World Wildlife Day 2021

World Wildlife Day 2021

The United Nations first designated March 3rd as World Wildlife Day in 2013, 40 years after the original signature of the CITES agreement, which regulated trade in endangered animals and plants. This year the theme of World Wildlife Day 2021 is “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet“. Its focus is on the crucial role forests play in sustaining the livelihoods of people worldwide and on the importance of forest biodiversity in ensuring the health of the planet.

We asked our photographers to nominate key images that illustrate this theme and to tell us about the importance of forests to both wildlife and people. We’ve also created a World Wildlife Day gallery with a wider selection of great forest images.

Join us in celebrating World Wildlife Day 2021 and raising awareness of forest ecosystems and their amazing diversity of animal and plant life, as we take a virtual tour of the world’s forests.

Aerial view of headwaters of the Lena River, Siberia

“This place is called Kurulimsky Lom – a natural bridge made of logs created  over hundreds of years in the upper reaches of the Lena River, Baikalo-Lensky Reserve, Siberia, Russia. This bridge is the natural border of a specially protected natural area and prevents people, who can only get here by river, from disrupting the wild taiga ecosystem of the upper reaches of the great Siberian River Lena.”   Olga Kamenskaya

Pine forest at dawn, Scotland

“The Scots pine forest at Alladale Estate in Sutherland is managed by the conservationist Paul Lister. He is rewilding the former sporting estate, now being managed to have resident wolves to maintain low deer density and encourage greater forest cover.”    David Woodfall

Female ranger patrols Salonga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo

“There are 16 women who work as ecoguards protecting the forest. I was privileged to spend a night in the forest with the rangers.”       Karine Aigner

People walk through forest to church near Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

“Once 40 percent of Ethiopia was covered in lush forests, but over the past 50 years this has dropped to only 4.2 percent of its entire surface. In the north of the Country, especially along the shores of Lake Tana, a myriad of fragments of the original Afromontane dry forest have survived until today as sacred groves surrounding each of the about 30,000 orthodox churches of the region. Among the oldest Christian churches in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church considers forests a worldly symbol of the Garden of Eden.”

Bruno D’Amicis


Tree nursery and rainforest wildlife,  Madagascar

“The Association Mitsinjo was founded in 1999 in the village of Andasibe, Madagascar. The organisation works with the local community to integrate conservation, sustainable development and ecotourism. The tree nursery pictured here is central to the work carried out by Association Mitsinjo, working with the community to collect and germinate tree seeds from the local forest to painstakingly reforest areas damaged by previous deforestation and development, restoring the natural balance found in a mature and healthy forest ecosystem. During my visit I was lucky enough to meet one of the many successes of this project, a wild Indri, the largest lemur in the world. Habitat protection and ongoing creation is central to the survival of this IUCN Red List Critically Endangered species.  ”  Alex Hyde

Man carrying firewood, Madagascar

“Local people in rural ares are cooking and heating only with wood that they collect from the surrounding forests. This is also a considerable threat to rainforests and climate in tropical regions such as Madagascar.  It would help to set up photovoltaic facilities to bring them electricity.”    Konrad Wothe

Leaf-tailed gecko, Madagascar

“The connection between the animal kingdom and the plant kingdom becomes more apparent when you see a satanic leaf-tailed gecko inside its habitat in the remaining patches of forest of Madagascar.”    Emanuele Biggi

Kakamega forest, Kenya

“The Kakamega National Reserve of Kenya is an incredibly diverse forest harboring a vast array of wildlife and vegetation. Notable amongst the fauna are the primates, including Suhlmann’s blue monkeys. The forest is surrounded by ever growing human settlements and is getting increasing pressure for its resources. I met and photographed a number of local people, including women picking tea at the forest edge. I was told that these tea plantations were established to create a buffer from the surrounding villages, but have since read that these plantations are actually cutting into the forest. The management of these resources is a tricky issue.”    John Cancalosi



Splendid pitcher plant in the cloud forest of Mount Kinabalu, Borneo.




“Variety of life is what gives our planet its resilience. I can’t think of a more striking, otherworldly example of that variety than the incredible pitchers of the splendid pitcher plant (Nepenthes edwardsiana), which grow up to 30 cm long and are specially adapted to providing the plant with nutrients on some of the most barren mountain ridges on the planet. The plant is endemic to Mount Kinabalu and neighbouring Mount Tamboyukon and under severe threat from climate change.”   Joris van Alphen





Women fishing, Assam, India

“The numerous ponds and rivers in this pristine ecosystem make fishing an easy, everyday exercise, usually conducted by the women. Many houses even have their own fishponds.”    Sandesh Kadur

Family walk through rhododendron forest, Nepal

“A Nepalese family protected by their two Tibetan mastiff dogs walks through the Rhododendron forests at an altitude of 3000 metres on their way to the village of Ghorepani, during the monsoon season. The lush forest gives the people a lot of useful things including medicines and protects the mountain villages from landslides.”   Oriol Alamany

Women fishing, Borneo

“Elderly women fish in the Kinabatangan river in the rainforests of Sabah, Borneo. In a healthy rainforest environment there is plenty of fish in the waters.”     Konrad Wothe

Local people collecting firewood in gibbon sanctuary, Assam, India

“There are two ways to look at this picture. Either in an accusing way, in the sense that these people are breaking the rules because they collect firewood within the boundaries of a protected forest area, where they are not actually allowed to go. Or as a confrontation with how difficult it is to find a balance between pure nature protection and the needs of poor local people living on the edges of national parks and protected forests.” Bernard Castelein

Nenet woman gathering berries, Siberia

“The Nenets are probably the best known of Siberia’s native peoples. They live mainly in the Yamal region of Northwest Siberia, where they breed reindeer as well as fish, hunt and trap. Traditionally, the Nenets spend the winter months in the forests which provided them with shelter from winter storms, wood to build sledges and firewood, traditional medicines and food (lichen) for their reindeer. Before they leave the forests in the spring to travel north onto the tundra with their reindeer, it is customary for the Nenets women of a camp to perform a ritual and leave small gifts to thank the spirits of the forest.”    Bryan Alexander

Selkup woman cutting birch bark, Siberia

“The Northern Selkup are one of the lesser known indigenous peoples of Northwest Siberia. With a population of under 2,000, they are one of the most endangered peoples in the Russian north. The Northern Selkup call themselves ‘Shoykun’ which means ‘People of the Forest.’ In recent years the traditional culture of the last remaining Selkup who still live in remote forest areas surviving by hunting, trapping & fishing is now becoming increasingly under threat as oil and gas development spreads through their region.”    Bryan Alexander

Red panda in bamboo forest, Nepal

“The endangered Red panda is a typical dweller of dense bamboo forests in high altitudes of Nepal. The Red Panda Network RPN is working there with local people to maintain these unique habitats.”    Axel Gebauer


Australia and the Pacific

Cloud in montane rainforest, New Guinea

“Rainforests are an important link in the water circle to support people and land with rain. The heavy clouds coming from the sea unload their water over the rainforest and the trees soak up the water like a sponge. In the heat of the day water evaporates from the leaves of the trees and clouds are generated. Some of them travel quite a distance to provide people in other areas with water, from where it flows back to the sea. The forests protect from drought as well as flooding. ” Konrad Wothe

Flying fox feeds on the nectar of a native eucalyptus, Australia

“Endemic to Australia, Grey-headed flying foxes feed and disperse the pollen and seeds of over 100 native species of plants, often foraging over 40km a night and as such are an important keystone species and vital pollinators, contributing to the reproductive and evolutionary processes of forest communities along the east coast of Australia.”    Doug Gimesy

Collecting megapode eggs, Solomon Islands

“Savo Island, a tiny speck in the South Pacific, is home to a community that have harvested Melanesian megapode eggs for centuries. The megapodes rely on the densely forested slopes of this volcanic island and the warm sandy nesting grounds protected by the islanders, who in turn rely on the megapode’s eggs and the surrounding seas for their survival. On many islands in the Solomons, forest is being cleared for vast palm oil plantations.”    David Tipling


Central and South America

Porcupine, Costa Rica

“The rainforests of central Costa Rica are well known for their incredible biodiversity, but many of the species go unnoticed much of the time, being either rare, shy, nocturnal or very small. The Mexican hairy dwarf porcupine is not a rare animal, but spending much of its time in the canopy and feeding mainly at night, it is seldom seen. It is still hunted for food by people living in and around the rainforest. Its fat and skin are used for medicinal purposes by indigenous tribes, and its skin and spines for traditional clothing and headdresses.” Guy Edwardes

Cocoa farming and Golden lion tamarins, Brazil

“In the coastal Atlantic rainforest Mata atlantica with a very high biodiversity in the state of Bahia, Brazil there are some farms that still cultivate cocoa in the shade of old rainforest trees and thus have saved the forests from logging. In the cocoa forests called Cabruca of a small private farm on the Almada River, there are still groups of the highly endangered Golden-headed lion tamarin. They are well protected there and find additional food on the jackfruit trees that were planted together with the cocoa trees generations ago.”   Konrad Wothe

Huaorani hunter, Yasuni Biosphere Reserve, Ecuador

“The Huaorani are an ancient forest people living in the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve, in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. It has one of the very highest measurable biodiversity indexes of any terrestrial ecosystem on the planet. This group was ‘missionarized’ in the 1950’s but another group, the Tagaeri, blood relatives of those photographed, remains uncontacted, along with a second distinct tribe known as the Taromenane. They are totally reliant on the forest for their way of life. ”    Pete Oxford

Bananas from the forest, Dominica

“In Dominica, bananas and other plants typically growing on plantations such as citrus, yams, or noni also grow wild, leftovers spreading from old time colonial plantations. These are often harvested by passers by. As the local people say – nobody can get really hungry, as nature provides.”    Derek Galon

Rainforests of French Guiana

“The Trésor reserve in French Guiana is home to astonishing biodiversity. The swamp forest there is a primary forest and has an important role as a refuge area for many species, with a high degree of endemism.”          Pascal Kobeh

Trinidad piping guan

“Found only in the forests on Trinidad, these guans are most easily seen in a small area on the northwest side of the island. The steady stream of birdwatchers wanting to see this endemic bird support local hotels and guides. Their welfare is as a result ensured by the local landowner. Although protected they could otherwise be eaten as wild game.”    Robin Chittenden

Yellow cardinal in Calden forest, Argentina

“Calden forest is an endemic forest in South America and its emblematic tree is the Calden. The endangered Yellow cardinal makes its nests in these trees. Unfortunately its habitat is slowing disappearing as trees are cut down to create arable land for planting soyabeans.”        Gabriel Rojo


North America

Sinkyone Intertribal Wilderness, California.



“The remnant coastal redwood forest is being preserved and restored by the Inter Tribal Sinkyone Wilderness Counsel representing ten Northern California Tribes. They are rewilding forests that have been logged in the past and are reinvigorating streams by creating salmon friendly habitat to promote upstream migration and spawning. In the process, they are re-establishing traditional relationship with their native territories.”   Jack Dykinga


Monarch butterfly hibernating in Sacred Fir forest, Mariposa Monarca Special Biosphere Reserve, Mexico.









“The forest in the highlands of southwestern Mexico expect the arrival of millions of Monarch Butterflies that embark on a migration that brings them from southeast Canada and northeast USA, travelling a distance of up to 4,500 km. This year the Monarchs concentrate in an area of only 2.1 hectares. Deforestation endangers the butterflies in Mexico because if a dense forest is no longer there, butterflies exhaust their reserves trying to keep warm, reserves that are needed for their way back north.”   Claudio Contreras




Innu hunter checks traps, Labrador

“The Innu, often confused with their northerly neighbours the Inuit, belong to the Algonquian linguistic group and have occupied the Peninsula now shared by the provinces of Labrador and Quebec for at least 2,000 years. Their land, which they call Nitassinan, is a vast area roughly the size of France comprised of spruce and larch forests, interspersed by lakes and rivers. They fished the lakes and rivers, hunted bear, beaver, porcupine as well as the vast herds of caribou that migrated through their homeland each spring and autumn.”                  Bryan Alexander



European bison, Bialowieza, Poland

“The forest in Białowieża National Park in Poland is a truly unique place in Europe. It is the last natural forest in the European Lowlands. It is the only Polish UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. For thousands of years uninterrupted natural processes have been taking place. As a result, this forest is characterized by an extraordinary abundance and biodiversity of fauna and flora, including those very rare in Europe, such as Eurasian wolf and European bison. A walk through the Białowieża Forest is an experience of enormous biodiversity.”   Mateusz Piesiak

Stag beetle on oak tree, Italy

“A tiny stag beetle is not only a pure example of how biodiversity matters because of its intrinsic beauty, but it’s only present when a viable oak forest exists, with a high amount of big trees and fallen logs to sustain its larvae. It’s a sentinel of our own health.”     Bruno D’Amicis

Mediterranean forests of Extremadura, Spain

“Farmers take advantage of the cut branches of the holm oaks during pruning in winter to make charcoal, which will serve as an economical and efficient fuel for heating. Stockbreeders milk their goats every morning, to make tasty artisan cheeses. The Mediterranean forest is the grazing area for these animals, where they find food and shelter. The bark of the cork oak is a small treasure offered by the forest, extracted from the tree every eight years to manufacture a multitude of objects of great value, offering work to local communities.”                Francisco Marquez

Deer fence in woodland, Sussex, UK

“This picture shows the damage that deer do to woodlands when unchecked by predators, resulting in a massive decrease in biodiversity. One side of the deer fence looks the aftermath of a nuclear war, while the other is more like a tropical rainforest!”     Stephen Dalton

Ancient Beech forest  in Transylvannia, Romania

“Medieval wood pasture is managed as a sustainable resource for the local communit.”    David Woodfall


Find out more

To view a wider selection of images relevant to UN World Wildlife Day and its theme of people living sustainably in harmony with forests and their wildlife, view our new World Wildlife Day 2021 gallery.