Despite the unprecedented obstacles the COVID-19 pandemic has presented, the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s work never stopped. IFAW teams around the world adapted to a new way of working to best help animals and support our local communities as they overcame COVID-19 hardships. Through it all came incredible stories of triumph and perseverance.
IFAW’s Disaster Response team deployed to the hardest hit areas of New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria in January 2020 to help partners rescue and rehabilitate injured wildlife during the catastrophic bushfires. The team provided hands-on support to individuals caring for rescued koalas, wallabies, flying foxes, birds, and kangaroos. IFAW supplied partners with much-needed items like enclosures, medical supplies and fire gear. USC x IFAW’s koala detection dog, Bear, became a global sensation as he helped locate and rescue koalas injured by the bushfires.
Following the bushfires, IFAW commissioned a report highlighting the devastating impact of climate change and bushfires on koalas across New South Wales. The results were staggering – at least 6,382 koalas perished in New South Wales. Following the release of the report, IFAW nominated the koala to be listed as Endangered on an emergency basis in New South Wales. This followed a federal nomination for koalas to be up-listed in Queensland, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory.
Across the ocean, IFAW was part of a team of experts convened by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to perform a first-ever emergency medical treatment to a free-swimming right whale calf to help save its life after injury from a likely propeller strike. With only about 350 right whales left in the world, each individual matters for the species’ survival.
IFAW’s Beijing Raptor Rescue Centre had 28 raptors receiving specialised care for injuries when COVID-19 hit. Within a matter of days, the team’s protocols changed completely as they quickly adjusted to new shutdown orders and precautions. To minimise the risk of infection and practice social distancing, IFAW’s staff of four divided into two different teams, each working 7-day on and 7-day off shifts to ensure they didn’t cross paths.
This year was monumental in IFAW’s search to locate rescued elephant Nania’s native herd in Burkina Faso. Nania is on a specialised rehabilitation journey to prepare for life back in the wild, and most recently, dung samples collected from wild elephants travelling nearby are pushing the team one step closer to finding a DNA match to her exact family!
In Quintana Roo, Mexico, IFAW was involved in the first successful rescue, release, and rehabilitation of a jaguar. Struck by a car while trying to cross a highway, authorities transported the young jaguar to the Payo Obispo Zoo, where he embarked on a specialised rehabilitation plan with help from IFAW’s Dr. Erika Flores and Joaquin de la Torre Ponce. The team monitored his behavior for three months before deeming him fully recovered and ready to return to the wild. The day of his release was an incredible moment for everyone involved.
From the August explosion in Lebanon, to wildfires in California, to Hurricane Delta off Central America, and now an earthquake in Indonesia, IFAW continues to respond to disasters by deploying trained and properly equipped rescuers to help animals in distress.
Rebecca Keeble / IFAW Oceania Regional Director
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Nania enjoying a mud-bath with her sheep friend Whisty in the
background before her translocation. Photo: Melanie Mahoney / IFAW