World Environment Day

This year, World Environment Day, which is celebrated on June 5 every year, focused on ‘Many Species. One Planet. One Future.'

This theme supports the International Year of Biodiversity 2010, a global campaign designed to encourage worldwide action to safeguard biodiversity, the intricate network of life.

Biodiversity loss affects ecosystem functioning, which affects not only wildlife, but also human well-being. At least 34 000 plant and 5 200 animal species face extinction today and this will increase dramatically if current trends continue. In the less than 400 years following the industrial revolution at least 484 animal and 654 plant species have gone extinct. This is primarily as a result of human activities

There are five main and ongoing pressures preventing a meaningful reduction in rate of biodiversity loss: habitat loss and degradation; climate change; excessive nutrient load and other forms of pollution; over-exploitation and unsustainable use; and invasive alien species.

Urgent action is required to slow the escalating rate of biodiversity loss, and every individual is part of the solution.

What you can do to make conservation part of your day, everyday:

Stop using pesticides and other chemicals, or switch to natural alternatives. Why not try living with the ants and beetles? In this way you allow natural symbiotic relationships to develop, and allow nature to take care of your garden.

In South Africa, oxpeckers have become locally extinct in some areas due to environmentally harmful wildlife and livestock dips. Oxpeckers feed on the ticks that in turn feed on the dipped animals, so causing oxpecker mortalities. By simply using environmentally responsible dips, farmers allow oxpeckers to help rid their animals of these parasites.

Participate in the EWT's saddle-billed stork photographic census. The last saddle-billed stork Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis survey conducted in the Kruger National Park in 1993 suggested that there were less than 60 of these birds left in the Park. The species is classified as endangered in South Africa.

If you see one of these birds, please photograph both sides of its face and bill and record the date, time, location, name of nearby water source, bird's gender, juveniles present and any other notes that might be relevant. Please send all sighting details and photographs to

Report colour-marked raptors and cranes. The EWT's Sasol Vulture Monitoring Project implements wing-tagging as a colour-marking method for vultures. To date, more than 1 600 vultures have been tagged, and over 4 100 re-sightings have been recorded.

These data have revealed the extent to which vultures travel and this has fundamentally altered our approach to vulture conservation, resulting in our inclusion of the entire southern African subregion in our activities. Similarly, cranes are fitted with a unique colour combination of leg rings, visible from a distance to allow conservationists to monitor movements of individual birds and gather important information on their breeding and longevity. Please report ringed crane sightings to and tagged vulture sightings to

Report wildlife-power line mortalities. Common wildlife interactions with power lines include electrocutions and collisions. Large terrestrial and water dependent bird species are prone to collisions with overhead electrical cables. The physical impact with the line results in the bird being injured (i.e. broken leg or wing) or killed. Because of their large wingspans, eagles and vultures are particularly vulnerable to electrocution when they perch or roost on electrical infrastructure.

Other animals affected by electrocution include primates, genets and meerkats Suricata suricatt. Please contact the Eskom-EWT Strategic Partnership (core project of the EWT-Wildlife and Energy Programme) on 0860 111 535 or to report birds or animal mortalities related to power lines.

Report wildlife poisoning incidents. Poisoning affects many species and is currently one of the leading causes of raptor deaths in South Africa. An increasing threat to vultures is their illegal harvesting for use in the muti trade, and poisoning is commonly used to kill these birds. What's more, people who eat poisoned wildlife are at risk of being poisoned themselves. Help the EWT put a stop to this practice by reporting wildlife poisoning incidents on our Wildlife Poisoning Report Line: 011 486 1102.

Pick up litter. While the aesthetic pollution that litter creates is obvious, few people realise that littered cigarette butts leach dangerous toxins into the ground and our water resources or start potentially life threatening fires, or that decomposing food can breed bacterial diseases in dams, which in turn kills wildlife. For example, African grass owls Tyto capensis, a species classified as vulnerable in South Africa, nest on the ground amongst tall grass during winter. In a natural ecosystem, fires would only be possible in the spring, when storms bring lightning that can burn the very dry grass.

At this time the owl chicks have already fledged. Unnatural fires caused by littered cigarettes or pieces of glass can kill nestlings. Diminishing grass owl populations mean that their rodent prey species reproduce to numbers that are unhealthy for the ecosystem, and could become a health risk for humans.

Make the right choices in your daily life. Consumers have enormous power and can change environmentally destructive development by not supporting mass consumerism and overuse. Register as an interested and affected party to have your say regarding developments in your area.

World Environment Day was established to create global awareness on the importance of the environment and to stimulate political attention and action for a healthy planet. It was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.

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