- an area larger than Denmark -- are lost, he said.
Unsustainable agriculture is a major cause. So is global timber trafficking, which accounts for up to 90 percent of tropical deforestation in some countries. 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 Guterres.
"So, on this year's World Wildlife Day, I urge 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 so doing, we will contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for people, planet and prosperity," the UN chief said.