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The good, the bad and the ugly: 2016 for animals in review

The good, the bad and the ugly: 2016 for animals in review

IFAW's P.U.P.S campaign highlighted corruption in the dog trade this year

Sp: What a year for animals! Some good results, some bad results, and some potentially ugly results.

But overall lots and lots of change and another busy year for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). And, indeed, for all of us working in the fields of animal welfare and conservation. So, here’s a top line summary of what happened…

The good

This was a big year for conferences. In September, the 17th CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) meeting took place in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Governments and NGOs gathered to vote on critical decisions that affect so much of our global wildlife. But, on balance, the results were good.


Whilst many were disappointed with the failure to uplist all African Lion Populations to Appendix I (thus giving them greater protection and a de facto trade ban), the conference ended with great results for pangolins and African grey parrots all uplisted to Appendix 1. This gives them the highest available protection possible from trade.

In addition, the decision-making mechanism for ivory stockpile sales was halted, meaning that there was no further investment of time in exploring a way that ivory sales could work. Which, as all conservationists know, they simply can’t.

At the International Whaling Commission meeting in Slovenia in October, some good decisions were also made.

Steps were taken to coordinate efforts to end totoaba poaching (a fish species), which is leading to the extinction of the rare and tiny vaquita, with just 59 of this endangered porpoise species left. Additionally, a resolution was passed to ensure tighter scrutiny of Japan’s permitting process for its so-called scientific whaling. Unfortunately though, plans for a much-needed South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary were blocked once again by pro-whaling nations.

Also this year, die-hard whaler Kristjan Loftsson announced that there would be no hunting of fin whales in Iceland (just for this year). Though, the continued killing of minke whales by others in Iceland was not well-received.


With limited domestic market for the whale meat and a massive decline in its consumption by tourists, largely owing to IFAW’s ‘Meet Us Don’t Eat Us’ campaign, anti-whaling campaigners hope this is the beginning of the end for commercial whaling in Iceland. Meanwhile, our petition against whale meat consumption headed by Icelandic rock star Högni Egilsson was a big success. It received more than 100,000 signatures from tourists and a significant number of Icelanders.

In November, HRH Prince William led the charge in Vietnam on the eve of the Hanoi Conference speaking out to educate rhino horn consumers that it’s time for change. At the conference the UK Government announced an additional £13m [$16m, €15m] to fight wildlife crime.

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Andrea Leadsom stated that the Government is working towards a full domestic ivory ban. (Despite having recently announced a ban on ‘modern ivory sales’, which fell far from the mark of what leading conservationists and NGOs were pushing for. Although certainly a step in the right direction).

Prince William has always had an interest in endangered wildlife. But his interest may have peaked during the Royal Visit to India in April. Here, he and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate spent time at the IFAW/WTI Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation in Kaziranga. Kate graced the front pages of the world’s press hand-feeding an orphaned rhino calf.

In September, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos in London. This was followed by the delivery of a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May at Number 10 Downing Street. Signed by a host of elephant experts and key conservation charities including IFAW, it called for the total ban on domestic ivory her party had promised in their Manifesto.

Closer to home, funding was announced until 2020 for the National Wildlife Crime Unit. (As well as an additional £29,000 per year specifically to fight wildlife cybercrime.)

IFAW’s P.U.P.S campaign aimed to raise awareness amongst the public of the issue of buying puppies from unscrupulous breeders, middle men and puppy farms. Our Suzy Puppy video, designed in the style of a kitsch 80s children’s TV ad, was viewed by tens of thousands of people and the message was simple. If you’re buying a puppy remember P.U.P.S – Parent, Underage, Papers, Sickness.

Alongside this IFAW and leading charities united to call for a ban on the third party sale of puppies. Quite simply we wanted no mum to equal no sale. Good news came in the findings of the EFRA Select Committee Report on Animal Welfare. It supported the call for a ban on third party sales.

The bad

Also this year, a report by IFAW, Killing for Trophies, on the size and scale of trophy hunting globally hit the headlines. It revealed that between 2004 and 2014, as many as 1.7 million hunting trophies may have been traded worldwide. It showed that the USA was the biggest importer of trophies. It accounts for over 70% of all import demand. But closer to home in second and third place respectively were Germany and Spain.


Despite overwhelming evidence that a badger cull can have no meaningful effect on the battle against Bovine Tb, there was another year of bad news for British badgers. The cull in the three existing zones allowed to continue. Furthermore, the cull was also rolled out to another five new zones.

This decision flew in the face of science and public opinion. Even the British Veterinary Association (BVA) spoke out against the cull regarding the free shooting method. This had previously been deemed inhumane by the Government’s own review panel.

Back to whaling and this time in Japan. Despite international condemnation and an earlier ruling by the International Court of Justice that Japan’s Antarctic whaling was illegal and not for the purposes of science, once again the Japanese whaling fleet took to the waters of the Antarctic for another season of whaling. Their self-set quotas for ‘scientific whaling’, a staggering 333 minke whales! The majority of animals killed were pregnant females.

The ugly

Most people from the UK, when reflecting on 2016 will naturally focus on Brexit. A shock for some and a relief for others, it truly divided the nation.

Any change has an impact. This decision by the electorate will thus naturally have an impact for animals. As yet, the size and scale of this is unknown. But in the UK so many of our nature and conservation laws are tied into the EU. Although exiting doesn’t automatically mean repealing, this does remain a risk.


Likewise, in the run-up to Brexit, there will be bigger priorities for Government departments than some of the issues that concern animals the most. But, greater autonomy in an area where the UK typically leads and drives policy, could mean stronger domestic legislation in these areas.

From across the pond, others will look back at the Trump victory. Whilst some celebrate, others puzzle over what and how it all happened. One key concern for conservationists is regarding commitments to climate change mitigation and reduction plans. Plus development funds/aid money, all of which affect communities and wildlife, particularly in developing countries.

All in all a busy year. Some hope, some fear, some success and some loss, but we’ll keep fighting for animals in 2017, no matter what.

For more information about IFAW, click here.

Badger and second puppy photo from Pixabay.