Did you know that South Africa is the third most biodiverse country in the world? We’re also the only country in the world to contain an entire floral kingdom, the Cape Floral Kingdom, which is home to over 9,000 plant species, and although South Africa occupies only 2% of the world’s land surface area, it is home to 10% of the world’s plant species and 7% of the world’s reptile, bird and mammal species!
But what does biodiversity mean and why is it important? Since bio means life and diversity means variety, when we talk about biodiversity, we mean the variety of all living things on earth – all the different plants and animals, from the tiniest micro-organism to the tallest tree and biggest mammal, and the ecosystems they are part of.
Biodiversity is something we all need to protect because it provides the building blocks for a healthy environment! These include things we can’t survive without, like fresh air, clean water, healthy food, and building materials, to name a few. We also know that ecosystems that have a wide variety of plants and animals tend to be healthier than those that don’t, and are better able to adapt to naturally changing conditions. More than that, biodiversity also offers us recreational, cultural and spiritual benefits.
On 22 May each year, International Day for Biological Diversity is celebrated to recognise the importance of biodiversity. It’s also a day to consider how we as humans have impacted on biodiversity, and what we can do to prevent its loss. This year’s theme was Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism.
Naturally, the kind of incredible biodiversity we enjoy in South Africa is a major tourism drawcard. Tourism is very important to our economy, and this revenue can, in turn, be used to help reduce threats to wildlife, and to maintain or increase biodiversity. Of course, this also relies on responsible tourists who make ethical choices when it comes to visiting wildlife facilities, say no to wild animal interactions, and purchase curios with care.
The EWT is committed to identifying the key factors threatening biodiversity and developing innovative methodologies and best practice guidelines to reduce these and promote harmonious co-existence and sustainable living for both people and wildlife. You can help to protect our biodiversity too, by doing the following:
- Plant an indigenous tree to create habitat for many different animals and insects, and help to purify the air we breathe.
- Make sure there are no alien invasive plant species in your garden.
- Reduce and if possible, rule out your use of pesticides.
- Recycle, pick up litter and say no to single-use plastics.
- Become a sustainable consumer, and, for example, only choose seafood from the SASSI green list.
- Clean up a river or wetland in your community.
- Be a responsible tourist – say no to souvenirs made from bone, shells, fur or ivory, and avoid unethical wildlife interactions.
- If you’re a business leader, consider joining the EWT’s National Biodiversity and Business Network, to get assistance with mainstreaming biodiversity into your business. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have other suggestions of how individuals could be protecting our biodiversity, let us know by emailing Mwitu@ewt.org.za