It’s a new year, and for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), it’s time to reflect back on past events affecting animals and look forward to the future and another year of work to protect the creatures with whom we share our planet.
The year 2015 started with what we like to call ‘Mitten Accomplished’! Thousands of animal lovers around the world responded to IFAW’s call for mittens to protect the poorly paws of koalas that suffered burns from Australian bushfires.
The appeal spread like its own wildfire until every koala that needed them was kitted out with knitted mittens.
Last year also saw the 10-year anniversary of the implementation of the Hunting Act in the UK – a milestone in IFAW’s fight for protection for foxes and other wild mammals.
However, hunters are still flouting the law and IFAW has continued to call for better enforcement to protect British wildlife from being cruelly chased or killed for fun.
IFAW’s Freddie The Fox mascot joined Brian May and other protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in London while teams inside were briefing MPs, when the good news came through that the Government had decided to postpone a vote on amending the Hunting Act. If passed, this amendment would have severely weakened the hunting ban and had a devastating impact on wildlife.
In the summer, the world was shocked and outraged by the killing of Cecil the lion, a famous lion which suffered a slow and painful death after being hunted for fun as a ‘trophy’ in Zimbabwe. IFAW experts gave countless interviews that were broadcast around the globe, condemning barbaric trophy hunting and debunking myths over the amount of money that trophy hunters bring to conservation.
IFAW is determined to make sure that Cecil’s death will not have been in vain, and later in the year France announced it was banning the import of lion trophies. More recently, IFAW celebrated news that the United States would reclassify lions as an endangered species, giving them better protection.
Elephants have also had a difficult time this year. IFAW was appalled to hear the news that Kenya’s largest bull elephant had been killed by poachers in Tsavo East National Park. Looking at the broader picture IFAW estimates that up to 50,000 elephants are dying each year for their ivory. In 2015 more than 32 tonnes of poached ivory was reported seized, the majority of the 143 seizures taking place in Thailand, Vietnam and China and in countries across Africa.
In the UK, the badger cull took place again for a third year, adding Dorset to the existing cull zones of Somerset and Gloucestershire. As always an army of dedicated volunteers patrolled the cull zones night after night to help wounded badgers. As well as the needless deaths of badgers, there was increasing frustration for those opposed to the cull when the cost was revealed to be more than £7,500 per badger.
Despite the continued failure of the cull, the Government has stated its determination to continue with the killing of badgers this summer.
A great result in 2015 means that thousands of seals per year will continue to be saved after a threat to the EU ban on commercial seal products was rejected. IFAW has campaigned for decades against cruel commercial seal hunts so this is a brilliant victory for seals.
More positive animal stories came out of IFAW’s annual UK Animal Action Awards, which recognize British citizens doing amazing work in conservation or animal rescue and care.
As 2015 drew to a close the most amazing news came that a rare Siberian tiger, which had been orphaned and rehabilitated by IFAW for release in the wild, had given birth to cubs. Footage of Zolushka and her cubs was by a stroke of luck caught on a camera trap video, which was later seen all around the world.
Sadly IFAW also had to report on the departure of the Japanese whaling fleet for so-called ‘scientific whaling’ in the Antarctic. IFAW is urging anti-whaling governments to challenge Japan’s resumption of whaling and lack of regard for international law.
With Christmas fast approaching, it was a race against time for IFAW to get all of the 66 dogs from a dilapidated shelter in Bosnia to new homes in Germany before the holidays. At the shelter, dogs had been chained up to doghouses all day and night, and fed a diet of bread. A few of the dogs are staying with foster families for now, but most of the dogs are already living in their forever homes and can expect a very different and happier life in 2016.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2016 IFAW will again be working hard to protect the Hunting Act from any threat of repeal or amendments that would further reduce protection for Britain’s wild mammals.
This year IFAW will have a committed presence at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in South Africa and will continue its work to fight illegal wildlife trade. IFAW will also be in attendance at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) biennial meeting in Slovenia as part of its commitment to end all commercial or so-called ‘scientific whaling’.
This is one of a series of articles written by Gay Star News in partnership with IFAW to raise awareness of animal welfare within the global LGBTI community. To find out more about IFAW’s work to protect animals around the world and how you can help click here.