This year, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and our partners have engaged heavily in supporting people helping animals on the frontline of disaster response in places such as Ukraine. We have continued to press decision makers to make the right choices for animals and people. And we have continued to build the capacity to defend animals, enhance nature and enforce against those who choose to compromise our natural wealth for their own gain.
To avoid the managed decline of nature and the continued suffering of animals, we need to continually challenge ourselves to take a fresh perspective and to look to do things differently. We need to approach issues with courage, innovation, compassion and persistence.
Those four words define the winners of the 2022 Animal Action Awards—awards that IFAW is proud and privileged to host. These awards are about the unsung heroes of the mission to protect animals. They are people (and an animal) that have worked tirelessly, with limited resources, in difficult conditions and have refused to accept the status quo. They have all made the world of animals (and people) a better and safer place.
drones search for lost dogs
Probably the most innovative of our winners is Graham Burton who set up the Drone SAR for Lost Dogs Facebook group, which brings together a network of volunteers now numbering over 3,000 drone pilots and 2,500 ground level searchers to help find missing dogs and other animals. This free service has helped to reunite over 2,750 dogs with owners.
support for animals in Ukraine
Courage is defined by our winner Marina Bayeva. As IFAW saw first-hand when supporting the transit of Ukrainian refugees, many refused to leave their animals behind. At the same time, we supported those who bravely remained to help animals in shelters.
Marina took action as she watched the crisis unfold in her birthplace and rallied funding for the brave individuals who were keeping animals alive in shelters, often on the frontline and damaged by acts of war. She gathered requests for support and linked them with funding, and also connected NGOs with translators and other key support required to deploy their operations to support animals. Marina’s work continues into the longer term support for animals and their owners in Ukraine.
helping abandoned chimpanzees
Courage is also defined by our winners Jim and Jenny Desmond, who bravely stepped in to help abandoned chimps in Liberia seven years ago. Starting with their own resources, they founded the only chimpanzee sanctuary and conservation centre in Liberia—a country home to the second largest wild population of critically endangered western chimpanzees. Their work has expanded to tackle the root causes of the reasons chimps arrive at their sanctuary with staff now working actively on wildlife crime.
protecting critical wildlife habitat
Persistence is defined by our award winner Daniel Leturesh. Daniel has worked tirelessly for decades to realise his vision of protecting communal homelands for wildlife to roam freely. Overcoming resistance and obstacles, his persistence has led to 105 square kilometres of land protected as wildlife habitat by persuading 2,600 landowners to lease land and benefit from an income in doing so. As head of the Amboseli Ecoystem Trust, his work has led to the creation of an additional 22 wildlife conservancies. Linking these landscapes to the national parks of Tsavo, Masaai Mara, Amboseli and Kilimanjaro gives the wonderful creatures of the African landscape room to roam.
wildlife rescue and foster care
Persistence is also defined by our winners John and his mother Vicky Anderson, who established Blyth Wildlife Rescue in a shed at the end of their garden. For 16 years, John and Vicky have built up a network foster carers, which helped over 2,000 animals last year alone. Surviving the challenges of vandalism, arson and theft, they have continued to be there for animals in need.
dog therapy for prisoners
The awards wouldn’t be complete without the opportunity to remind ourselves of how animals can help and teach us too. George is a five-year-old English show cocker and therapy dog who shares his home life with owner prison governor and therapy-dog handler Robbie Durgan and his daughter. George has worked as a registered therapy dog for just over four and a half years in prisons, mainly in North West England.
At HMP Liverpool, George’s non-judgmental listening was invaluable for prisoners who were either learning English for the first time or trying to achieve basic entry qualifications. George was trained to pick up on key words, lift his ears, put his head on one side and give prisoners encouragement to continue.
George was also involved in palliative care, seeing prisoners through to end of life in four cases and making the family feel valued. He also worked in stroke recovery and visited prisoners suffering from low mood or suicidal thoughts to encourage them on the road to recovery. Weekly visits to more difficult prisoners to perform tricks and play tugs of war was an incentive to maintain good behaviour.
what we can learn from our winners
Our Animal Action Awards remind us of the joy and benefits of helping and volunteering, of service and sacrifice, of innovation and ambition and the power of never giving up.
I offer my congratulations and heartfelt respect and thanks to all this year’s winners. You are an inspiration to myself and many others.
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