Lessons Learned in 50 Years

Upon a foundation formed by 50 years of history and in-the-field experience across Oceania and throughout the globe, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has remained steadfast in its mission to ensure that both animals and people thrive together. From regions that are as diverse as the species that inhabit it, IFAW’s work throughout these five decades and for the future that lies before it, continues to embody the fundamental principle that individual animals matter. And it is this principle that plays out as the IFAW story in diverse landscapes day after day—in the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of individual animals, one by one into safe spaces.

Reaching this milestone anniversary has given us not only the gift of experience, but a lens through which to effectively reflect upon our key projects and priorities both domestically and abroad. Though Oceania is home to some of the most diverse wildlife on the planet, it is also home to some of wildlife’s greatest dangers, with one of the highest mammal extinction rates in the world. And though there is no one-size-fits-all solution in conservation and, sadly, no shortage of critical animal welfare and conservation issues to confront, there are still tremendous successes that inspire us each and every day.

From our disaster response efforts with NGO partners in the wake of the most ravaging bushfires on record across New South Wales and Queensland that have decimated koala populations and critical habitat, IFAW has helped successfully train dogs like Bear, a border collie/koolie mix and recent media sensation, to locate koalas and transport them to safe spaces. This comes in conjunction with existing efforts underway in our Northern Rivers project, an integrated solution to improve the long-term welfare and conservation of koalas by combining rescue, rehabilitation, community engagement, landscape conservation, and policy work.

Our priorities further extend to our Wildlife Rescue Australia initiative, training veterinarians and equipping local volunteers with innovative tools, including the pioneering ‘Wildlife Rescue’ app, that connects people to their nearest animal rescue group if they discover injured wildlife. This has helped form the foundation for other partnerships including with the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in Tasmania which resulted in the opening of a free wildlife hospital, the establishment of the New South Wales Wildlife Council to achieve better outcomes for native wildlife, and collaboration with the Australian Veterinary Association to conduct advanced

workshops to train veterinarians in the triage and treatment of wildlife harmed in bushfires. And within this diverse backdrop lies one of our seemingly most unlikely partnerships—the Melbourne institution of Leonard Joel. Assisting the auction house to phase out ivory sales over a two-year period as well as implementing a full ban on rhino horn, Leonard Joel, through the tireless commitment of its Managing Director John Albrecht, has driven critical momentum for change and become a vocal champion of the domestic ivory ban, influencing other auction houses both domestically and internationally to do the same.

IFAW’s work in Oceania reflects not only the critical needs of this incredibly biodiverse region, it also fundamentally reflects key IFAW priorities on a global scale. From various pillars that include landscape conservation, disaster response and risk reduction, animal rescue, and the fight against wildlife cybercrime, we are now rescuing more animals and securing more habitats than at any other point in our history.   

One of the fundamental lessons we have learned time and again over the past 50 years is that when people can take better care of themselves, they often take better care of the animals and habitats they share as well. And it is this understanding, coupled with our exhaustive work and collaboration with local communities and within diverse partnerships, that exemplifies the fact that our commitment to both people and animals thriving together will continue unwavering for generations to come.   

By Rebecca Keeble, Oceanic Regional Director, IFAW