The United Nations bolstered its defence of thousands of endangered animal and plant species in Africa today by signing up an iconic sportswear manufacturer to a campaign promoting the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity.
The ‘Play for Life’ partnership teams up the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) with Puma for a revolutionary new ‘Africa Unity Kit’ – the first ever continental football kit, or uniform – to be worn as the official third strip by Puma-sponsored national teams at the African Cup of Nations, which kicks off on Sunday in Angola.
The 12 African national teams which wear Puma kits are also slated to don the continental strip for international friendly matches played in the lead up to the FIFA World Cup in South Africa this summer as part of the UN International Year of Biodiversity raising awareness about habitat and species conservation among football fans and the general public worldwide.
“As the whole planet comes together for the World Cup, 2010 marks the year when people around the world will unite to conserve the planet’s almost priceless natural resource – its biodiversity,” said UNEP Deputy Executive Director Angela Cropper.
“UNEP is delighted to partner with PUMA to bring this important message of conservation to millions of fans,” Ms. Cropper told reporters at the launch of the ‘Play for Life’ partnership in Nairobi, Kenya.
‘Play for Life’ is one of a series of global initiatives organized for the International Year of Biodiversity aimed at promoting conservation efforts in a bid to curb the unprecedented loss of the world’s species due to human activity – at a rate some experts put at 1,000 times the natural progression.
“The planet’s living organisms are the building blocks of the multi-trillion dollar services – from freshwater to agricultural nutrients – that underpin all life on Earth including its economic, social and sporting life,” said Ms. Cropper. “Bringing together the public’s global passion for football with its global passion for animals, plants and other life-forms surely makes a match-winning team.”
Samuel Eto’o – captain of Cameroon’s national team, two-time winner and all-time leading scorer of the African Cup of Nations – spearheaded today’s launch of the UNEP-Puma partnership.
“The new Africa Unity Kit has inspired me and my teammates,” said Mr. Eto’o. “Not only are we very proud to wear a shirt that helps bring the continent of Africa together but to do so for such an important cause is truly an honour.”
According to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), biodiversity is under threat around the planet, creating the greatest extinction crisis since the natural disaster that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Species have been disappearing at up to 1,000 times the natural rate, and this is predicted to rise dramatically. Based on current trends, an estimated 34,000 plant and 5,200 animal species face extinction.