Protecting our planet’s wildlife and wild places is more essential now than at any other time in the 125- year history of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
A 2019 United Nations report warned that as many as 1 million species are in danger of extinction. Earth’s wild places are disappearing at a staggering rate: WCS science shows that less than 25 percent of the world can still be called wilderness.
But there is hope, too. Our science has revealed that conserving the world’s remaining wilderness would cut extinction risk by half—and that it is possible to achieve no net loss of nature if the nations of the world mobilize now.
That is why one of our top priorities for 2020 is galvanizing global action on the biodiversity and climate crises. We will also be laser-focused on protecting nature’s most vital strongholds for wildlife in the 60 countries where we have boots on the ground—and on connecting people to nature through our five wildlife parks in New York City.
Galvanizing Global Action on the Biodiversity and Climate Crises
2020 is being called the “Super Year for Biodiversity,” with multiple global forums tackling critical decisions about how to save wildlife from the mounting threats of habitat destruction, overexploitation, illegal trafficking, and climate change. Drawing on what we’ve learned from our scientific and field work, WCS will push on all cylinders for legal and political outcomes that help advance our mission on the ground.
Nature-based solutions: WCS is at the vanguard of the movement to elevate “nature-based solutions” to the biodiversity and climate crises by halting the loss of intact forests, grasslands, coral reefs, and other key ecosystems that have not been significantly disturbed by human activities. Forests are life-giving strongholds for two-thirds of land-based plants and animals, and our planet’s intact forests and oceans absorb fully half of every ton of carbon emitted.
30x30: We seek to rally the global community around the ambitious goal of protecting 30 percent of our planet by 2030—increasing fivefold the 6 percent of our oceans and more than doubling the 14 percent of the earth’s lands that are currently protected.
WCS’s cutting-edge science: We will support countries in effectively preserving their unique natural treasures and meeting climate goals by providing them with powerful, nature-based solutions. We will also develop a predictive map that flags risks to intact forests through 2050, and advance technologies to identify the most climate-resilient coral reefs.
Protecting Nature’s Most Vital Wildlife Strongholds
The most effective way to ensure the survival of wildlife and ecosystems is to save nature’s strongholds—the world’s remaining areas of protected wilderness on land and at sea.
Saving intact forest strongholds is one key focus for WCS in 2020 and beyond. Less than a quarter of the world’s remaining forests are intact—and they are being lost at twice the rate of forests overall. If we do not take action, half of what we have now will be gone by 2100.
In September 2019, WCS and four other leading environmental organizations together launched the new Forests for Life Partnership with the goal of halting and reversing forest degradation across 1 billion hectares of the most intact forests worldwide.
To provide just one example of what we seek to accomplish globally across Asia, Africa, and the Americas, consider the five great forests of Mesoamerica—three of which have shrunk by nearly one-quarter over the last 15 years, largely due to illegal cattle ranching. WCS has joined forces with the eight countries of Central America, indigenous peoples, local communities, and other NGOs to form the Five Forests Alliance. Our 2030 goals are to protect 10 million hectares of forest in the region; recover and restore 500,000 hectares of forest that has been illegally claimed or cleared; and stamp out illegal cattle ranching.
Connecting People to Nature
WCS’s zoos and aquarium in New York are critical drivers of species conservation, and inspire millions of people each year to help protect our planet.
Below are just a few highlights for 2020:
Two new exhibits at the New York Aquarium: In 2020, we will open PlayQuarium, which connects children to the ocean’s fascinating and diverse ecosystems through immersive, imaginative play and fully bilingual displays in English and Spanish; and Spineless, which takes guests on a journey through the weird and wonderful world of marine invertebrates, such as jellyfish, octopus, and crabs.
Complete a new vision and master plan for the Bronx Zoo: Building on our history and expertise, we will help define the future of zoos as centers for education and conservation.
New season of Animal Planet’s THE ZOO: A new season of Animal Planet’s award-winning docuseries THE ZOO will bring WCS’s conservation mission to a national and international audience of millions and take them behind the scenes to see how our expert staff care for 17,000 animals at our five urban wildlife parks.
Rewilding bison across their historic North American range: Zoo-based breeding programs are critical to rewilding landscapes and restoring animal populations. WCS’s Bronx Zoo has a storied connection with bison, having saved them from extinction more than a century ago. Restoring them to their native North American grasslands will be a major priority this year, working in partnership with Native American tribes, accredited zoos, and others.