South Africa commemorates International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB)

Event date: 
2020-05-21 23:15 to 2020-05-22 22:30

Theme and messages




South Africa will join the global community in celebration of the annual United Nations’ International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) on Friday 22 May 2020.  The year 2020 ought to have been a “super year” for global biodiversity governance, environmental decision making and ultimately for all life on Earth. Against this backdrop, the celebrations of the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) will be part of a broader commemoration of Biodiversity Week, from 18 to 22 May 2020.

South Africa is one of the world’s biologically mega-diverse countries with biodiversity (plant and animal species) providing an important foundation for tourism. Mega-diverse countries are a group of countries that contain the majority of the Earth's species and are therefore considered extremely biologically diverse. This group of countries represents less than 10% of the global surface, but supports more than 70% of the biological diversity on earth.

As a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), South Africa strives to conserve its biological diversity, promote sustainable use of its components, and ensure fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from commercial utilisation of genetic resources.

However, the recent National Biodiversity Assessment report released by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), has revealed that the country’s freshwater ecosystems are being compromised by over-extraction of water, pollution from waste water treatment works, agricultural toxins and plastics, invasive alien species, habitat degradation, and climate change. As a result, rivers, wetlands, and many of the species within them represent the most threatened ecosystems and species in South Africa.

Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the International Day for Biological Diversity 2020 will be commemorated through its first ever online-only campaign.

As the global community is called to re-examine its relationship to the natural world, one thing is certain: despite all our technological advances we are completely dependent on healthy and vibrant ecosystems for our health, water, food, medicines, clothes, fuel, shelter and energy, just to name a few.




Guided by this year’s IDB theme, the celebration seeks to achieve the following objectives:

  • Raise and sustain awareness about the importance of biodiversity and protection thereof;
  • Profile the work of government in biodiversity conservation and protection;


Themes and messages


Theme - “Our Solutions are in Nature”

In line with the theme, the following are some of key messages:

  • South Africa is ranked in the top three countries globally when it comes to plant and marine species endemism (species found nowhere else on Earth).
  • The diversity and uniqueness of South Africa’s species and ecosystems makes us one of the world’s 17 megadiverse nations – countries that together contain more than two thirds of the world’s biodiversity.
  • While it occupies only 2% of the world’s land surface area, South Africa is home to 10% of the world’s plant species and 7% of its reptile, bird and mammal species.
  • South Africa harbours around 15% of the world’s marine species. Endemism rates reach 56% for amphibians, 65% for plants and up to 70% for invertebrates.
  • South Africa’s economy is highly dependent on this biodiversity – for example: biodiversity tourism demand generates a direct spend of approximately R31 billion in the economy annually, and our approximately 2 000 medicinal plant species contribute to the African Traditional Medicine sector worth R18billion per year.
  • SANBI’s study found that approximately 418 000 jobs are related to biodiversity, which is comparable to the mining sector, which had approximately 430 000 jobs in 2017.
  • Many of the biodiversity-related jobs were in rural areas where employment alternatives were limited.
  • Biodiversity-related jobs can be separated into two broad categories: those that contribute to conserving biodiversity, like game rangers and researchers, and those that directly utilise biodiversity, like the people working in tourism establishments or in fisheries.
  • 60% of South African coastal ecosystem types are threatened, comprising more than half the extent of the coastal zone, according to the National Biodiversity Assessment (NBA).
  • The recently released National Biodiversity Assessment Report (2018) IPBES Report revealed significant success at assessing and protecting our biodiversity.
  • The study led by SANBI found that major pressures on South Africa’s biodiversity are habitat loss, changes to freshwater flow, overuse of some species, pollution, climate change and invasive alien species.
  • The NBA revealed that 36 South African plant species are already confirmed extinct, a further 70 possibly extinct and 14% of all plant species threatened with extinction. Of the 2 911 animals assessed, a total of 12% are categorised as threatened with extinction.
  • 2020 is a year of opportunities and solutions. It is the year where the world can signal a strong global framework that will “bend the curve” on biodiversity loss.




South Africa today, 22 May 2019, joins the world in celebrating 26 years of action for biodiversity during the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB).  The theme of 2019 International Day for Biological Diversity is “Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health”. 

The International Day for Biological Diversity is celebrated every year on 22 May to increase the understanding and awareness of biodiversity and nature’s contribution to people. 

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