The United Nations created World Wildlife Day to celebrate the wide array of life on Earth, and to rally support for preserving it.
Held on March 3 every year since 2014, the day honors the U.N.'s adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international treaty designed to protect endangered plants and animals from extinction. The day helps reaffirm "the intrinsic value of wildlife and its various contributions," according to the U.N., including "ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic" benefits.
The 2017 theme of World Wildlife Day is "through young eyes," a reminder that the fate of rare species lies not just with today's adults, but also with their children and grandchildren. "Given that almost one quarter of the world's population is aged between 10 and 24," the U.N. explains, "vigorous efforts need to be made to encourage young people, as the future leaders and decision makers of the world, to act at both local and global levels to protect endangered wildlife."
To that end, the U.N. held a contest for young photographers (ages 10 to 24) around the world, showcasing unique views of Earth's biodiversity from people who will soon inherit what's left of it. The world is now undergoing a mass extinction event, the first in human history, and these photos offer some solace that its beauty isn't lost on the next generation of stewards.
World Wildlife Day may only be one day, but the point is to remind us of something that's worth thinking about every other day of the year, too. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, awe-inspiring nature photos from the planet's upcoming caretakers offer a simple, memorable way to help the spirit of World Wildlife Day become second nature.
The contest received hundreds of impressive entries, which an international panel of judges narrowed down to 10 of the best. Along with the image above, taken by 24-year-old Ali Javed of Pakistan, here are the nine other finalists (including the winner):
Heavy-bodied jumping spider
Heavy-bodied jumping spider (Hyllus semicupreus) — by Md Rashuidul Rabby, 23, of Bangladesh
African lion (Panthera leo) — by Damaris Lopez Zamora, 20, of El Salvador
Common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) — by Gàbor Li, 17, of Hungary
This photo, taken by 17-year-old high school student Gàbor Li, was selected as the contest's winner on March 3.
Northern potoo (Nyctibius jamaicensis) — by Jorge Figueroa, 24, of Mexico
Crane flies (Tipulidae family) — by Breech Asher Harani, 24, of the Philippines
Flap-necked chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis) — by Samson Moyo, 19, of South Africa
Rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) — by Swaroop Singha Roy, 22, of India
Mantis (Mantodea order) — by Nathan Horrenberger, 23, of Switzerland
Confusing bumblebee (Bombus perplexus) — by Gabriel Best, 19, of the United States