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As 2022 comes to an end, we at IFAW decided to look back on the most significant ways in which we’ve helped animals this year. Big cats, elephants, blue whales, orangutans and giant anteaters all feature in our past year’s efforts to conserve, rescue and protect individuals, populations and species around the globe.
Here’s our top 10 list of animal victories for 2022 (in no particular order).
Decades of poaching have decimated the elephant population in Kasungu National Park—Malawi’s second largest national park. But IFAW has been working since 2015 to restore a healthy elephant population. In July, IFAW took its biggest step yet in this mission by working closely with Malawi’s government to translocate 263 elephants to Kasungu from another park. This addition more than tripled the elephant population in the park, making it more viable into the future, and helping return Kasungu to its former glory.
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Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, IFAW jumped into action. Nine months after the start of the war, IFAW had directly helped over 100,000 companion animals (most of whom were cats and dogs) and wild animals like bears, bats and tigers. We also supported the incredible families and caretakers of those animals.
For example, between March and May, IFAW-trained responders and veterinarians managed the only animal care tent at the Medyka border crossing between Poland and Ukraine. IFAW has also issued more than 80 grants to local organizations worth a total of over US$1.4 million to purchase pet food and supplies, provide veterinary care and organize transport for animals and their owners.
In the northern Indian Ocean, south of Sri Lanka, massive container ships pose a deadly risk of collisions with endangered blue whales. After being approached by IFAW and OceanCare, MSC Group—the world’s largest shipping company—announced in September that it would adjust its routes to avoid vital habitat where most Sri Lankan blue whales congregate.
This decision is an historic first step toward moving shipping lanes for all commercial ships away from blue whale habitat off Sri Lanka. By rerouting all ships further offshore, the risk of vessel strikes would be reduced by 95%, making a huge difference to the welfare and conservation of the largest animal on Earth.
The Netflix series Tiger King shed a light on the epidemic of captive big cat ownership in the United States. Untold numbers of tigers, lions and other wild felines are held as pets or in private collections across the country. These animals face cruel conditions and threaten community safety.
After IFAW and partners spent years pressuring Congress to take legal action, the U.S. Senate finally passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act on December 6—a historic step toward protecting captive big cats nationwide. Once signed into law, this legislation will prevent people from keeping big cats as pets and ban direct contact between members of the public and these predators.
Up to 100 million sharks are killed each year by the fishing industry. With over one third of shark species at risk of extinction, IFAW has long advocated for governments around the world to secure greater protection for them.
In November, IFAW experts joined world leaders in Panama for the 19th meeting of CITES, the foremost international agreement to protect endangered plants and animals from the threats of international trade. Three proposals passed, granting nearly 100 shark species greater worldwide protection. Nearly all shark species traded for their fins will now be under CITES oversight, leading to proper protections and sustainable management of these previously overlooked species.
Australia’s east coast koala population has been in steep decline for the past two decades due to human development intruding into its habitat. To obtain greater protections for koalas from harmful developments, IFAW and other NGOs submitted evidence to support the uplisting of koalas from Vulnerable to Endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) 1999. We obtained support from 250,000 people around the world through a petition.
On February 11, the Australian government officially listed the koala as Endangered in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory under national legislation, which brings these marsupials elevated protections.
On March 14, a severely injured Eurasian eagle-owl fell into a kindergarten class in Beijing. The curious children and their teacher immediately contacted IFAW’s Beijing Raptor Rescue Center to rescue and rehabilitate the owl.
The schoolchildren were so inspired by the rescue that they spent a whole week learning about the raptor, drawing pictures of it, crafting a bird house and even putting on a play about the rescue.
After refusing to eat on its own for 65 days, the eagle-own finally started feeding independently and fully recovered in the following months. Awaiting its return to the wild in December, this will be one of more than 50 raptors that the Beijing Raptor Rescue Center has released in 2022.
On April 27, a bottlenose dolphin stranded on Cape Cod in the northeastern United States. The area’s unique geographical features and large tidal fluctuations can make it a deadly trap for dolphins and whales that have gone astray.
Fortunately, IFAW’s Marine Mammal Rescue team was there to rescue the dolphin and release it back to deep waters. Weighing more than 720 lbs, it took 27 responders to carry the massive animal. It was the largest bottlenose dolphin that IFAW had ever successfully released. A temporary satellite tag tracking the dolphin post release confirmed that the animal had swam far offshore, returning to known bottlenose dolphin habitat.
A pair of orangutans—mother and daughter—were released into 20,000 hectares of protected land in Borneo in October. The mother, Ucokwati, was rescued several years ago from an amusement park in Indonesia where she was on display. Ucokwati was sent to a wildlife center where she gave birth to her daughter, Mungil.
In 2020, the mother and daughter were brought to the IFAW-supported Centre of Orangutan Protection (COP) in Borneo to be rehabilitated and prepared for life in the wild. Since their release, they have been closely monitored by local rangers. Ucokwati and Mungil are among the first orangutans COP has released since the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, historic wildfires destroyed a quarter of Brazil’s Pantanal—the world’s largest tropical wetland—killing millions of animals. In the aftermath, IFAW has been supporting the Tamandua Institute’s “Orphans of Fire” project, dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of giant anteater pups orphaned by the wildfires’ destruction.
In November, one of the rehabilitated anteaters, Joaquim, was moved into a soft-release enclosure, allowing him a safe and gradual transition back into the Pantanal. He was fitted with a satellite tracking device, which will allow the team to follow his movements to assess his health in the wild. Joaquim will be the first giant anteater rescued at less than a month old to be rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
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