Ignore the Past; Doom the Rhino

November 20th, 2014

Guest blog from Adam Roberts, CEO Born Free USA

“I can’t believe that this is still up for discussion.

We all know that the rhinoceros is in peril, facing the looming threat of extinction due to aggressive and violent poaching for their horns. 25,000 black and white rhinos remain across all of Africa. Experts warn that wild rhinos could go extinct in just 12 short years. With rhino horn worth more by weight than gold or cocaine at the end markets in Vietnam and China, poachers are poised to send rhino populations into a freefall from which they may not recover.

So, for years, governments and conservationists alike have wondered: How can we eliminate poaching to save the rhino?

South Africa is home to almost three quarters (72.5%) of the world’s rhinos, more than 1,000 of whom are being slaughtered annually by poachers. In a desperate and highly dangerous attempt to combat poaching, the South African government continues to make noise about proposals to legalize the trade of rhino horn. South Africa could petition to auction off its stockpile of rhino horn in a one-off sale, authorize its commercial trade, or regulate the trade internationally through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) (when the Parties to CITES meets in 2016… in South Africa).

Trade proponents blithely contend that a legal horn trade would replace existing illegal black markets with legal regulated markets. Legalization is intended to saturate the marketplace, thereby dropping the price of rhino horn, and, in theory, reducing the incentive to poach. But, this is simply not the way it works in the real (natural) world.

Why? Two reasons: money and access.

From a financial standpoint, poaching a rhino in the wild is cheap compared to the cost of running a rhino “farm.” Criminal networks would likely undercut the price of farmed rhino horn, or even poach cheaply in other countries—and poaching would likely remain more profitable for would-be poachers than legal trade could ever be. The profit from killing even a single rhino can change the life of an impoverished poacher. If there’s money to be made, poaching will continue. And, there are professional criminal syndicates poised to make a killing.

From a historical standpoint, we have already found, quite simply, that the legal farming of wild animals does not deter poaching. Governments have attempted the strategy of allowing legal sale of endangered animal products—with disastrous results. China has legalized the sale of tiger skin and tiger bones from captive facilities, but poachers continue to kill wild tigers to the edge of extinction. China “farms” bears for their gallbladders and bile, leading to individual animal suffering for Asiatic black bears and poaching of wild American black bears to supply demand. CITES has allowed two legal sales of stockpiled elephant ivory from four southern African nations to China and Japan, but these sales only increased demand from China and Southeast Asia—spiking the incidence of illegal elephant poaching to its highest known levels, and threatening the very survival of the species.

Philosopher George Santayana famously wrote that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Legalizing the trade in wild animal parts has not quelled poaching in the past. It will not reduce poaching now. And, if history has taught us anything, we have no reason to believe that it will protect wildlife in the future.

And, how would we expect this new, legal trade to be enforced? Authorities barely enforce the existing bans and legislation, and corruption within authorities is often rife. How would authorities differentiate legally-obtained rhino horns from those obtained illegally? Current technology is incapable of easily identifying the origin of each horn. That leaves us with a glaring gap that criminal networks can exploit in order launder illegal product into the legal market.

A major consideration in the discussion of rhino horn trade—indeed, the singular driving force in the trade itself—is demand. Legal trade stimulates demand by legitimizing the product in the eyes of consumers, and by pumping more product into the marketplace. The increasing demand from East Asia (namely China, Vietnam, and Thailand) stems from long-standing cultural beliefs about the medicinal and social benefits of rhino horn, but also includes new uses like supposed cancer-curing properties, use as a hangover remedy, and as a symbol of status and wealth. (All medicinal uses are pointless, of course, as rhino horn is merely composed of keratin: the same substance that comprises human hair and fingernails.) If we can educate Eastern cultures about reducing consumption of rhino horn, we may be able to save the rhino. In fact, the survival of the species may depend on it. But, by legalizing, and therefore legitimizing, rhino horn, we will simply be reinforcing the beliefs that maintain the demand.

We’ve seen that demand reduction can work. Severe poaching spikes from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s sparked international outrage, which led to government response, awareness campaigns, and trade bans in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Yemen—all of which successfully reduced demand, and, therefore, reduced rhino poaching.

So, legalizing the trade in rhino horn could send mixed messages to Eastern cultures and to the public as a whole. In one breath, we implore an end to this vicious trade: reduce demand, stigmatize consumption of the product, educate those who tout its benefits, and conserve the species. However, in the next breath, we work to legalize it: increase supply, mitigate the stigma, undermine the message we send to Asian nations about the uselessness of the product, and willfully consent to government-sanctioned consumption of the species. These concepts are utterly dichotomous. They’re completely opposite, mutually exclusive goals. Calling for demand reduction… while simultaneously increasing the supply? What a confusing, hypocritical message. And, it’s the rhinos who will ultimately suffer the consequences.

Of course, this is a complex issue for which there is no simple solution. We have established that legalizing trade in animal parts is an ineffective means to stop poaching; anti-poaching legislation and trade bans have not ended poaching, either; and, though we know that we must work tirelessly to reduce demand, the task of reframing thousands of years of Asian tradition, and overturning more modern uses of rhino horn, is easier said than done.

But, one thing is for certain. We must move forward, not backward. We mustn’t ignore what we do know. We must use our data to continue to develop strategies that prioritize the protection of existing rhinos; allow their populations to flourish into the next generations; and maintain the ecological utility and integrity of these wild animals by focusing on policies that keep them in the wild.

That is, after all, where wild animals belong.

Keep Wildlife in the Wild,


Will Travers | No Comments »

Keep Elephants – and Ivory – Safe

November 19th, 2014

Guest Blog from Born Free USA CEO Adam Roberts

“A year ago, I proudly attended the U.S. ivory crush in Colorado: a coordinated demolition of nearly six tons of seized elephant ivory, symbolizing the U.S.’s intolerance for elephant poaching and sending a message to the world that ivory should be permanently removed from any possible commercial use. The ivory crush was an emotional event, evoking sadness for the massacred elephants; frustration with the continuing scourge of violent poaching; and encouragement that our nation is taking concerted action and leadership.

There was much debate surrounding the ivory “crush”: a debate that was echoed in similar destructions in Africa and Asia and Europe, as some felt that the ivory should not be destroyed. They argued that it was pointless; that it was already confiscated; and, in some arenas, that seized, stockpiled ivory should be sold to generate revenue for wildlife conservation efforts.

Today, only one year later, I read a report indicating that over a ton of seized elephant ivory—worth approximately 1.1 million U.S. dollars—has just been stolen from a ‘secure’ government armory in Uganda. Corrupt officials are thought to be the culprits, stealing the confiscated ivory from the Uganda Wildlife Authority and selling the tusks. An investigation is underway to determine the details.

But, regardless of the outcome of the investigation, the damage has been done. This incident demonstrates that stockpiles of ivory are vulnerable to theft; this theft demonstrates that officials who oversee quantities of ivory cannot necessarily be trusted; and this breach of trust demonstrates that confiscated ivory cannot be safely held in stockpiles indefinitely. All this in addition to the simple fact that, as long as stockpiled ivory remains available, there also remains the perception that ivory may once again be sold. This inspires elephant poachers and ivory profiteers to ply their deadly and destructive trade.

Ivory is worth an astounding amount of money: more by weight than gold or cocaine. Where you and I see a regrettable hoard of slaughtered elephants’ body parts, the ivory trafficker sees dollar signs.

Let me make this clear; ivory stockpiles should be destroyed. Remove the ivory, and remove the risk of its re-entrance into the marketplace entirely. Keep the ivory, and keep alive the threat of theft and resale that fuels the vicious ivory trade.

Keep Wildlife in the Wild,


Will Travers | No Comments »

Brown’s Performance Fails to Impress

October 23rd, 2014

As the Catalan Parliament considers a ban on wild animals in circuses, British animal trainer Rona Brown gives evidence. You can watch her testimony here:



Born Free’s President, Will Travers OBE, offers his verdict on Ms. Brown’s performance:

Ms. Brown’s experience with circus animals is clearly not the same as my parents Bill and Virginia were exposed to while making the film Born Free. The two CIRCUS lions that the production company had brought in to star in Born Free had only one idea in mind: to cause trouble and worse. After they nearly ‘got’ my Dad they were withdrawn from the film.

For Ms Brown to try and justify the continued use of wild animals in circuses on the basis that films using animals would not have been made is patently ridiculous.

She refers to Gorillas in the Mist – a film made more than 20 years ago. Things have changed. The latest Planet of the Apes films do not use wild animals, nor does the new SSE TV advert “featuring” an orangutan. They are all CGI. Life of Pi did have one small sequence with a live tiger but the rest was CGI.

My friend and colleague Ian Redmond OBE, Chairman of the Ape Alliance and former research assistant to Dr Dian Fossey, has this to say about Ms. Brown’s claim that Gorillas in the Mist could not have been made without circus animals:

“A circus chimp was used in filming one small part of Gorillas in the Mist, but it is wrong to say the film could not have been made without it. Furthermore, if Dian Fossey had still been alive she would never have allowed it and would have insisted on using CGI or animatronics”.
She suggests that animals in zoos are being treated more and more like animals in the circus. What nonsense. I am not aware of any serious zoo that puts its big cats through rings of fire, has a trainer in spandex in the enclosure, ‘complements’ the experience with flashing lights and loud music.

Regarding the impossibility of people all going to Africa: that is true. Any more than everyone can go to the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramids. We cannot do everything but does that mean it is OK for us to bring such wild animals into close (unnatural) proximity with the UK urban population  for the transient ‘entertainment’ of the circus experience with all its distorted values? Absolutely not.

She claims that going to a circus gives kids the chance to smell the animal, see it up close, benefit from a conservation message and the provision of information that tells them all about each animal – where it comes from, how old it is and more. That is supposed to justify the use of wild animals in a circus. I can’t even see the straw she is clutching at!

Circuses deliver “benefits to conservation”? I cannot find the words necessary to debunk such a ridiculous assertion. I find it hard to imagine one serious conservation professional aligning themselves with the so-called conservation credentials of a circus.


Will Travers | 1 Comment »

An Antiquated Practice

October 21st, 2014

So I guess there are millions of people who have one or more pieces of ivory in their house.  Items that may have been handed down through the generations, picked up at boot sales, be part of a collection – who knows.  The question is what to do with them and what to do with antique ivory that has been acquired pre-1947 (the cut-off date whereby ivory is recognised as being antique in the UK)

On the BBC’s Antique Roadshow on 19th October, I debated this with Marjorie Trusted of the V&A Museum and Antique Roadshow’s host, Fiona Bruce.  Marjorie Trusted was concerned about the very notion of destroying antique ivory.  I, on the other hand, am more concerned about perpetuating the monetary value attached to ivory.  On the same show, one of the experts on the team valued an ivory goblet depicting Black Forest scenes with deer and grapes, at around £10,000 or more.  That in itself, in my view, exemplified the problem and the incentive to collect, to trade ivory and the antiques of tomorrow are the potential carvings of today.  So my position is very clear: if an expert from the Museum and antiquity world can verify that a particular item has overwhelming artistic and historical merit such that it represents part of a past culture, then as long as that item is held on behalf of the public in a museum or other facility and is not traded or sold (it can, of course, be moved from museum to museum by way of a loan) then I accept that we cannot airbrush out history but what I cannot agree to is that all carved ivory items are of some real value and that there should be a commercial trade in them.

The world is awash with junk ivory carvings!  Elephants are being eradicated from their remaining strongholds at the rate of between 30,000 – 50,000 a year.  The ivory trade will lead to the extinction of elephants across most of their existing range within a matter of a few years and we must take bold, decisive actions now to prevent that happening.

  1. We must provide, – we, the wealthy affluent West who have largely eradicated most of our large mega-vertebrates –  the resources to support the African Elephant Action Plan, a blue-print for elephant conservation, drawn-up and agreed to by all 36 African elephant range States – the countries where Africa’s elephants still live.

    For £100 million (compare that to the estimated £50 billion cost estimate of the High-Speed 2 rail link between London and Birmingham which will shave 20 minutes off the journey time) we can make a difference in the field where it counts.

  2. We don’t need to suppress demand, we need to eliminate demand and the single most effective measure I can think of is for the Chinese Premier to sign into law measures to close the current legal domestic ivory markets in China and  dramatically hasten the end all trade in ivory.

  3. We have to accept our own responsibilities in this matter and end all sales of ivory internally in our own countries – no more car boot sales with ivory; no more ivory on the internet; and no more so-called antiques.  Only items of genuine historical or antique merit may be retained for public education purposes in non-commercial facilities.

  4. And finally, we need the world, as a whole, to pay attention to what is happening not just to elephants but to all of our precious bio-diversity. A recent report by WWF indicated that 52% of wildlife has disappeared between 1970 and 2010.    At that rate there will be precious little left for my children, your children and future generations to appreciate, respect and to be inspired by.

We have reached a tipping point.  The so-called sustainable use agenda where we potentially use wildlife and wildlife resources in a way that allows us to make commercial gains to conserve the species, has run out of steam.  There are simply too many of us and too few of ‘them’ to allow such a flawed concept to continue.  We need to conserve and protect biodiversity and species because they need us and we need them  and because without those natural eco-systems on which we mutually depend, we jeopardise our own future -  not because we can make money out of them.

I know there will be people who fundamentally disagree with me. That is their right.  But I think we have no choice but to refashion our relationship with the natural world so that there will be wild animals and wild places long into the future.

Blogging off


PS Sign our petition at www.bloodyivory.org

Will Travers | 3 Comments »

A small step for Virgin – no giant leap for dolphin-kind

September 30th, 2014

Dear Friends of Wildlife

First, the good news.  Richard Branson and Virgin will no longer do business with captive marine facilities that “…take receipt of cetecea including whales and dolphins that were taken from the wild after 14th February 2014”.  Good.  This is, without doubt, a positive step.

Here’s the not so good news.

Despite spending two days with senior representatives from Virgin in Miami, the Company has not taken the bold, courageous and necessary step of actively ending its association with the exploitation of whales and dolphins in captivity.

Despite the best efforts of representatives from Born Free, the World Cetacean Alliance, the Animal Welfare Institute, Whale and Dolphin Conservation and the Orca Research Trust, we were unable to persuade Virgin to fully recognise the welfare crisis that captive cetacea, particularly orca, endure in marine aquariums.

What will be the result of Virgin’s statement today?

It will, for sure, get people talking.  But will it cause the captive marine display industry to change its business model; to commit itself to the conservation of wild and free-living dolphins and whales; to end its captive-breeding programmes (aimed at perpetuating the keeping of these animals in captivity, not for release to the wild)……?  I doubt it.

I recognise that Virgin and Richard Branson himself are associated in the public mind with leadership.  Whether it is space travel, being an Ocean Elder, or transforming working practices (Sir Richard announced only a few days ago that his Head Office staff could take as much as holiday as they wished), Virgin positions itself as a thought-leader in the entrepreneurial business world.

The pledge announced today is a indeed small step forward for Virgin but it not the giant leap for dolphin-kind that I had hoped for.

Nevertheless, the door is always open, the opportunity is still there and, together with colleagues from the animal protection movement, I am ready,  anytime, anywhere, to meet, to talk, and to take this to the next level.

Freedom is not a dream.

Blogging off


Read a joint statement from concerned NGOs here

Will Travers | 7 Comments »

When is it going to be about whales and not about us?

September 23rd, 2014

65th International Whaling Commission Meeting: Portoroz, Slovenia.

I wonder how they have survived. Not just the whales but the campaigners and members of the non-governmental movement who, year after year, have trudged off to meetings of the IWC to largely sit on the side-lines and watch nation States play political football with the lives and possibly the future of the largest mammals to have even inhabited the planet.

The 65th meeting seems to have followed that pattern, and its highlights make for rather gloomy reading.

Despite breaking the rules last time round (the Panama Meeting) Greenland (supported by Denmark and, bizarrely, the EU) got the votes necessary (more the 75%) to carry out extensive whaling – 164 Minke, 212 Fin, 2 Bowhead and 10 Humpback – every year for the next 4 years. Did the IWC hold them to account for breaking the rules last time? Simply, no.

The South Atlantic Whales Sanctuary, a conservation dream promoted by many South American countries, once more failed to get the three quarters majority needed to become reality – despite 20 years of effort.

The discussion on the Future of the IWC was a non-event. How can it be credible for this meeting to take place every single year? Imagine the cost, the effort, the lack of transparency, the politicking. Even CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora), my old stomping ground, has the good sense to meet once every 3 years.

Welfare discussions were once again characterised as being a ‘tool for the bunny-huggers to end whaling’ by the pro-whaling community, instead of a deeply serious issue that is a high priority for the public at large and which deserves ongoing and detailed deliberation – after all, even England’s controversial and widely-condemned 2013 badger cull was judged by government inspectors to have been a failure on welfare grounds. Welfare matters.

Politics at the IWC seems as naked as ever. The reported remarks by the delegate from Antigua and Barbuda that the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary would never happen unless concessions were made to whaling because he and his colleagues ‘had a blocking minority’ clearly told the world that those who support – and are supported by – Japan and other pro-whaling nations do not vote with their conscience or consider each case on its merits. It’s politics as usual.

So when is there going to be some common sense at the IWC? Maybe soon! On a motion from Chile, (well done Chile) it seems as if, in future, the role of NGOs will be enhanced, allowing far greater participation by civil society at meetings, in line with other international conventions.

That is a big step forward as, in my experience, all too often NGO delegates, people who dedicate their lives to very specific issues such as whaling, the ivory trade, the trade in tiger, rhino, lion and other wildlife body parts, often know more than the governments. Through the work of NGOs, a spotlight can be focussed on the future survival of some of the world’s most iconic species and their habitats, habitats that are home to millions of other, less glamorous, species that rarely if ever secure the limelight of media and public attention.

My hat is off to all those, like the redoubtable Dr Paul Spong (on whose excellent reports this blog is based), who year after year have followed the well-worn path to the IWC to bear witness to what our leaders do, in our name, to whales around the world. Maybe, just maybe, at the next IWC he and his comrades will have to the opportunity to help government delegates understand just how we, the people who vote for them and who pay their salaries, all feel about their performance on our behalf.

Maybe that will bring about the change we wish to see.

Blogging off.


P.S. If you wish to support Dr Paul Spong and Orcalab you can adopt Springer the Orca here.

Will Travers | 1 Comment »

Yes, We Want to Change the Zoo World

September 11th, 2014

OK.  There are upwards of 10,000 zoos worldwide. In them live millions of wild animals.

The zoos’ stated purpose? To conserve and educate.

The reality? Millions of wasted lives. Zoos are, all too often, about little more than entertainment and exploitation.

Should we bring the zoo industry to an end? In my view, yes, but slowly, humanely, with compassion and on a tide of changing public opinion that rejects the very concept of the zoo.

But what about the short-term? Won’t animal suffering increase if zoos are forced to close?

Let’s be clear. Some zoos should be shut as quickly as possible – the sort of zoos we at Born Free witness every day, every week, every month. We don’t have the power to close them down but the authorities often do and it is our mission to ensure that the authorities apply all relevant and available laws to end and prevent gross suffering and neglect- and of course, that they safeguard the welfare of the individual animals.

The application of the law is vital. But so is the provision of resources to deal with the fallout of zoo closure in a compassionate way. It is to Europe’s everlasting shame that there are, for example, more than 40 solitary elephants held in zoos and circuses across the region and yet we do not have a single, purpose-built elephant sanctuary where they could find refuge.

Necessarily, Born Free sometimes works with zoos but only when we are sure that our collaboration will not perpetuate suffering, make space for new animals and throw a lifeline to a zoo.

Zoos that commit to closure and to the humane relocation of the animals will find us a willing partner. Zoos that think we are a ‘soft touch’ when the welfare or life of an animal is at stake, are very mistaken.

Sometimes captivity is the only option. The lions, leopards, tigers, elephants, great apes, primates, cheetah and the many other species that have been relocated to the Sanctuaries we operate or support would, I am sure, agree. But we know it is second best. Animals that have been kept in zoos or circuses are rarely candidates for release to the wild so it is our responsibility to provide them with a life worth living.

But we should never confuse the concept of ‘sanctuary’ – where the welfare of the animals is given the highest priority – with the concept of zoo where animals are exhibits and the needs of visitors take precedence.

Yes, I want to change the world. To end the zoo experiment. To refocus our efforts and keep wildlife in the wild. I believe that vision is one that is shared by millions and now we must turn that dream into reality.

Blogging off


Will Travers | 3 Comments »

The Elephant in the Room

September 10th, 2014

The elephant in the room

Elephants are amazing. The largest land mammal, gregarious, highly social, intelligent, family animals that bond for life.

So how is it possible that there are over 40 living solitary, lonely, miserable lives in zoos and circuses across Europe?

A new short film The Elephant in the Room, based on Born Free’s recent report,  Innocent Prisoner, shines a spotlight on the betrayal of these forgotten animals who, according to the film’s narrator, Virginia McKenna, endure a living death.

Made on location in the UK, the US, Norway, Romania and Serbia; Tariq, Amanda, Matthew and Emma – the team from the University of Hertfordshire that wrote, directed, produced and filmed The Elephant in the Room – indelibly captured the miserable lives that solitary captive elephants endure, distilling it into a 13 minute film of power and passion.

The experts they interviewed, Dr Joyce Poole, Dr Rob Atkinson, Chris Draper, Adam Roberts, Ed Stewart and Virginia herself, were unanimous in their condemnation the treatment of these elephants. ‘It would be like being forced to live your entire life in your bathroom’ said Dr Poole.

I sat and saw the film last night – twice. Each time I was close to tears. I have seen a lot in the last 30 years fighting for wildlife, but this situation is bad, really bad.

And the audience at Warner Brothers De Lane Lea cinema in London seemed equally stunned. Each one, in their own way, asked one over-riding question: “What can be done?”

The answer is at once complex and remarkably simple.  There is no place for solitary elephants to go. Nowhere that puts their welfare above the dictates of animal ‘exhibition’. Nowhere that will allow them to be elephants again.

We need your help to expose bad practices, stop captive suffering, end the keeping of elephants on their own (where feasible), end the import of elephants from the wild, and perhaps even begin the process of constructing a compassionate sanctuary for elephants in Europe.

We must end the capture of elephants from the wild for public display.

And we must end the largely futile zoo-based captive breeding programmes which will simply perpetuate the keeping of elephants in public display facilities – a discredited concept that is way past its sell-by date.

I firmly believe that no one who sees this unique film can fail to be deeply moved. But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself.

And if you agree with me, then spread the word, tell everyone you know.

These elephants will never go back to the wild. The very least we can do is to try and give them a life worth living!

Blogging off!


Will Travers | 3 Comments »

Sever the arteries of the illegal ivory trade

September 3rd, 2014

Ivory Shipping Routes

It all seems so simple.

Poachers are out there killing elephants. That is very, very bad.

Wildlife Rangers are out there to catch poachers. Good news.

All we need to do is make sure that the Rangers have the equipment and manpower to do their job and elephants will be safe.


A new report, Out of Africa, commissioned by Born Free USA and authored by top security analysts at C4ADS, has peeled back the lid on the murky world of international crime syndicates, racketeering, smuggling routes and the powerful people who provide cover for illegality on a massive scale.

Recent figures indicate that up to 100,000 elephants have been poached across Africa in the last 3 years. I reckon it could be more – a lot more!

How on earth is that possible?

As Out of Africa and its prequel Ivory’s Curse (highlighting the militarisation of the ivory trade) show, the reach and influence of corruption spreads far and wide.

Politicians, business leaders, entrepreneurs, haulage companies, airlines, shipping lines, customs officials, law enforcement agents and more are in up to their necks, tempted by massive profits, weak enforcement and low penalties if caught.

In addition, Out of Africa provides a detailed examination of the illicit ivory supply chain, including:

- Illegal ivory flows primarily in containers through the international shipping system. At least 100 containers may be moving annually, the majority through a small number of chokepoints.

- A large majority of all of the illegal ivory is accounted for within a small number of transactions; through a small number of ports and airports; and to a small number of criminal networks.

- Just the three ports of Mombasa, in Kenya, and Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar in Tanzania act as exit points for the majority of shipments, pointing to the need for more carefully-targeted enforcement efforts.

- The top three airports in the chain are in Nairobi, Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, and Johannesburg.

- Traffickers able to operate from the forest to the market can earn more than 2,500% in profit margins.

Born Free USA’s CEO Adam Roberts, interviewed by National Geographic, put his finger on the key issue highlighted by Out of Africa:

“The report says that too much attention is paid to the beginning and end of the ivory supply chain—on poaching and demand—and that more should be paid to how ivory is transported.

The priority has been focused historically on that which is readily accessible. Images of elephant carcasses littering the African savannah show the poaching problem. Ivory for sale in China and other East Asian markets shows the demand problem. But the intervening supply is hidden from sight.

Born Free has seen a strong focus on poaching and also on demand, but the third aspect of the trade—the movement of ivory from the dead elephant to the consumers’ hands—is a vital focus and provides a further pressure point to stop the trade and save elephants.”

Too right! The ivory trade has to be choked off at the supply end, the demand end but, crucially, right along every component of the supply route. We must not let them get away with it!

For more on the fight against the ivory trade, visit www.bloodyivory.com

Blogging off!


Will Travers | 1 Comment »

When is a tank not a tank – when it’s a tank?

August 19th, 2014

SeaWorld’s attempt to reverse its downward fortunes by announcing plans to construct multi-million dollar bigger orca tank may be too little, too late!

Despite a massive decline in their stock price in the last 12 months which some, including Standard & Poor’s, the ratings agency, directly attribute to the “Blackfish Effect”, management of the struggling entertainment company claim that the decline in attendance is “temporary”.

However, the film, Blackfish, appears to have irreversibly tarnished SeaWorld’s “enduring brand”, by exposing the truths behind the captive cetacean industry: the horrors of wild capture,  dubious animal management and, reportedly, one hundred incidents of trainers being attacked. Since orca were first displayed at SeaWorld, San Diego, 15 orcas have died.

I think SeaWorld needs to completely review their entertainment offering, abandon the display of orca and other cetaceans and embrace a new vision based on compassionate conservation and supporting the keeping of wildlife in the wild. In my view, their current proposal is simply throwing good money after bad.

A popular internet meme following the anouncement

SeaWorld San Diego’s ‘bigger tanks’ announcement claims that the new facility is “not just larger but more dynamic”, adding that it will include “a lot more of the kind of mental and physical stimulation that we know is so important for overall health and well-being”. But representatives were quick to clarify that this was not an admission that current housing is too small.

The reality is that no matter the size of a man-made tank, it will still be a fraction of the size of the wild range of orca, for an intelligent, gregarious marine mammal which can swim 150 kilometers a day.

SeaWorld may consider the announced changes as “revolutionary”, but Born Free cannot agree. Monies injected into trying to improve the customer experience does not change the orca’s experience. SeaWorld must realise that the use of animals in circus-style tricks is not conservation, nor does it demonstrate the “relationship between humans and animals” as SeaWorld claims. The practice of keeping wild animals in captivity is outdated and morally wrong. It should be consigned to the history books.

If SeaWorld would like to talk to me about a new future where freedom, respect, compassion, conservation and education are components of a vision we can all be proud of then call me, my door is always open.

Blogging off,


P.S. read about the amazing work Born Free Foundation is doing to end the keeping of cetaceans in captivity

Will Travers | 13 Comments »