Happy World Wildlife Day

Today marks the first ever World Wildlife Day, an occasion for us to celebrate wildlife. Recognising that wildlife is in dire need of our support as illegal trade in wildlife escalates across the world, the United Nations General Assembly declared 3 March as an annual day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s fauna and flora.

I’m sure many of you have a special wildlife memory that stands out in your mind and I’d like to share my top three wildlife moments with you.

1. Diving with a Green Turtle

I visited Australia at the age of 19 and discovered the incredible diversity of life that lies beneath the waves. Fascinated by colourful coral reefs, giant clams, and clown fish ­– I learnt how to dive on the Great Barrier Reef. During my first dive as a qualified Open Water diver, a majestic Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) glided into view and swam across my path. I’ll never forget how relaxed that turtle looked!

2. Watching a giraffe run

As part of my Masters course (MSc Conservation and Biodiversity at the University of Exeter), my classmates and I went to Africa as part of our studies to gain a deeper understanding of wildlife conservation in a developing country. Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) turned out to be my favourite African mammal and I was fascinated by the way they run. To me, their legs appeared to move slowly but they covered ground quickly and I loved watching these gangly, yet elegant creatures move around.

3. Being chased by a hungry koala

Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) don’t have a reputation for being fast movers but I assure you, if they are hungry and you are holding a fresh branch of eucalyptus leaves, they will attempt to climb your leg. During one of my long university vacations, I returned to Australia and volunteered at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. For four weeks I followed keepers on their rounds, learning about Australia’s native wildlife and the role places like Currumbin play in public education and wildlife conservation. One of my jobs was to clean the koala enclosures and replace the eucalyptus branches which koalas eat. On one memorable occasion, I stepped into the enclosure with a big branch of delicious smelling eucalyptus leaves and a male koala came running towards me and started to climb my leg. I tried to run away but it moved quicker than me – and to the amusement of watching tourists – I had to quickly place the leaves in the brackets and pull the koala off my leg before his claws dug in too deeply.

What is your most memorable wildlife memory? Share it below or tweet it to me @Camellia_Will

Many organisations and UN Goodwill Ambassadors have shown their support for World Wildlife Day – check out the official Facebook page to read their statements.