In December, Humane Society International’s Africa Wildlife Program Manager Nicci Wright received a call about a pangolin, named Ivory, rescued from traffickers who were attempting to sell him. Pangolins, poached to meet a demand for their scales and meat in Asia, are a protected species and are considered the most trafficked mammals in the world. Fortunately, law enforcement officers retrieved Ivory in a sting operation and the pangolin found his way to HSI staff members who took him into their care.
Pangolins seized from traffickers are usually kept in captivity with no food or water for weeks, but luckily Ivory had no severe injuries. He did smell strongly of bleach—his captors had likely soaked him in a bucket of it to disguise his natural scent and avoid detection by sniffer dogs. Once Ivory’s condition had stabilized, he was released to a carefully selected conservancy area. A South African court sentenced the poacher to seven years in prison – the highest sentence ever obtained in that country for a pangolin poacher.
In another part of the world, the staff members of HSI/India were busy at work monitoring traffickers of another kind of ivory — elephant ivory. After months of chasing a lead, and with police assistance, four suspects were apprehended with two pieces of ivory and other protected materials. With a lead from the ivory case, HSI helped nab three more criminals who had poached a tiger and were trying to sell the animal’s skin. In just the past few weeks, our staff in India also conducted rescues of birds, including falcon chicks and owls, from traffickers and hunters.
These are just a few glimpses into the hands-on work our team members around the world have been doing in the last two months to save wildlife. Here are a few other recent wildlife victories:
- HSI Canada led a public outcry against a hunter who speared a bear and posted a video on YouTube, following which trophy hunting with spears was banned in Alberta. We have also been lobbying in Canada to end the cruel practice of shark finning, and from March the Canadian Government will require that sharks be landed with fins attached at Canadian ports.
- HSI Africa rescued, rehabilitated, and released back to the wild four pangolins confiscated from illegal trade.
- HSI U.K. exposed the sale of ‘fake faux fur’— real animal fur mislabeled as fake fur in British shops, markets, and online — in a series of high profile investigations with major media partners, which led to the announcement of a parliamentary Inquiry into the matter; also in the U.K., the Labour Party—the lead opposition party to the government—announced its support for a ban on the import of fur.
- HSI Vietnam, along with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, held two trainings for 150 wildlife enforcement officers on how to tackle wildlife crime using the country’s newly strengthened penal code.
- HSI India increased protection in the state of Assam for small birds, called bulbuls, who are used for fighting events. We also successfully ended sales of wildlife, including elephants, reptiles, and birds, at India’s Sonepur Fair, a thriving hub for the illegal wildlife trade.
- HSI’s global wildlife team helped achieve greater protection for polar bears, sea turtles, whales, and dolphins. We advocated for porpoises—hundreds of thousands of whom die cruel deaths each year due to bycatch—by helping to establish the first-ever Bycatch Mitigation Coordinator in the International Whaling Commission.
- Hong Kong agreed to a three-year phase-out of its domestic ivory trade, as well as import and export of ivory.
- Two of the largest pro-trophy-hunting membership organizations in the United States—Safari Club International and Dallas Safari Club—released statements and policies against canned lion hunting which will greatly reduce the number of American hunters who engage in this activity.
No creature is too big or small to protect from traffickers, poachers, and others who abuse animals. Our staff members are at work each day to to ensure not only that criminals do not get the upper hand in the race to protect endangered and threatened animals, but that animals in all kinds of jeopardy get the help and support that they need and deserve.