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IFAW hosted the 23rd annual Animal Action Awards on Tuesday to celebrate individuals and organisations who have made outstanding contributions to conservation, rescue, and animal welfare. The ceremony was held at the BAFTA headquarters in London, home of the UK’s iconic film awards.
After receiving 470 nominations from 21 different countries, IFAW’s adjudicating panel had the difficult task of narrowing the talented pool down to just seven winners. These extraordinary individuals hailed from the UK, Australia, Brazil, Belize, and Zimbabwe and represented various avenues of conservation, rescue, and animal welfare, including marine mammal rescue, parrot rehabilitation, and whale conservation.
Wildlife photographer, ornithologist, and conservationist Hamza Yassin served as emcee for the night. Known recently as the winner of Strictly Come Dancing, Hamza has starred in the CBeebies live-action shows Let’s Go for a Walk and Ranger Hamza’s Eco Quest, in addition to presenting on BBC’s Countryfile and Animal Park. He showcased his passion for ornithology (specifically birds of prey) in his BBC One documentary Hamza: Strictly Birds of Prey.
Wildlife biologist, explorer, and presenter Lizzie Daly interviewed winners and attendees throughout the evening. Lizzie is known for her features in numerous BBC programmes, including The One Show, Weatherman Walking, Curious Creatures, and Winterwatch, as well as Solved, Nature’s Greatest Mysteries on Animal Planet. In addition to having numerous live broadcasting, podcast, and radio credits, Lizzie will star in two new series this year, Jaguar Journals and Deep Down Under.
The event had nearly 200 attendees, who enjoyed dinner and drinks while hearing our winners’ stories. Special thank you to Pexels for displaying some of the winning submissions of our Action for Animals photography contest.
Also known as the ‘human swan’, Sacha Dench is a world record breaking biologist, conservationist, Ambassador of the UN’s Convention on Migratory Species, and CEO and founder of Conservation Without Borders. Determined to find out why Bewick’s swans were declining, Sacha flew over 4,000 miles from arctic Russia to the UK, dangling 1,000s of feet in the air from a piece of fabric with a propellor on her back. Sacha also recently tracked the osprey migration from the UK to Africa, and she holds the record for the First Channel Crossing by Paramotor by a woman.
Since 2017, Lizzi Larbalestier has been rescuing marine mammals in Cornwall, UK. She helped with the planning, fundraising, project management, and construction of a seal hospital, before which she spent the previous seal pup season hosting a temporary pop-up hospital from her home. That year, she and other volunteers cared for over 139 sick and injured seal pups. She began her journey as an on-call marine mammal medic with British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR). Now, she serves as an advanced medic and medic instructor.
Nikki Buxton relocated to Belize 20 years ago, where she founded Belize Bird Rescue. Each year, she cares for approximately 300 birds from about 250 species each year. Her centre houses up to 190 birds at a time. Most are parrots which have been sold into the illegal pet trade, requiring significant care and attention. Nikki works tirelessly to prepare these parrots for their return to the wild.
At just 15 years old, José Palazzo began campaigning for whales when Japanese fleets were whaling in Brazilian waters. Since the 1970s, his passion for protecting marine life has continued to flourish. José has led research and conservation projects and rallied Latin American countries against whaling at the International Whaling Commission (IWC). He has been particularly committed to developing projects aimed at protecting the Southern right whale.
Over 40 years ago, Simon Cowell MBE left his city career and founded the Wildlife Aid Foundation (WAF), one of the UK’s most loved wildlife rescue charities. His passion for conservation on the TV show Wildlife SOS secured him a place in the nation’s heart. Hundreds of thousands of animals have been given a second chance thanks to Simon’s compassion and dedication. Tragically, he was diagnosed last year with terminal cancer. Simon’s last wish for WAF is and has always been to build a new Wildlife Aid Centre to care for more animals, teach, demonstrate, and inspire the next generation to conserve, to live alongside wildlife.
Davey is a six-year-old springer spaniel who has been serving with the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service for almost five years. He was adopted from a Dogs Trust rehoming centre in 2018 and was trained to become a search and rescue dog. Davey mainly works in the UK, attending explosions and assisting the police with locating high-risk missing people. His first life-saving mission was in Turkey, in searching for earthquake survivors with UK International Search and Rescue (UK ISAR) alongside his handler, UK ISAR Canine Team Lead Lindsay Sielski.
The winner of our Lifetime Achievement Award, Roxy Danckwerts is the founder of Wild is Life (WIL) in Zimbabwe. After spending years rescuing all manner of wild orphans, in 1998 Roxy saw the need for a registered and dedicated sanctuary where abandoned, injured, and orphaned animals could have a second chance at life. From the humble beginnings of a few rescued animals in its backyard, WIL has grown to a centre that rescues, rehabilitates, and rewilds many African wild animals, including over 50 elephants in just 10 years. Elephants are one of the most difficult species to hand raise and rehabilitate, but they are a keystone species, and the value of their rehabilitation impacts all species across the landscape.