Jason Bell first joined IFAW in 1997 as the director of the Elephants Program. Within weeks of starting the job, he attended a meeting in Zimbabwe that changed everything—for him and the world.
In the decade prior, poachers had reduced the global elephant population by half. Desperate to save the species, countries around the world agreed to outlaw the ivory trade. By 1997, elephant populations were slowly coming back, and governments holding tons of confiscated ivory saw an opportunity to cash in. When the meeting was over, the ivory ban was lifted.
As a trained zoologist and ecologist, Jason understood that poachers would consider even one sale of ivory as Day One of open season. But for Jason, this wasn’t just bad policy, it was personal: Jason grew up in South Africa, where he and his family would often visit watering holes to watch the herds of elephants.
Stopping the ivory trade was too big for anyone to tackle alone, so Jason started looking for partners. Under his leadership, IFAW worked with partners to secure critical habitats for elephants in Southern and East Africa, as well as India and China. Jason earned the support and buy-in of countless local communities to translocate elephants across the African continent, including moving an entire herd of 83 elephants from the Phirilongwe region of Malawi, where they had been in constant violent conflict with villagers. And collaborating with world-renowned scientists, Jason helped convince the South African government to update its approach to managing elephant populations, bringing national law into alignment with science.
Today, Jason is IFAW’s Vice President of Conservation and Animal Welfare. Drawing on two decades of experience as the Regional Director of Southern Africa and then Vice President for International Operations, Jason guides IFAW’s global strategy as well as on-the-ground operations in more than 40 countries.
Jason holds multiple degrees from the University of Pretoria.
Regional Director of Southern Africa, IFAW South Africa
Vice President for International Operations, IFAW South Africa
Bachelor of Science, Zoology University of Pretoria, South Africa
Honors Degree, Ecology University of Pretoria, South Africa