IFAW: global misssion of animal welfare Aug 15, 2004 5:15:26 GMT -5
Post by Ace on Aug 15, 2004 5:15:26 GMT -5
Boston Globe: In Hyannis, a quiet force Group pursues global misssion of animal welfare
By Sean P. Murphy, Globe Staff | August 15, 2004
HYANNIS -- Tucked in a nondescript industrial park in Hyannis is one of Cape Cod's least known yet largest private employers: the world headquarters of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which takes on the club-wielding seal hunters in Canada, the whale hunters of Norway, Iceland, and Japan, and traders in the burgeoning black markets for exotic animals all over the world.
Here, the ordinary business hum on a weekday morning is idealism in action, with 130 scientists, administrators, and specialists devoted to the task of protecting endangered species.
With Ireland-born actor Pierce Brosnan as its public face and with its $60 million-a-year fund-raising base in Britain and the Netherlands, the fund could be situated anywhere, said John C. Klimm, Barnstable's town manager.
But Klimm wants the fund to stay in Hyannis, one of the villages that make up Barnstable. Klimm is negotiating with the fund to move into a new office that would serve as a showcase to revitalize Main Street.
''We're in intense negotiations right now for a new IFAW headquarters downtown," Klimm said. ''We're very excited about it."
The group's founder, Brian Davies, moved the fund to Cape Cod in 1979, after the mutual antagonism between his group and the seal hunters he was trying to put out of business drove him out of Fredericton, New Brunswick.
''So he drove down here with his wife and looked at several towns, and because he liked coastal areas, and couldn't stand big cities, he picked this," said Frederick M. O'Regan, a former high-ranking Peace Corps official who is now the organization's president and chief executive officer.
At the time, the fund had a staff of seven. Its main mission was to try to stop fur hunters from clubbing to death thousands of baby seals each year on the ice floes of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
By the time O'Regan took over for Davies in 1997, the organization had grown to 70 employees on Cape Cod. It was one of a handful of major groups that publicized the plight of whales, a movement that made the expression ''save the whales" shorthand for environmental consciousness.
Klimm said the fund's headquarters is still one of the Cape's best-kept secrets. He said it contributes to the local economy with its $3.2 million annual payroll and its ''bright, career-oriented people with disposable income."
Other Cape residents are less robust in their assessment.
Stephen Buckland, 42, a landscaper contractor from Sandwich, acknowledged a tension between environmentalists and developers like himself, whose livelihood comes from building more homes on the Cape.
It is a tension reflected by the bumper sticker on Buckland's pickup truck, which reads: ''Piping Plovers Taste Like Chicken." The endangered bird nests on the Cape's most popular beaches, forcing National Seashore authorities to close large swaths of shoreline each July.
O'Regan said his group's activism should not be seen as fanaticism.
''We're not looking to take on local duck hunters on the Cape," he said. ''We're not a bunch of animal-rights lunatics here. We promote a value here: stewardship, not exploitation of animals. We're not going to try to stop 'the hunt' of lobsters."
The fund has several projects aimed at helping local businessmen.
It works with local lobstermen to pay the cost of replacing traditional rope, which floats up from the seafloor and can ensnare passing whales, with a specially devised sinking variety that whales more easily avoid.
The fund is also working with Cornell University to develop an acoustic buoy, which would detect whales in busy shipping channels by the sounds they make.
Ships in the area could then be directed away from the whales, preventing collisions that sometimes result in lethal injuries to the giant sea mammals.
Scientists consider ship collisions a leading cause of whale deaths, according to Erin M. Heskett, the fund's senior program officer for marine mammals. He said collisions result in one to three whale fatalities each year.
One of the fund's signature programs is worldwide emergency response.
Within hours of a major oil spill virtually anywhere in the world, the group can send its employees to the site to help wash, rinse, and return to nature wildlife caught in the spill.
Worldwide, the group has a total of 300 employees in 15 offices on four continents. The fund tracks sales of tigers, snakes, and exotic birds -- an illegal trade worth between $6 billion and $10 billion annually.
''For the level of their significance internationally," Klimm said, ''it's surprising how few people on Cape Cod know them."