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World Wildlife Day draws attention to individual animals

The United Nations (UN) declared March 3 as World Wildlife Day in an effort to draw attention to the conservation status of some of the world’s most critically endangered plants and animals. Mainstream conservation and awareness campaigns such as World Wildlife Day typically focus on species and populations of wildlife. In this case, an individual is thought of as simply a representative of its kind. 

Increasingly, organizations and a minority of scientists have been seeking to change this idea of minimizing individuals for a focus only on species and populations with movements like compassionate conservation.  

Wild Animal Initiative, a unique organization, is now seeking to use World Wildlife Day as a way to draw attention to the plight not just of species but also individual animals. The focus is on wild animal welfare research, instead of species survival. 

“Wildlife is a term that refers to all wild animals as a whole, and it reflects how a lot of people think about them. They think about them en masse; they think about them in terms of species,” said Michelle Graham, Strategy Director for Wild Animal Initiative. “But considering the unique experience of an individual in the wild, as opposed to the stability of its population size, is the unique perspective a wild animal welfare philosophy offers.”

The approach of wild animal welfare focuses on abundant wildlife and the hardships they face instead of looking only at species that face extinction. This is because abundant animals contribute more to suffering as a whole than a handful of individuals of a rarer species.

“There are trillions of wild animals, and we don’t know what all of their lives are like. But we know unpleasant experiences, like struggling to find food and shelter, are likely very common,” Graham said. “There could be things we can do to make their lives better that we don’t even know about yet because we never asked.”

By Zach Fitzner, Staff Writer

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