National Wildlife Day and its Significance

2022-09-23

 |  Biodiversity/Conservation

As we have just entered the fall season, we have just marked a particular day of significance for Canada – National Wildlife Day. What is the need for a specific occasion to celebrate wildlife? We need to trace back to the origin of the occasion to answer this question. First initiated by animal behaviorist and author Colleen Paige in 2005, September 4th is celebrated as the National Wildlife Day every year to raise awareness about the conservation of endangered wildlife species. Later on, February 22nd was also added as the National Wildlife Day to commemorate the renowned Australian conservationist and wildlife expert Steve Irwin aka  “The Crocodile Hunter,” who passed away in 2006. It is, therefore, necessary to discuss the issues that make National Wildlife Day particularly significant.  

According to the species at risk public registry published by the Canadian government there are currently 371 endangered, 196 threatened, and 253 special concern species as per the latest assessment conducted by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada’s Living Planet Report 2020 suggests that all wildlife species at risk are affected by five threats on average, which include overexploitation, pollution, energy production, climate change, urban development, agricultural activity, though many are also susceptible to others.  While asked about the reasons behind declining wildlife in Canada, Scott Findlay, an Associate Professor and director of the Institute of the environment at the University of Ottawa, mentioned contamination, pesticides, invasive species, climate change, and over harvesting as the main reasons. Among the several factors responsible for decline in Canadian biodiversity, human intervention is a notable one threatening Canadian wildlife. For instance grizzly bears being killed by speeding trains near the Banff National Park in Alberta has been a common incident. A group of researchers concluded that although the railway from Calgary to Banff was constructed in 1883, train-bear collisions were exceptionally rare for almost over a century. Alongside climate change and other factors, construction of expanded highways and parkways to make room for visitors have changed the habitat of grizzly bears. In addition, a depletion of meat availability caused by a decreased elk population backed by recolonization has forced the grizzly bears to frequently visit the areas surrounding rail tracks in search of protein-rich food. 

Boreal Woodland caribou is another familiar Canadian wildlife species that are on the brink of extinction due to human interventions and natural disturbances. The David Suzuki Foundation found that less than 50 percent of the caribou species will survive unless adequate measures are taken to combat the anthropogenic-led caribou habitat destruction. Other wildlife species at risk (having endangered, threatened, extirpated or special concern status) include leatherback turtle, humpback whales, gray fox, Vancouver island marmot, chinook salmon, barn swallow, monarch butterflies, eastern loggerhead shrike and many more! While the government and the conservation agencies have obligations to protect wildlife, we have our share of responsibilities to ensure a safe haven for Canadian wildlife. 

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There are numerous ways that we can step up to make National Wildlife Day truly meaningful through our activities. The first step towards this journey is to have proper knowledge about Canadian wildlife, and there is no better way than learning through practical experience. Volunteering with organizations like Wildlife Preservation Canada can give you valuable experience in wildlife surveying or fundraising for wildlife conservation. And most of us netizens can use online platforms effectively to show our care for wildlife. Using the iNaturalist.ca platform can be a great way to learn more about wildlife and participate in wildlife conservation. Anyone with a smartphone can sign up for free in the iNaturalist app and upload pictures of any plants and animals in their surroundings. The data is publicly accessible, and scientists and nature conservationists can use it to trace the species at risk. Finally, individual choices are extremely important to ensure a healthy, sustainable ecosystem. Buying foods that are not grown with pesticides, maintaining the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) while exploring nature and wildlife, donating to organizations upholding wildlife organizations – all these are crucial, wildlife-friendly steps to that support occasions such as the national wildlife day are a great reminder for humans to work towards a better prospect for Canadian biodiversity.

Glossary of the COSEWIC terms: 

Endangered: A wildlife species facing imminent extirpation or extinction. 

Extinct: A wildlife species that no longer exists. 

Extirpated: A wildlife species that no longer exists in Canada, but exists elsewhere in the world 

Special Concern: A wildlife species that may become Threatened or Endangered because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.

Threatened: A wildlife species that is likely to become Endangered if nothing is done to reverse the factors leading to its extirpation or extinction.

Species at Risk: A wildlife species that has been assessed as Extirpated, Endangered, Threatened or Special Concern.

References: 

  1. CBC/Radio Canada. (2021, June 26). Grizzly Bear and Cub killed by train near Banff | CBC News. CBCnews. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/grizzly-bear-canadian-pacific-railway-banff-national-park-death-1.6081116  
  2. Oscanesi, J. (n.d.). Even species at risk are cramped at home. Cosewic / Cosepac – Press release – May 2021. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://www.cosewic.ca/index.php/en-ca/news-and-events/press-release-may-2021.html  
  3. World Wildlife Fund Living Planet Report Canada. WWF.CA. (2020, November 2). Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://wwf.ca/living-planet-report-canada-2020/  

Images: 

  1. https://www.cbc.ca/news | Creator: Niels de Nijs | Credit: CBC News | Copyright: Niels de Nijs 
  2. https://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/birds/loggerhead-shrike.html | Creator: Daniel Arndt | Credit: Canadian Wildlife Federation | Copyright: Daniel Arndt 
  3. https://wwf.ca/living-planet-report-canada-2020/ | Copyright: shutterstock 
  4. Copyright: canada.ca

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