As 2023 ends and a new year begins, let's take a moment to reflect on a year filled with accomplishments, challenges and significant strides in our ongoing mission to protect wild animals around the globe.
By Michèle Hamers, Wildlife Campaign Manager
Every day, millions of wild animals endure the harsh reality of being treated as mere commodities, subjected to ruthless exploitation and confined to lives of immense suffering – bears are kept in tiny cages and have their bile painfully extracted, elephants and dolphins are forced to do tricks for tourists, and birds, reptiles, and amphibians are stolen from their wild homes for the exotic pet trade.
Our mission is to stop this cruel exploitation by changing the systems that allow this. In our pursuit of this vision, together, we have achieved significant milestones for wild animals over the past year. Here are just a few of them:
Championing wildlife-friendly tourism
In 2023, we shed light on companies exploiting animals in the travel industry though our ‘Tracking the travel industry’ report. As a result of this report, Klook, one of the leading online travel companies, has launched an animal welfare policy to end the sale of circus-style performances involving elephants, dolphins and tigers! To help further our reach, we collaborated with influencers to educate and promote wildlife-friendly tourism practices.
Our call to end elephant rides at Amer Fort garnered over 100,000 petition signatures which were delivered to the Government of Rajasthan in August. Despite this immense support, there has yet to be a commitment to stop exploiting these elephants, but we will persist in pressuring the Government for a definitive ban on elephant rides.
Elephants are exploited for rides up the steep slope to Amer Fort.
The battle against the multi-billion-dollar global wild animal trade continued with groundbreaking research by our very own Michèle Hamers, analyzing Canada’s wildlife imports and potential disease risks, published in FACETS. This is the first study of its kind on the implications of Canada’s wildlife trade and draws attention to shocking discrepancies and gaps in data collection and the lack of oversight of this destructive trade.
We actively participated in the Federal Government’s consultation on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) draft Pandemic Instrument. We attended breakout groups with Canadian One Health experts, including Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dr. Lorna Saxinger, and submitted recommendations on critical role animal welfare plays for preventing the next pandemic and the importance of including key animal-related pandemic drivers in the document.
World Animal Protection was the only animal welfare organization and one of the few witnesses invited to testify at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health which was studying Bill C-293, the Pandemic Prevention and Preparedness Act (PPPA). The bill was passed back to the House of Commons for Third Reading debate. We will keep a close eye on the proceedings and will continue to work to get it passed.
Continued our work for bears
In 2023, we rescued bears like Na, who spent 20-years suffering in a tiny cage, and Daria and her three cubs after they were found in poor condition scavenging for food. We continued our support for bear sanctuaries including Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Romania and Balkasar Sanctuary in Pakistan – places where rescued bears can live their lives out in peace.
Daria and her cubs at Libearty Sanctuary (Photo: AMP)
We urged government for the release of bears like Baloo who is suffering behind bars for the entertainment of tourists.
Fighting for the closure of roadside zoos and an end to wildlife entertainment in Canada
Throughout 2023, we continued our fight for the closure of degrading roadside zoos across Ontario.
Throughout 2023, we urged the Federal government to put an end to the inhumane practice of wildlife entertainment in Canada by passing Bill S-241 the Jane Goodall Act. Since there is a high risk this bill will not pass, the Canadian Government introduced a new bill in the Senate to end the captivity of elephants and great apes for entertainment, Bill S-15. While we welcome the government's intervention, we continue to urge them to take inspiration from Bill S-241 and make their bill stronger and more ambitious for protecting captive wildlife.
Notable rescues in 2023
Animals like Mundi the elephant, rescued from a small zoo enclosure, and Xamã,Cecilia and Darlan, all saved from the Brazil wildfires, stand as testaments to your support in changing the lives of animals in 2023.
Xamã before his release (Photo: World Animal Protection / Noelly Castro).
As we embark on 2024, your continued support is crucial. Join our community to stay informed and play a vital role in protecting animals globally.