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Animal Behavior

World Wildlife Day Celebrates All of Our Planet's Residents

Katie Cleary talks about the importance of natural habitats and hope.

Key points

  • On World Wildlife Day, animals need us more than ever. Katie Cleary offers hope for the future.
  • World Wildlife Day stresses the need for more respectful and compassionate human-animal relationships.
  • Everyone can make a difference to improve the well-being of our magnificent, interconnected planet.

Animals need all the help they can get, now more than ever.

March 3 is United Nations World Animal Day, and I am thrilled that Katie Cleary, founder of Peace 4 Animals and director and producer of the award-winning documentary Why On Earth, could take the time to explain why this day is so important for humans, animals, and our shared, magnificent planet. The purpose of United Nations World Wildlife Day is "to celebrate wild animals and plants. Every year, we recognize the unique roles and contributions of wildlife to people and the planet." Science clearly shows that what happens to "them" (other animals) also affects our own well-being—what harms them harms us, and what helps them helps us.1,2 Katie also offers a much-needed message of hope for the future and stresses that everyone can make a positive difference for all of our planet's residents and their shared homes. Here's what she had to say.

Marc Bekoff: How and why did you develop your feelings for animals?

Katie Cleary: My passion for animals began when I was about 11 years old. I knew my calling was to raise awareness for endangered species, specifically big cats. I began with tiger conservation when I learned that there were only 5,000 tigers remaining in the wild and that they were facing extinction. I was heartbroken. I knew that something needed to be done to save them before it was too late. I began raising funds to support tiger conservation causes. That was when my journey in animal welfare began. From there, my mom and I would rescue injured and orphaned wildlife, rehab them, and then release them back into the wild. That is when I knew that I wanted to be involved in animal welfare for the rest of my life and start my own foundation one day.

MB: Why did you found Peace 4 Animals, and what are some of your goals?

KC: I founded Peace 4 Animals in 2012 with the mission to help protect and save endangered species around the world. Around the same time, I started the news network World Animal News, which brings viewers the latest breaking news in animal welfare from across the globe. I also produce documentaries to raise awareness for the most important issues facing critical species around the world. My first film was called Give Me Shelter. It premiered on Netflix in 2015. My latest documentary, Why On Earth, starring Clint Eastwood, takes viewers on a journey around the world, through Africa, Indonesia, Mexico, and the U.S., showing the plight of some of the most endangered species on the planet, including elephants, rhinos, orangutans, sharks and many more. Why On Earth is currently available on major streaming platforms worldwide.

Frans van Heerden/Pexels.
Source: Frans van Heerden/Pexels.

My goal is to start the Peace 4 Animals rescue and rehab for endangered and threatened species in Africa. I would also like World Animal News to be the first-ever animal and environmental news program on a major network around the world.

MB: Who do you hope to reach in your work for animal well-being?

KC: I hope to reach a worldwide audience so that we can mainstream animal welfare on a global scale. If people are exposed to what is happening to our precious wildlife and the destruction of their habitats, I believe that they will want to take action to make a difference and help save them.

MB: Why is World Wildlife Day so important? And why is it imperative for people to know about it?

KC: World Wildlife Day is one of the most important days of the year because it is a time that we focus our attention on the millions of species that we share this planet with and who depend on us to be their voice. We must use this day as a focal point to show compassion and respect for all of God’s beautiful creatures and leave this planet better than the way we found it.

MB: What can people do to help wildlife?

KC: It starts in our own backyards. Leave water out for wildlife, especially in the warm summer months. Do not use pesticides which seep into our groundwater supply and can kill many species of plants and insects. Do not use poisons to try to control mice or rat populations. Poison leads to a painful death for many species of wildlife and it works its way up the food chain and can kill many important keystone species, including bobcats, mountain lions, owls, hawks, and eagles. If you see an injured animal, please stop and call your local wildlife rescue or rehab. You can also volunteer to help animals at a wildlife sanctuary or rescue. The best thing that we can do is to coexist with all of God’s beautiful animals and live in peace together.

MB: Are you hopeful that as people learn more about World Wildlife Day and the plight of animals globally, they will get more involved in working on their behalf?

KC: I am hopeful that as more people are educated about the plight of wildlife worldwide, they will be inspired to volunteer to help rescue animals, travel to various countries to support ecotourism and see animals in the wild… or start their own foundation to help protect a species that is in need of help. We can be the change that this world needs!


In conversation with Katie Cleary, director, producer, animal advocate, and conservationist. Katie founded the animal welfare organization Peace 4 Animals in 2012, along with the popular news network World Animal News. She is the producer and writer of Give Me Shelter, which premiered on Netflix in 2015. Katie also directed and produced the award-winning documentary Why On Earth starring Clint Eastwood, that premiered on major streaming platforms in 2022.

1) Saving Animals, Saving Ourselves: What Harms Them Harms Us; The Power of Exploration to Lift Our Spirits and Open Our Hearts; Honoring Nonhuman Sentience Is Good for Them and Us; Conservation Science Must Value Individuals and Anthropomorphism; The Art and Power of Connecting to the Sounds of Silence.

2) Why On Earth: "Travel the globe to experience the vital connection between humans, animals, and our planet through stunning, rarely before seen footage which exposes the effects that deforestation and the illegal trade of threatened and endangered species have on orangutans, elephants, rhinos, lions, sharks, and more. By caring for these beautiful animals, we begin a healing process that will eventually help us all."

Bekoff, Marc. The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathyand Why They Matter (revised and expanded). New World Library, 2024.

______ and Koen Margodt (editors). Jane Goodall at 90: Celebrating an Astonishing Lifetime of Science, Advocacy, Humanitarianism, Hope, and Peace, Salt Water Media, 2024.

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