The IFAW is a global non-profit company helping animals and people thrive together. IFAW provides experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans, and in more than 40 countries around the world. They rescue, rehabilitate, and release animals, and they restore and protect their natural habitats. The problems IFAW is up against are urgent and complicated. To solve them, IFAW matches fresh thinking with bold action. They partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organisations, and businesses. Together, they pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish.
Today, whales face numerous threats. Ocean noise pollution from activities like offshore drilling, ship traffic, and sonar for fishing or military purposes creates a maze of sound that disorients whales. Overwhelmed by such sounds, whales struggle to communicate with one another, hunt, and locate mates. Ocean noise causes immense physical stress for whales and in some cases, leads to death. Commercial whaling, ship strikes, plastic pollution, environmental changes due to climate change, and entanglement in fishing gear continue to threaten the well-being of whales around the world.
IFAW works to protect whales all around the world. One of their largest missions is to raise awareness of ocean noise pollution and support policy that lessens this deadly threat.
Whales play an important role in regulating ocean ecosystems. When whales dive deep in the ocean, they stir up nutrients from the depths below. This action promotes better nutrient circulation, and supports phytoplankton at the surface of the water – a major food source for many fish and crustaceans. Whales also produce huge amounts of nutrient-rich feces that plants and phytoplankton use to grow, which in turn absorb carbon dioxide from the Earth’s atmosphere and contribute to around 50% of the world’s oxygen!
Historically, exploitation has been one of the world’s largest threats to seals. In the US, seals were not fully protected federally until 1972, and seal populations were depleted by practices such as bounties. Canada’s commercial seal hunt has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of seals.
Entanglement in fishing gear is another major threat to seals. Unable to swim, hunt, and move freely, entangled seals suffer great pain and often die. Habitat loss due to climate change and coastal development is an increasingly growing threat to seals around the world.
IFAW was founded on the mission of ending the commercial seal hunt in Canada. They travelled to the ice to observe and document the annual slaughter, bringing international media, politicians, and veterinary experts with them to observe the cruelty first-hand. Since then, their work has helped bring about monumental changes like the 2009 EU ban on seal products. IFAW continues to urge the Government of Canada to adopt sustainable alternatives to the commercial seal hunt – ones that can support the economy and local communities while protecting seals.
As one of the keystone species in marine ecosystems, seals help maintain a balance in the food web. Seals consume fish, squid, and crustaceans. Seals are also important food sources for larger predators like orcas, polar bears, and sharks. Through their movements, seals also help to cycle nutrients through the water column, and transfer them from sea to shore.
Poaching for ivory is the largest threat against elephants. Scientists estimate that 20,000 African elephants are killed every year. At this rate, the African elephant is at risk of becoming endangered. Poaching is not the only danger African elephants face. Loss of habitat, human-wildlife conflict, and climate change are also threatening their survival.
IFAW has created a network of rangers, community members, and professionals around the world to stop poaching at every stage and protect elephants. In Kenya, they connect national park rangers, local Maasai community members, and law enforcement officers to create a better system for detecting wildlife crime. Through the sharing of information and use of high-tech data collection, their teams are able to detect crime before it happens and prevent poaching events.
Elephants are keystone species that play critical roles in their environment. During dry seasons, elephants use their tusks and feet to dig deep holes in riverbeds to access water. In the process, they create mini watering holes that many other animals like zebra, giraffe, and baboons use as well. The sheer size and force of elephants means they often trample vegetation and overgrown brush as they migrate across landscapes. This clearing promotes plant biodiversity by allowing sunlight to reach smaller, lower plants that would typically not be able to grow, thus allowing for other animals to thrive.
Habitat loss is one of the greatest threats to koalas. Land clearing, deforestation, and urbanization are destroying vital eucalyptus tree forests that provide koalas with homes and food. As a result, koalas become vulnerable to predation by dogs and vehicle strikes, with growing evidence showing that increased stress from these factors is impacting their long-term health and wellbeing and ultimately leads to disease. In recent years, the effect of climate change, including unprecedented droughts and bushfires, has driven some local koala populations in New South Wales to near extinction.
IFAW works with partners, community members, and government officials to build a secure future for koalas in Australia. When bushfires strike, their team deploys to areas in need to rescue impacted wildlife. Trained by the University of the Sunshine Coast’s (USC) Detection Dogs for Conservation team, their USC x IFAW koala detection dog – Bear – is able to locate live koalas through the scent of their fur. He is an integral part of their rescue team and found more than 100 injured koalas during the devastating 2019/2020 bushfire season. IFAW and USC are currently conducting vital research into the impact of fires on koalas to assess their health and resilience and to help at-risk populations survive into the future.
Koalas are important to the Australian environment and the ecosystem because their scat deposits feed the forest floor that help the woodlands grow and regenerate, leading to an increase in biodiversity. Droppings are also known to be a source of food for small mammals and insects. Their fur is also highly insulating and has been known to be used by birds for their nests. Koalas are beloved in Australia and around the world. They are an ambassador species for other native wildlife as they help people learn about the issues impacting animals and their homes. By protecting koalas and their habitat, the habitat of hundreds of other plants and animals is also protected.
In the wild, tigers are at a tipping point. Habitat loss, wildlife trade, urban development, poaching and persecution as a result of human-wildlife conflict threaten their survival.
IFAW works closely with partners, governments, and local communities to secure a better future for tigers. In India, IFAW work with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) in collaboration with Assam Forest Department to help protect tigers living in Kaziranga National Park. Annual floods displace animals, regularly causing tigers in the park to seek out higher ground for safety – often near or within neighboring communities. IFAW's teams rescue tigers in need and provide them with lifesaving veterinary care.
As apex predators, tigers play an important role in maintaining a balanced food web in their ecosystems. In the absence of their natural predators, prey species populations can explode, leading to overconsumption of vegetation, damaging habitats or prey species expanding into human settlements. And if prey populations become so large that they exceed the capacity of their habitat to provide enough food, starvation and illness can result.
Poaching and illegal trade is causing pangolin populations to plummet across the world. In some forms of traditional medicine, pangolin scales are thought to be a cure for a variety of illnesses. This belief, along with the desire to eat pangolin meat as a delicacy, has put a deadly target on the pangolin.
IFAW works with governments, scientists, and other conservation groups to save the pangolin and end this poaching crisis. In 2016, IFAW led a group of conservation experts to bring attention to the international need for greater pangolin protections. As a result of their joint effort between multiple NGOs and governments, CITES listed all eight species of pangolins from Appendix II to Appendix I, prohibiting international trade of pangolins and their body parts for commercial purposes.
Covered in an armor of scales and sporting a tongue that reaches over 40 cm long, the pangolin is one of the most unusual-looking mammals in the animal kingdom. It carries its young on its back, and when threatened, rolls up into a ball to protect itself from predators. The pangolin plays a critical role in its environment by acting as a natural pest control. Scientists have recorded that pangolins consume 70 million insects every year! They also contribute to a healthier ecosystem by aerating the soil and spreading nutrients from one place to another when they use their long claws to dig for insects. Many people are surprised to learn that the pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world. According to TRAFFIC, 20 tonnes of pangolins and pangolin parts were trafficked internationally every year from 2010-2015.