What Does An Animal Welfare Advocate Look Like?

What does an animal welfare advocate look like? Sometimes he is knee-deep in mud, surrounded by thousands of mosquitoes, wearing an anti-encephalitic suit. Now and then you could see him crawling along the drifting ice with his bright-red polar-explorer suit on. But occasionally an animal advocate needs to put on a business suit or an elegant dress which would by no means blunt the effectiveness of animal protection. The trip we will tell you about is just of that type.

In the beginning of May an annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was held in Kazakhstan. Two International Fund for Animal Welfare representatives were invited to take part in the meeting. Masha Vorontsova, the Country Director, IFAW Russia, and Elena Averyanova, the country press-secretary, IFAW Russia, were those assigned representatives.

Within the frameworks of the annual meeting the EBRD generally invites various reputable non-profit organizations for discussion of environmental aspects of EBRD-funded projects.

In 2003 IFAW started its activity within this group. We were holding our protest campaign when the Bank had an intention to finance the construction of an oil-extraction platform along the coastline in Sakhalin, which was the habitat area of the unique gray whale population accounting for only 120 whales left.

Back at that time we arranged numerous meetings with the Bank top managers and succeeded to convince them not to participate in that project for it was environmentally destructive.

That was a fundamental achievement, since many other banks followed the lead of EBRD. The meetings were a success. We managed to meet the Board of Directors and the President of EBRD. As a result we established many contacts that could be useful for animal protection.

The city where the meeting was held should be mentioned separately. Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan, has spread among the Steppes. Three buildings by Norman Foster are located in the new part of the city designed by a Japanese architect. EBRD meeting was bearing the title “Asia meets Europe”.

And that is really true, for Kazakhstan and its capital Astana are placed in the very centre of Eurasia Continent. This newly re-built city with an excellent infrastructure is capable of welcoming hundreds of thousands delegates from different countries.

Astana is a wonderful city with a promising future. Kazakhstan features the extraordinary beauty of nature and plentiful fauna. Saiga Antelopes and falcons live here. And they are the #1 species who require IFAW protection since they have become black-trading items. Furthermore, at the Tiger Summit in Saint-Petersburg Kazakhstan had declared its intention to recover the tiger population.

Masha Voronstova had a meeting with Yerlan Nysanbayev, the Head of the Department of Forests and Nature Reserves, Ministry of Agriculture meetings in minestery. The Department is responsible for the protection of Kazakstan fauna and managing game species.

Two issues were discussed: Prevention of the Wildlife Trade Training for the Central Asia and second: re-introduction of the Amur tigers to Kazakhstan at the area of the Bakhash Lake and the Ili river (the area, which was inhabited by Turgay Tigers (now extinct) till 1947. Minister Nysanbayev expressed the need to balance a long term approach by the Ministry.

As well we informed them on the Indian experience of restoring tiger population in Sariska. I suggested, that IFAW in future would be happy to help with our expertise and probably organize a visit of Kazakh delegation to India to learn from their experience (in particularly in Kanha Nature Reserve, where orphan tiger cubs were kept in the 60 hector enclosure, where they stay for five years, learn to hunt and sustain themselves).

Kazakhstan is doing great work not only politically, economically, but as well for nature protection. All mammals (with the exception of wolves, are protected and no hunt is allowed). There is a very effective program on restoring the forests area. It is a visible effort, in that small trees are rising around Astana. This project is under monitor of the President, who once a year is making helicopters flight inspecting the reforested areas.

As a delegation we had several reasons to visit Kazakhstan. In addition to EBRD meeting issues proper we discussed the illegal trade market. One major issue, on July 1, 2010 Kazakhstan, Russia, and Belarus entered the Customs Union. Within the frameworks of that Customs Union the member states have abolished the customs borders between them.

The Union itself did not pose any threats. But in the course of our meetings in Kazakhstan it was revealed that the border between Kazakhstan and China, according to many public servants, had some “holes”.

Throughout the history of work of the Customs Service no cases of detection of Saiga Antelope’s horn have occurred. Another objective of our visit was to prepare the training on prevention of wildlife species trade for customs. We made the necessary arrangements for the training with the Department of Forestry in Kazakhstan. The interdepartmental training on prevention of wildlife species trading is scheduled for May 2012. It is to be conducted in Astana for 40 delegates from Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and China.

-- LA

For more information on the International Fund for Animal Welfare effort to save animals around the world visit http://www.ifaw.org

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