Fifty years ago, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), was founded after a group of concerned individuals first witnessed newborn seal pups being slaughtered on the ice floes off Canada’s East Coast. At that moment, IFAW took on one problem that threatened one species in one part of the world. With the European ban on whitecoat harp seal product in 1983, its efforts saved more than one million seal pups.

After that historic victory, IFAW has taken on more problems threatening more species in over 40 countries across the globe. And the impact of the organization has grown as well. With its work expanding to include new species, new regions and new strategies, IFAW is now rescuing more animals and securing more habitats than at any other point in its history, with a global team that includes experts in the fields of biology, ecology, cybercrime, forensic science, forestry, oceanography, and zoology. It also includes activists and negotiators. Rescue workers and consensus-builders.

Simply put — Individual animals matter. This is the firm bedrock of IFAW’S philosophy. As the challenges that these individual animals and their habitats face have grown larger and more complex, so has IFAW’s approach. And it is this approach that has resulted in a partnership with the Melbourne institution of Leonard Joel. This seemingly unlikely partnership has already driven critical momentum for change. This change includes assisting the auction house to phase out ivory sales over a two-year period as well as implementing a full ban on rhino horn, a policy that came into full effect at the beginning of this year. As the auction house celebrates its centenary anniversary this year, Leonard Joel has become a vocal champion of the domestic ivory ban and has openly used its reputable platform to influence other auction houses in Australia and internationally, to adopt similar bans.  The unrivaled commitment to this issue by Leonard Joel’s Managing Director John Albrecht and his entire team has been instrumental to ensuring change that is so needed.

On this 50th anniversary for IFAW, we pledge to continue our work to achieve a world where animals and people are thriving together. We know however that we cannot do this alone. To help us achieve our goals for wildlife, we believe in the collective movement and in working with partners like Leonard Joel, governments, local communities, and other NGOs – in essence, each and every human being that has an interest in the sustainability of this planet we inhabit.

Throughout this next half-century, we will continue to get even more creative as an organization -– whether it’s who we partner with, where we work or what solutions we drive. Because the future ultimately depends on what we do now. Many across the globe are concerned because of the changes they see all around them – animals and habitats that disappear, natural disasters growing more extreme, and relentless crimes against nature. Some say it’s even too late. But at IFAW, we have 50 years’ worth of reasons to believe otherwise.

And thus by rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing animals, one by one – by protection their habitats and helping them flourish – we can save other species. And ultimately our own.

AZZEDINE DOWNES / President and CEO, International Fund for Animal Welfare