Celebrating forests and the species and people who rely on them

Celebrating forests and the species and people who rely on them

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March 3, 2021, is World Wildlife Day, and this year we celebrate forest-based livelihoods and promote the protection and management of forests for people, wild species and the ecosystem. 

Forests cover nearly a third of the Earth’s land surface and are central to sustaining life. In Indiana, Hoosier forests cover 4.7 million acres and are increasing in size according to the state’s Department of Natural Resources. Nearly every person on the planet, including many of the world’s poorest communities, rely on forests for essential resources, such as food, shelter, medicine, fuel, and cultural and spiritual significance. Forests are home to thousands of plants, fungi and animal species. They also remove pollutants, support healthy soils, remove carbon dioxide from our atmosphere that impacts climate change, and filter and store freshwater. 

The 7th Annual World Wildlife Day highlights the importance of forests for sustaining people and the planet. But globally, forests are being lost at alarming rates because of human activities and the rate of deforestation is not slowing. Each year, an area the size of the United Kingdom (comparable to the state of Oregon) is destroyed. Deforestation threatens species, entire ecosystems and livelihoods, and increases human-wildlife interactions that lead to the risk of disease spillover from wildlife to humans.  Deforestation is directly related to biodiversity loss, climate change, and the health, social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

World Wildlife Day drives high-level discussions on how humans can interact more sustainably with forests. Everyone can help protect our forest ecosystems.  Purchase paper products that are certified through the Forest Stewardship Council. Check the ingredient labels of your food, and if it contains palm oil, make sure it is Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified. All of us can help conserve forests by educating ourselves on the threats, engaging in sustainable practices within our daily lives, and advocating for forest-friendly policies and practices for our communities. 

The Indianapolis Zoo supports the RSPO and shares information about the FSC in MISTery Park as guests have the opportunity to meet sloths.   

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