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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

IAR’s team in Indonesia takes part in Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries Inaugural Asia Workshop, “Sustainability in a Changing World”

On the 27th to the 29th May a meeting of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) was held in Bogor, Indonesia. Members of IAR’s team in Indonesia joined representatives of 36 other rescue centres and NGOs from ten countries working on animal welfare and wildlife conservation in the region.

GFAS is a global accreditation body aimed at improving standards of animal welfare in all wildlife sanctuaries and rehabilitation centres around the world. This was the first such meeting held in SE Asia.

Kellie Heckman, Executive Director of GFAS, said “It is an important step to be in SE Asia to bring together leaders in the region providing care to wildlife that has been displaced from its native habitat. The meeting generated a dialogue among groups to bring about sustainable solutions in providing ongoing rehabilitation and high quality care for these animals.”

Claire Beastall of TRAFFIC provided some shocking facts about the illegal wildlife trade which globally is thought to amount to billions of dollars annually, and threatens countless species. Beastall emphasised that increasingly, the trade in wildlife is carried out through well-organised criminal networks.  “It’s certainly not small scale players either.”

And the situation is not getting better, it’s actually getting worse. Numbers of rhinos killed in South Africa have increased each year from just 13 in 2007 to 1,215 in 2014, (George Monbiot blog article in Guardian, May 22nd, “Attacks on the last elephants and rhinos threaten entire ecosystems”).  Indeed, part of the “problem” is that across Asia the economies have been booming and what used to be seen as luxury items affordable only to the super rich are now accessible to a far greater sector of society, so demand keeps going up and up, and will continue to do so unless governments take the issue more seriously and start enforcing laws and imposing much stronger penalties, as well as providing financial support for its wildlife centres.

The illegal wildlife trade results in many animals being confiscated from traders.  The lucky ones will be brought to specialist centres where they can receive medical treatment and rehabilitation.   For some animals, reintroduction into the wild may be a possibility provided that they are healthy, socially able, and appropriate places where suitable and safe habitat can be found for them. For many, however, due to trauma or injuries, reintroduction is not an option and such individuals will need lifelong care in captivity. These efforts take significant resources and create a serious welfare issue. For some species, this is also a significant conservation issue where large proportions of the global population are already in captivity, a situation which is true for orangutans.

Director of GFAS-accredited International Animal Rescue Karmele Llano Sanchez stated: "One of the drivers of the increase in illegal wildlife trafficking and in the numbers of rescued animals, is the ongoing rampant deforestation. Our focus is not only rescuing animals but also trying to protect them in their original habitat. This is a very challenging task and collaboration between groups is crucial in achieving our goal."

Discussions focused on the magnitude of trade of animals; strategies to provide optimum standards of care; effective outreach and communication to effect a change in attitudes and behaviour towards the consumption of wildlife products and strengthen enforcement of wildlife protection legislation; and ways to reach organisational and environmental sustainability. Presentations by reintroduction and rehabilitation practitioners who work with gibbons, orangutans, siamangs and other species such as bears were also included. 

Jackie Bennett, GFAS Director of Accreditation for Africa and Asia, stated: “The scale of the problems is significant, and sanctuaries and rescue centres around the world are severely challenged to cope with the increasing needs. One of our primary goals is to ensure that all are working to deliver high quality standards of care, addressing animal welfare needs and management, and have the resources needed to be sustainable in the long-term. This event allows us all to discuss the many challenges, share information, learn from each other and generate potential solutions.” 

The meeting was sponsored by The Arcus Foundation and an anonymous donor.

For more information and a list of participants visit: