You can view or download the full version of the Born Free Foundation Trustees' Report + Audited Group Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2009 here >
It gives me great pleasure once again to write the introduction to this Trustees’ Annual Report, which sets out for our supporters and the general public what our charity has achieved in the past twelve months, and our future plans.
It has been a very eventful year, with many important developments in terms of our charitable conservation work, the initiation of a fundamental review of our long-term strategy and some significant changes affecting our Board of Trustees. The section covering the charity’s Strategy and Plans on pages 5 to 7 highlights how we are delivering our charitable objects, and our Chief Executive comments in detail on our projects and key achievements on pages 8 to 15 and summarises our animal welfare, conservation and education work.
It is with considerable regret that I have to report a number of changes among our Trustees. We had enjoyed a very long period of stability on our Board until last year. Then in a short space of time, we have lost the services of three long-serving Trustees. Joanna Kennedy, who decided not to stand for re-election at our AGM, had been a Trustee since 2003, as had Sandi Toksvig, who resigned in September 2008.
Rupert Grey, who resigned in April 2009, was one of our first Trustees when the charity incorporated. All three have contributed greatly to the development of the charity. Then in May 2009, Elliot Morley MP, who became a Trustee in 2008, also resigned.
On a personal note, I should also report that I advised my fellow Trustees last year that I had decided that the time was not far off when I felt it would be right for me to stand down as Chair of Trustees, a position I have held since the charity was formed. I have asked them to consider the question of succession planning. However, I do hope that once I step down I shall be able to continue to act as a Trustee of the charity for some time to come.
We cover how these questions are being dealt with under the Governance section of the Report on pages 16 and 17. We completed the work involved with a substantial donation from Mrs Hanchett-Stamford of what had previously been the assets of the Performing and Captive Animal Defence League – see our 2008 Report for more details. We decided to retain the proceeds as part of our strategic reserve for the time being - see the Financial Review on pages 17 and 18. Turning to our charitable projects, there have been many highlights to report. The past year has been particularly active – although I feel that is true of every year! Some of our projects are on-going, but this does not mean they are less challenging than new ones.
A major project, the first phase of which is now coming to fruition, is the Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education Centre in Ethiopia. After three years of negotiation, Born Free was been formally given the land on which the Centre is to be created and I must express my personal gratitude to President Girma Woldegiorgis for his unfailing support in this matter. The project is many faceted. It includes wild animal rescue, capacity building within the Wildlife Authority (particularly vis-à-vis wildlife trade) and support for in-situ conservation, education and recreation. We very much hope to enhance wildlife protection and understanding within Ethiopia.
An already established Centre receiving our support is the Malawi People and Wildlife Centre. This was cemented in March 2009 when we rescued Bella, a one-eyed lioness, from a Romanian zoo and took her to a specially constructed enclosure at the Centre. This was followed by a Born Free ‘sanctuary workshop’ to which colleagues from other Born Free supported sanctuaries across Africa countries were invited. I greatly admire the dedication of all those working in this field.
The individual, as all Born Free supporters will know, is very important to me and to the Foundation, whether human or animal. One such individual is Ofir Drori, Founder of the Last Great Ape Organization in Cameroon, who courageously and almost single-handedly brings wildlife criminals to justice and rescues orphaned great apes from the illegal pet trade. We must always remember those who risk their lives to protect animals.
Other aspects of our current work include :
• Assisting the 23 individual African elephant range states which make up the African Elephant Coalition, with whom we work to oppose the ivory trade and support elephant conservation.
• Co-ordinating the 32 like-minded groups from 20 countries, which operate under the banner of ENDCAP (European network to END the keeping of wild animals in CAPtivity), which has had considerable success recently in its work with the British travel industry.
• Last November the leisure giant RIU Hotels and Resorts agreed to stop the use of wild animals as photographic props in their hotels and resorts, while TUI, Thomas Cooke, Virgin Holidays, Cosmos and Kuoni are committed to phasing-out this form of animal exploitation. Furthermore, Explore Worldwide, the largest independent UK tour operator, has developed an animal welfare policy in conjunction with Born Free and as a result of our recommendations, now stipulates to their ground agents that no excursion offered on any of their holidays should involve petting, feeding or direct contact with animals.
• In autumn 2008 British tour operators decided to exclude from their itineraries dolphinaria or marine parks that import wild-caught marine mammals. This is just a part of a growing movement on their part against the wild capture of any animals for ‘animal attractions’. It is a very important and ongoing area of our work and we are tremendously encouraged by the response of the travel industry.
• Lastly, Global Friends, a project that unites people and wildlife. Wild animals and the local communities which live along side them are linked, irrevocably, to the surrounding environment. Damage to that environment jeopardises people and wildlife. By assisting the communities (education, health facilities, equipment, etc.), we encourage understanding that conserving and respecting the environment they share with wildlife can bring real benefits. We have Global Friends schools in several African countries, and are starting to go further afield. Small steps make a huge difference.
Of course, none of our achievements would have been possible without our loyal and generous members and our many sponsors.
Finally, I would like to thank our staff and our excellent volunteers for their continuing hard work and dedication. Will Travers and his senior team – Alison Hood (Programmes Director), Anne Tudor (Marketing Director), Shirley Galligan (PR Director),
Stephen Chandler (Finance Manager) and Jo Wakefield (Office Manager) – provide first class leadership. We are exceptionally fortunate that we have so many long-service employees, and that our new recruits have blended in so well.
Their efforts mean that in these times of global economic uncertainty, the Born Free Foundation has been able to continue to deliver an outstanding service to the people and animals it serves.
For that I am immensely grateful.
Chair of Trustees
9th September 2009