Meet our 12-strong team of animal welfare experts working at CITES CoP 16 in Bangkok

IFAW's German Director Perry Sonntag saving #polarbears at #CITES. C. IFAW/A. HielA 12-strong team of International Fund for Animal Welfare wildlife and policy experts from around the world will be flying out to Bangkok, Thailand, this week to drive IFAW’s conservation and welfare efforts at this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP) of CITES meeting.  

Leading the delegation will be IFAW President and CEO, Azzedine Downes, who is responsible for IFAW’s strategic direction and day-to-day global operations. Azzedine, who has spent many years living and working internationally, knows the CITES landscape extremely well as he has served as head of delegation to the CITES Conference of Parties many times and led campaigns to reduce negative impacts of wildlife trade and protect the world’s most vulnerable species. 

One of Azzedine’s key aims during this year’s CITES is to bring together the CEOs of all the major NGOS involved in the conservation of African elephants in a bid to encourage more effective and better coordinated cooperation.

Our expert on the African Elephant Action Plan (AEAP) is Jason Bell who as well as being IFAW’s Regional Director for Southern Africa is also the Programme Director for Elephants. He has a wealth of practical experience protecting elephants, working closely with park rangers and supporting and training anti-poaching teams in elephant range states. He has been a regular attendee of CITES Conventions of the Parties with a particular focus on ending the ivory trade.

Dr Ralf (Perry) Sonntag will be leading IFAW’s efforts to achieve greater protection for several shark species, including the whitetip, porbeagle and three varieties of hammerheads. As well as heading up IFAW’s 15-strong team in Hamburg, Germany, Perry has for many years been involved in marine wildlife protection campaigns and has been a member of the scientific committees of the International Whaling Commission and the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas.

Coordinating the push to protect polar bears by including them in Appendix I of CITES will be our North America Regional Director, Jeffrey Flocken, and our Director for Russsia, Dr Masha Vorontsova. Jeffrey has previously testified before the US Congress regarding polar bear legislation and was one of the principle authors of the technical petition to the US Secretary of the Interior to list the African Lion under the Endangered Species Act.

Masha Vorontsova established IFAW’s office in the Russian Federation in 1994, and then initiated a campaign that led to a ban on the winter den hunt of hibernating bears.  She also works on a broad range of CITES issues and regularly provides advice to the Russian government on animal welfare and conservation issues.

Several other IFAW experts will be on hand to support our aims including: Peter Pueschel, Deputy Head of IFAW Delegation and Director of International Environmental Agreements; Kelvin Alie, Director, Wildlife Crime and Consumer Awareness; Paul Todd, Director, International Policy & Programme Planning;  Grace Ge Gabriel, Director, IFAW Asia;  Dr Elsayed Ahmed Ahmed Mohamed, Program Director, IFAW Middle East and North Africa;  Dr Hedia Baccar, IFAW Middle East and North Africa Advisor; and Vivek Menon, Executive Director, Wildlife Trust of India, IFAW’s partner organization in India.


Follow the IFAW team efforts at CITES CoP 16 from Bangkok on Storify.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Joseph Okori
Regional Director, Southern Africa and Program Director, Landscape Conservation
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy