World Wildlife Day: Yellowstone Coyote

Photo: © Steve Morello/WWF-US

Happy World Wildlife Day! Observed every year on March 3, this international holiday was created by the United Nations to honor and raise awareness of all the wild flora and fauna that exist on our great planet.

The special occasion coincides with the U.N.'s 2013 adoption of the "Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora" (CITES), which was passed to reaffirm "the intrinsic value of wildlife and its various contributions, including its ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic contributions to sustainable development and human well-being."

Of course, as Secretary of State John Kerry explains, "World Wildlife Day is more than a day we mark on the calendar. It is a commitment that we must renew every day to preserve our shared natural heritage now and for future generations."

Like many other U.N. holidays (such as World Wetlands Day, International Day of Forests, World Rhino Day, among others), each year is given a specific theme; for 2015, the focus is on getting serious about wildlife crime. Crimes against wildlife are sadly numerous, from poaching violence to rampant deforestation. It will take a lot of effort to see these cruel crimes come to an end, but one small yet invaluable way you can help the cause is by tweeting your commitment to taking a stand against these practices with the hashtag #SeriousAboutWildlifeCrime. Reknowned primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall is already on board:

Interested in other ways to celebrate World Wildlife Day? Well, there's no better way to start than by stepping into your backyard. Who knows, depending on where you live, you might even spot a coyote, like the one pictured at top seen in Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park.

Continue below to see more of riveting photographs of North American wildlife, which were provided by the World Wildlife Fund. You'll meet narwhals, black-footed ferrets, flurries of monarch butterflies and so much more!
 

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World Wildlife Day: Monarch swarm

Photo: © naturepl.com/Ingo Arndt/WWF-Canon

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) fly in warmth of the midday sun in Michoacan, Mexico.

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World Wildlife Day: Black-footed ferret

Photo: © naturepl.com/Shattil & Rozinski/WWF

A family of black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) prepare for release at a captive breeding facility in Colorado.

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World Wildlife Day: Moose

Photo: © Steve Morello/WWF-US

Water drips from the large antlers of a moose (Alces alces) as it wades in an Alaska river.

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World Wildlife Day: Narwhals

Photo: © naturepl.com/Eric Baccega/WWF

A pair of narwhals (Monodon monoceros) cross tusks just above water surface near Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada.

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World Wildlife Day: Brown bear at Katmai

Photo: © Kevin Schafer/WWF-Canon

A brown bear (Ursus arctos) eats salmon in July in a river in Katmai National Park in Alaska.

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World Wildlife Day: Monarch butterfly

Photo: © Kevin Schafer/WWF-Canon

A monarch butterfly rests on a flower in the Mindo-Nambillo Reserve in the Andes mountains of western Ecuador.

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World Wildlife Day: Narwhal

Photo: © naturepl.com/Bryan and Cherry Alexander/WWF

A narwhal floating just under the water's surface shows off its ivory tooth in northwest Greenland.

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World Wildlife Day: Yellowstone bison

Photo: © Steve Morello/WWF-US

Young American bison graze in a field at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.