You can view or download the full version of the Born Free Foundation Trustees' Report + Audited Group Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2010 here >
It gives me great pleasure for the first time to introduce the Born Free Foundation’s Trustees’ Annual Report, which sets out for our supporters and the general public what our charity has achieved in the past twelve months, and some of our future plans.
I took up my role towards the end of the last financial year and will therefore confine myself to general matters, but have invited my immediate predecessor, Virginia McKenna, who my colleagues and I are delighted will be staying on as a Trustee for the time being, to add her comments.
It has been a very eventful year, with many important developments in terms of our charitable work, completion of a major 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 and his team comment in detail on our projects and key achievements on pages 8 to 20 and summarise our animal welfare, conservation and education work.
During the year we were very fortunate to recruit three new Trustees (in addition to myself). I should like to welcome Michael Drake, Peter Ellis and David Wynne-Morgan. This gets us to the size of Board we feel is appropriate for a charity of our complexity. On a sadder note, we accepted the retirement of Ronnie Wilkie who had served since 1999 and made an outstanding contribution.
I should like to pay tribute to Virginia’s work for the charity over the 26 years since its formation and especially for her long service as Chair of Trustees until earlier this year. She has led us through some exceptional challenging times, from the early days when our mission was little more than gleam in her eye to our current position of considerable international influence.
Although she is far too modest to admit it, she bequeaths to her successors an organisation with an outstanding portfolio of charitable projects, in good financial health, well-governed and with a top class executive team.
Virginia McKenna OBE, who stood down as Chair of Trustees in February 2010, writes:
It was with some sadness that I stepped down as Chair of Trustees because for the past 26 years Born Free has been my life. However, I felt it was time to hand over the baton and I am happy to be able to remain on the Trustee Board for a while longer. I believe we have chosen wisely in my successor, Michael Reyner, and am confident that the future management of our affairs is in very safe and sympathetic hands.
I would like to express my personal thanks to Ronnie Wilkie, retiring from our Board after eleven years. His wise counseling has been invaluable and I am delighted he will remain Chair of the Born Free USA Board.
Also, I am extremely grateful to Brian Bergin, Secretary to the Trustees, whose unfailing guidance and expertise has been a huge support to me.
Turning to our charitable projects, there have been many highlights to report on this year. 2009 was the 25th anniversary of the Born Free Foundation (founded as Zoo Check in 1984). From small beginnings we have grown into an organization that, I believe, has opened many eyes to the issues of captive wild animal exploitation, conservation and protection of habitat, wildlife trade and ‘sport hunting’. Yes, zoos and circuses still exist but I hope people visit them with a more critical eye and with increased understanding of what they are looking at.
After many many months we have finally begun work on the biggest project we have ever undertaken. Ethiopia will be host to a wildlife rescue and education centre and veterinary clinic and, already, there is a queue of animals awaiting their new home. Ethiopian President Girma Wolde Giorgis has been an unflinching supporter of this initiative from the start, and joined our CEO Will Travers and the Born Free team at the inaugural launch in early 2010.
As always the issue of captivity has been high on our agenda. The end to ‘wild animals in circuses’ is a commitment made by the Labour Party. The Liberal Democrats hold the same view, but the Coalition perspective may be less certain. We will continue to strive for the ban.
Our developing relationship with the travel industry is proving exciting and most encouraging. Animal ‘attractions’ for holiday makers often involve those animals leading deprived and unhappy lives. Some of the most progressive, leading tour operators are already removing certain venues from their itineraries.
And then – the wild itself. The drastic reduction of lion numbers in Africa has shocked many people. In Kenya there are as few as 2,000. Something has to be done. In September 2009 we joined with the Kenya Wildlife Service to launch ‘Pride of Kenya’ – and in November, 50 life-size decorated lions were auctioned to raise funds for lion conservation. Work has already started and the ongoing construction of lion-proof bomas is receiving strong support from the local communities.
On a personal level I had two unforgettable journeys. One to Malawi accompanying Bella, the one-eyed lioness, to her new home at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre - far from her bleak compound in a Romanian Zoo. We never forget the individual.
The second, accompanying the 25th Anniversary Safari to Kenya in October 2009. Old and new friends shared this memorable trip ending, as always, at Elsa’s Kopje in Meru; the birthplace of the Born Free story. A story to which we have been privileged to add new and unexpected chapters, and I hope will continue to do so for many years to come.
My gratitude, as always, to our Born Free team; here in the UK, in Nairobi, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and in the USA. And, of course, to our loyal volunteers.
Finally I wish to pay a personal tribute to our supporters and donors, whose continuing generosity allows us to help the animals who have no voice and are at our mercy.
Echoing Virginia’s words I can, of course, confirm that none of our achievements would have been possible without our loyal and generous members, adopters and donors, 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 (Campaigns Director), Anne Tudor (Marketing Director), Shirley Galligan (PR Director), Simon Allen (Operations Director), Stephen Chandler (Finance Manager) and Jo Wakefield (Office Operations Manager) – provide first class leadership. But we are exceptionally fortunate that we have so many long-service employees, and that our new recruits have blended in so well. I feel confident that their experience and enthusiasm will stand Born Free in good stead in the years to come.
Chair of Trustees
14th September 2010