Washington, D.C. (March 3, 2022) – With a piece entitled “Return Home”, 13-year old Yanjun Mao from China has been selected from over 1,500 entries received from 58 different countries as the winner of the World Wildlife Day 2022 International Youth Art Contest. Under the theme of “Recovering Key Species for Ecosystem Restoration”, this year marks the fourth annual contest held in conjunction with IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
In 2013, the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 3rd as World Wildlife Day, an annual celebration to raise awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora. Yanjun received official recognition as part of today’s virtual celebration. The award was introduced by renowned wildlife and conservation artist Sophie Green.
Drawing attention to endangered as well as critically endangered wildlife while highlighting the power of conservation efforts, this year’s theme and contest tap into the creativity of global youth artists, encouraging them to embrace their sense of stewardship through conservation while also raising awareness of the threats faced by so many of the world’s species today.
Through vibrant artworks that depict a stunning range of ecosystems and endangered wildlife from elephants to orangutans to polar bears, thirteen semi-finalists were selected by a panel of judges which included representatives from IFAW, CITES, and UNDP, and guest judges including celebrated syndicated cartoonist Jim Toomey, journalist and documentary filmmaker David Abel, Chief Brand Officer & Creative Director for Munchkin, Inc. Diana Barnes (db), and Jackson Wild Executive Director Lisa Samford.
“The talent displayed as well as the overall response from this year’s contest was extraordinary,” said Danielle Kessler, U.S. Director of IFAW. “Choosing one winner was no easy task for this year’s panel. Generating nearly three times the number of entries as in past years, the depictions of both flora and fauna created by such young artists not only exquisitely captures this year’s theme, but also vividly reflects their deep sense of connection to the natural world. It is an honor to continue hosting this global international contest that provides them with a platform for such expression.”
“I’m very pleased to congratulate our winner Yanjun,” said CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero, “and I would also like to recognize the talent and commitment of all our entrants. It is uplifting to see so many young people, from so many countries, engage with this year’s theme of “Recovering Key Species for Ecosystem Restoration”. It is clear that our young people appreciate the conservation challenges we face but with their support, energy and passion, I’m sure we will reach our goals for this UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration.”
"UNDP would like to warmly congratulate Yanjun Mao,” said Midori Paxton, Head of Ecosystems and Biodiversity at the United Nations Development Programme. “His painting captures not just the interconnectedness between humans and our natural world, but how a young person might see their place in it - smaller and more surrounded by nature than our global societies seem to assume, and yet wanting to help, despite the enormity. In a year when the theme of World Wildlife Day is “Recovering Key Species for Ecosystem Restoration”, it offers a beautiful, timely message.”
The winning artwork, “Return Home”, as well as all the finalist’s entries, are currently viewable on the IFAW website.