Into the heart of European Parliament: Being part of IFAW is an act of citizenship, a commitment

"Life [is] like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Forrest Gump famously said in the eponymous movie. And ever since the elephant massacre began in Cameroon last January, his words have made particular sense to me.

I never imagined, back in April 2004 as I put the finishing touches to my master's thesis on the draft European constitution, that 8 years later I would find myself at the heart of the European Parliament speaking to MEPs.

Three poached elephants in Cameroon's Boubandjida National Park earlier this year.More recently and tragically, I was in the heart of Boubandjida National Park with France 2 and RFI journalists.

On that day of March 5, at 9:26 a.m., we all froze when the first gunshots rang out behind the hill in front of us. The first shots were aimed at the elephants, then fire was exchanged between the poachers and the Cameroonian military.

What we felt at that moment could be summed up in two words: helplessness and distress.

Never did I imagine, on that day of March 5, that one and a half months later I'd be standing in the middle of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, reporting to elected officials about the poaching war.

And indeed on April 19, I had the opportunity to present the International Fund for Animal Welfare's mission to prevent the slaughter of Boubandjida elephants to the European Parliament's Intergroup on Animal Welfare and Conservation. Instead of the seven and a half minutes' speaking time initially allotted to us, we spoke for 40 minutes to a group of eagerly listening MEPs who asked us numerous questions.

And this is what IFAW's strength is all about: the ability to transition from a mission on the ground 3,000 miles away to the muffled corridors of power so that all of us, communicators, lobbyists and campaigners, can work hand in hand to promote our ideas and persuade decision-makers to turn them into action.

Our team wouldn't be complete without those who have been supporting IFAW, following our adventures in Boubandjida, reading our press articles and sharing our indignation.

At 3 p.m. on April 19, you were there with us when we met with the Intergroup on Animal Welfare and Conservation. You stood by our side when my colleague Satyen Sinha, IFAW EU political officer in Brussels, and I addressed the MEPs.

Being part of IFAW, whether as an employee or a supporter, means being a citizen, expressing ideas, acting according to one's convictions and informing our leaders to help them make sensible decisions. It also means honoring our commitments to the animals whose voice can only be heard through ours, to those who trust us and to ourselves.

On my way back from Strasbourg, the sense of powerlessness and despondency I felt on March 5 in Boubandjida gave way to the conviction that through patience and hard work IFAW enables us to make a difference and that the sum of all our efforts and talents can help make the world a better place.

-- JL

[You and I, as well as all French citizens, have a week left to keep up the good work: let us speak to the French presidential candidates and ask them to take an uncompromising stance in favor of a complete ban on the ivory trade by clicking here:]

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime