2021 has been another tough year around the world. The direct effects of COVID have hit hard and those now creeping out of the pandemic are suffering supply shortages and lack of access to services—adding further strain on citizens in most countries, including the UK.
A constant issue—beyond COVID—is the plight of animals around the world. The pandemic has not stopped the destruction of habitat, nor has it prevented the illegal wildlife trade, just as it hasn’t removed animal cruelty from the UK’s shores. In some areas, such as illegal puppy farming, demand during the pandemic has fueled practices IFAW has worked for many years to prevent.
Accordingly, IFAW and the entire sectors of animal welfare and conservation haven’t stopped working to rescue and protect individual animals and whole populations. We had to be creative and innovative in our approach and we had to ensure the safety of our staff but we were still there as a community. IFAW was still on the ground, ready to rescue marine mammals, responding to disasters, and supporting ranger teams in Africa as they continued their work.
Likewise, the animal protection community has had to work under harder conditions to continue to be there for those they seek to protect. This makes IFAW’s 2021 Animal Action Awards more special because we credit those who didn’t give up and remained there for animals in the UK and beyond.
Our 2021 Animal Action Award winners
Indeed the stories of our winners are about not giving up, long before COVID-19 was even a thing. Take Lyn and Graham Cornick from Surrey who receive a lifetime achievement award for a lifetime of dedication to rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing sick, injured, or orphaned wildlife. They epitomise commitment to the cause and we are proud to recognise their incredible efforts.
On a more global scale, Ali Hood from Devon has spent a career campaigning for better protection for shark species. In the last two years, global policy initiatives have required lateral thinking to counter the lack of face-to-face interaction and negotiation.
Lockdowns too have made us innovate closer to home. Kabir Kaul shows us how even in the urban jungle, we can find an oasis of wildlife habitat everywhere. The future of animals lies in the hands of the young and Kabir is a shining light in showing how to communicate effectively around the wildlife we find close to home. For his passion and innovation we have awarded Kabir the Youth Conservation Award, and for his work in promoting London’s green spaces and wildlife.
But the last year has also shown us how animals can come to our rescue. This year we are lucky enough to have two animal winners. IFAW x USC koala detection dog Bear gains a special recognition award for his tireless work in finding sick and injured koalas during a major crisis. His passion for the role is evident in everything he does and he is credited with locating more than 100 koalas during Australia’s Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020.
Closer to home, Jasper the cockapoo from Lancashire is awarded IFAW’s Animal of the Year Award for supporting NHS staff working through the pandemic. Providing respite from the trauma of the wards during the pandemic has been a valuable service and the staff at the hospital credit him with keeping their stress levels down.
Our winners this year can teach us many valuable lessons. They teach us that we need to reflect a diverse community of animal protectors to be successful. They teach us that being there for animals remains important but that animals can be there for us too. Critically this reminds us how interdependent we are with the animals of the world and how together we need to continue to work to improve things for all of us.
I offer my congratulations to all and my gratitude for "being there".
-James Sawyer, IFAW UK Regional Director