Lions, Rhino and People: Special Field Report From Kenya

February 9th, 2016

In early February I went to the offices of the Kenya Wildlife Service, just outside Nairobi City and adjoining the famous Nairobi National Park, and received my official identification card confirming that, together with Virginia my mum, I am now an Honorary Warden with the KWS.

Modesty aside, in this special year – when we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Born Free’s film premiere – this recognizes the commitment we as individuals but, more importantly, as Founders of The Born Free Foundation have made to Kenya, its people and its wildlife.

I have just returned from two field trips, one to the north and one to the south of this magnificent country.

As part of Born Free’s ‘Year of The Lion’, I travelled with Born Free Kenya’s Country Manager, Tim Oloo (one of our top rhino conservation experts and also an Honorary Warden). In Amboseli, to the south and overlooking Mount Kilimanjaro, we reviewed two of our programmes.

The first involves building ‘Predator Proof Bomas‘ designed to keep livestock safe from lions and hyenas at night time. We have now completed 219 units and, with the help of Land Rover, we shall compete another 30 this year bringing the total to an impressive 250. This is delivering tangible benefits to many thousands of people and tens of thousands of cattle, sheep and goats. Importantly, it also helps reduce conflict with predators and minimizes revenge killings, thus helping conserve some of Kenya’s estimated 2,000 lions.

The second involved visiting two schools we are assisting. Both face numerous challenges in this remote and, at times, harsh part of the country. Lack of reliable water; school infrastructure; the presence of large and potentially dangerous species such as lion and elephant; the failure of some of the solar lighting systems (installed only a few years ago as part of a Spanish Aid Programme but without any follow up or maintenance); seasonal food shortages; and the cost of teaching aids – these are just some of the issues that confront these communities on a daily basis. Our partners at Schools For Kenya have been amazingly helpful and generous and Born Free’s own Global Friends Programme is making a real difference but there is so much more to do.

In the north, we again focused on lions. This time working with KWS to count them in the wild expanses of Meru National Park, part of the 4,000 square kilometre Meru Conservation Area. Again, we could not have done it without Land Rover and their sponsorship of key equipment (not to mention our trusty Land Rover Defender 110). Once we know how many lions there are we can determine whether our conservation efforts, working with KWS, the County Council, local communities and our friends at Elsa’s Kopje Lodge, are making a positive contribution to lion conservation. Our goal is simple: to ensure that Meru and the MCA remain lion strongholds for generations to come.

Our trip also provided an opportunity for Tim to deploy his considerable rhino expertise. Meru has one of Kenya’s famous Rhino Sanctuaries, home to 84 rhino (27 black and 57 white). Tim’s experience has been brought to bear on plans to almost double the size of the Sanctuary and Born Free has already donated important Anti-Poaching equipment thanks to support from Kenya Airways. In addition, on this trip, my friend, photographer Margot Raggett, donated a set of hi-tech night vision goggles to the Meru Wildlife Protection Unit.

Protecting wildlife and assisting the communities that live alongside wildlife is a major part of Born Free’s ‘Compassionate Conservation’ agenda. I am proud of all that we have achieved so far, with the help of you, our supporters.

Of course, being made an Honorary Warden is very special but I truly believe this is recognition for all that we have achieved together and is in anticipation of all we shall achieve in the future – making the world a better place for wildlife, one animal at a time.

Blogging off!
Will

#YearOfTheLion

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Helping Wildlife on the Home Front

January 28th, 2016

Dear Friends,

It seems these days, wildlife news is dominated by big guys and big issues – elephant ivory trade, lion hunting, tiger farms, beached whales, rhino poaching.

Some could be forgiven for thinking that wildlife in need is somewhere overseas or that our own wildlife doesn’t really matter.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

When Born Free steps up for wildlife we mean ALL wildlife – as my colleagues Tarnya Knight and Celia Nicholls explain:

“Here in the UK we are blessed with a unique variety of wildlife species from hedgehogs, foxes and badgers, to deer, otters, bats and birds. But sadly they can face many threats and dangers. Every year numerous animals are injured and orphaned, and this is often because of humans.

Problems include road traffic accidents, entanglement in rubbish and fishing lines, poisoning by pesticides, attack by domestic pets, window ‘strikes’, and much more. These incidents take a huge toll, especially when, additionally, you factor in loss of habitat, intensive farming practices, hunting and building development.

Born Free and our Care For The Wild experts are fighting to protect the wonderful wild animals found here in the UK. Together with specialists from across the country, we rescue animals in need, providing the good food, special milk, medicines and expert care they need and preparing them for life back in the wild, whenever possible.

Our own rescue work and that undertaken by UK sanctuaries (run by dedicated staff and volunteers) means thousands of animals are effectively treated and the vast majority are successfully returned to the wild each year.”
It’s impressive and heart-warming to know that so many individual wild animals are being given a second chance, right here on our doorstep.

That’s why our latest Born Free raffle is raising funds specifically for native wildlife rescue, care and, where possible, release. If you’d like to play and contribute then don’t hesitate to call 01403 240170 or to enter the raffle online go to www.bornfree.org.uk/raffle
But you can also directly help UK wildlife. For example, Tarnya, Born Free’s UK wildlife carer, offers the following tips which could make a world of difference to a species that has suffered catastrophic declines in recent years – the hedgehog (Mrs Tiggywinkle).

“Helping Hedgehogs

Leave an area of your garden ‘wild’ – hedgehogs’ homes should be placed in a quiet and shaded area of the garden where they won’t be disturbed.

Avoid using slug pellets – many contain metaldehyde which will kill a range of wildlife, including hedgehogs.

If using netting on your plants, please make sure it’s at least a foot above the ground, otherwise hedgehogs can become entangled in the netting.

For anyone planning a bonfire, the easiest way to ensure that there will be no hedgehogs in the pile is to build it on the day you are going to light it, or by dismantling and moving it to clear ground before lighting.

If you have a pond, please make sure that it has one gently sloping side, or form a ramp out of chicken wire or something similar to create an escape route.

If you’re using a strimmer, always check the area beforehand in case any hedgehogs are in the long grass. Every year many animals suffer terrible injuries as a result of garden maintenance.

Finally, make a modest hole in your garden fence at ground level so that hedgehogs can roam freely from garden to garden.”

So, as Spring draws closer, let’s make a UK Wildlife-Friendly start to 2016

Blogging off

Will

More UK wildlife articles here

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Captivation Without Captivity

January 21st, 2016

You could, perhaps, be forgiven for thinking that because the 1966 film Born Free featured a cast of captive lions (even though the story was all about freedom) that The Born Free Foundation would at least tolerate the use of captive wild animals in films.

Nothing could be further from the truth, as we have said for nearly 30 years.

Now our good friends at The Captive Animals’ Protection Society (CAPS) have, once more, exposed the reality of life for captive wild animals exploited for our so-called entertainment.

It is 50 years since the film Born Free was premiered in London, a fact celebrated as part of 2016 ‘Year of the Lion‘. All those years ago there was no alternative to using live animals in films such as Born Free. But, today, things are radically different.

The new Leonardo DiCaprio blockbuster, The Revenant, features CGI (Computer Generated Images) so believable that audiences cannot distinguish between real bears and those created inside the ‘mind’ of a computer.

Using living captive wild animals is lazy film-making. It perpetuates the kind of lifetime captivity exposed by CAPS and endorses companies like Amazing Animals which make a living from hiring out tigers, lions, hyenas, primates, leopards – and Zara the polar bear. Film and TV production companies who use captive wild animals do not have the imagination to use alternatives and are seemingly prepared to turn a blind eye to the unnatural and deprived lives these animals are forced to endure.

I asked my mother, Virginia McKenna OBE, one of the stars of Born Free, whether she would support the filming of a remake of the classic film that has inspired generations of animal lovers and conservationists worldwide. Her answer is crystal clear:

“That was 50 years ago. My late husband Bill and I knew little about the issue and were not presented with any alternatives. We did manage to return three of the lions used in the film back to the wild under the supervision of our dear friend and mentor George Adamson. As far as a remake of Born Free is concerned? Sure, why not. But ONLY if there is a cast-iron guarantee that no captive wild animals are used in the retelling of this amazing and inspiring true story.”

So Born Free’s message to the film, television and advertising industry is simple. Say no to the ongoing exploitation of captive wild animals for ‘entertainment’ and say yes to film-making with a compassionate heart.

Well done CAPS and DiCaprio. The future’s bright – the future’s WILD!

Blogging off

Will

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Hong Kong to Ban Import/Export of Ivory and Close Domestic Markets

January 14th, 2016

Another Nail in the Coffin for The Ivory Trade?

Dear Friends,

Who would have believed, just a few years ago, as the terrible news about escalating elephant poaching levels and massive ivory seizures relentlessly dominated the wildlife news headlines, that at the start of 2016 we would be reading the following, published in the Hong Kong Gazette (where the government of HK publishes its work plans). Hong Kong has long been recognised as a major importer and distributor of ivory.

“The Government is very concerned about the illegal poaching of elephants in Africa.  It will kick start legislative procedures as soon as possible to ban the import and export of elephant hunting trophies and actively explore other appropriate measures, such as enacting legislation to further ban the import and export of ivory and phase out the local ivory trade, and imposing heavier penalties on smuggling and illegal trading of endangered species.  Meanwhile, the Government will strengthen enforcement and take rigorous action against the smuggling and illegal trade in ivory.”

This, following hard on the heels of a range of other initiatives involving: the UN General Assembly decision that wildlife crime is a ‘serious crime’ meriting a tariff of 4 years in jail; the High Level meeting on Illegal Wildlife Trade, hosted by the United Kingdom Government in 2014 and followed up by the successful Kasane Meeting held in Botswana in 2015; the joint announcement by Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama that they would end ‘virtually all’ domestic trade in ivory; the decisions of numerous countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, France, the Philippines, Belgium, the United States of America, Chad, China and Gabon, to destroy or put beyond commercial use their ivory stockpiles.

And that’s not all. While attending the CITES Standing Committee meeting in a Geneva (11-15 January 2016) Sri Lanka has announced that it will deal with its ivory stockpile, putting it permanently beyond commercial use.

In addition, plans to develop what is known as a Decision-Making Mechanism for a future trade in ivory were all but abandoned, with many countries and non-government organisations such as Born Free and SSN (the Species Survival Network) recognising that when elephants in so many countries are in crisis and the illegal ivory trade continues unabated, discussions about a future ivory trade send all the wrong signals and may stimulate further poaching.

However, even with all this positive news, there is no room for complacency. The crisis facing elephants across so much of their range continues without respite. Rangers continue to lose their lives on conservation’s thin green line. The poaching syndicates and organised criminal networks behind the bloody ivory trade remain intact and continue to use all their ingenuity to defeat the forces of law and order. And, while public information and education initiatives have achieved remarkable results in reducing demand there are still many millions of people who want to buy ivory, fuelling the poaching.

I believe another nail has been hammered into the coffin of the global ivory trade but the coffin has yet to be buried once and for all.

Blogging Off

Will

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Presidential Blog from CITES Standing Committee 66 in Geneva.

January 14th, 2016

The Best and Only Tool in the Box!

The Born Free team is here in Geneva working hard on many aspects of wildlife trade. Their reports will bring you more news and results soon.

But, in the meantime, here are my broader reflections on CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

Can it be possible that I have now been to every CITES meeting of the Conference of the Parties (the big meeting which takes place every 3 years) since Lausanne in 1989? Wow – I feel old!

On top of that I have also been to almost every CITES Standing Committee meeting since then. They are held every single year!

Some say why bother? Some say CITES is a busted flush, ineffective, a ‘talking shop’ that has presided over the mass slaughter of elephants, rhino, tigers, sharks, pangolins and many more species to fuel international trade.

Well – FOR SURE – CITES can do better. A lot better. It can and should get tough and take countries to task if they break the rules. It can and should show compassion and pay far greater attention to the welfare impacts of live animal trade. It can and should be wise and take a precautionary approach to trade – where there is doubt, then the benefit of the doubt should go to the species of animal or plant, not to the traders.

And it can and should get real and take resolute action to end trade if species are threatened by international trade, or animals suffer.

The question is: will it?

Well that’s why Born Free and the other members of the 100 organisation-strong Species Survival Network is here! Pushing hard to keep things moving in the right direction.

The worldwide outcry from hundreds of millions of people confronted with the killing of Cecil the Lion;  the wiping out of up to 1,000 of Tanzania’s elephants a month, every month, for the last 5 years; the brutal impact of poaching on South Africa’s beleaguered rhino population – these tragedies are making many countries, and our elected representatives, think again.

I sense a change in mood. The legal, international trade in wild species of fauna and flora – including fish and plants, such as timber species – is valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars each and every year. The illegal trade, alone, is worth between twenty and thirty billion dollars each year and can drive species towards extinction. Recognising that, as the human population continues to sky-rocket, our combined impact on wild species and the wild places where they live may simply be too great to allow for any further trade. An example of this might be great whales. Another is tigers. Others should be rhino, lion, elephant, various species of fish and reptile.

Without a global mechanism enabling us to bring about the end of commercial trade, when required, we will never achieve the results so many of us hope and work for. Of course, implementing the decisions of CITES relies on the willingness and dedication of each individual country. But that is where we can each play our role – encouraging, campaigning, voting, condemning and supporting, as appropriate, so that we end up with the world we want to see, not simply accepting the world as it is today.

In short: CITES is the best and only tool in the box that has the potential to address international trade in wild species of fauna and flora on a global basis. We would be unwise to lose it. We would be wise to use it to deliver effective protection wherever we can.

Blogging off

Will Travers

CEO

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New Year Blog

January 3rd, 2016

Dear Friends,

Well, after my rather long previous Blog I wanted to keep this one shorter and totally forward looking.

It hardly seems possible that Born Free Foundation is nearing its 32nd Birthday. I recall very clearly that room in London where it all started – a room full of passion and outrage in equal measure. Outrage at the death of Pole Pole, the last African elephant in the London Zoo matched by a passionate desire to ensure that her death had not been in vain.

The subsequent journey has been filled to the brim with triumph, joy, horror and disgust – but never despair.

We are evolving. Too slowly for most, too quickly for a few. These changes are less about how we look and has more to do with how we feel and think. And it is that evolution in our thinking (or is a revolution) that is beginning to deliver the kind of compassion the world is crying out for.

Of course, there is a long way to go. Of course, the struggle is far from over – but this a movement on the march – a movement where individuals matters and where compassionate conservation overcomes.

I am so very proud of the role that Born Free and all its supporters, friends, donors, sponsors, and partners have played across more than three decades. If I could, I would shake the hand of every single person involved.

2016 is here. Please don’t think of it as just one more year in a continuum. Think of it as a blank sheet of paper. The parchment of time on which you are about to write your manuscript of hope.

There are millions of people who stand shoulder to shoulder and who believe in better. I am one of them. You are one too.  Never lose sight of that, and always believe that we can change the world for good – one animal at a time.

Have a Sparkling New Year.

And thank you.

Blogging off

Will

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As 2015 comes to an end, I reflect upon the past 12 months

December 22nd, 2015

Dear Friends,

As 2015 draws to a close, I was reflecting on the year that is past and, the more I thought about it the more I realised that despite all the horrors around us, some important progress was made on behalf of wildlife in the last 12 months.

Sometimes, although we want action and we want it now, it’s important to take the long view.

Here are my thoughts:

They say things never change, that the forces ranged against those who genuinely want to make this a more compassionate and caring world are too powerful, too influential, too wealthy – that they are invincible. Well, whoever they are, they are wrong.

In the 1970s there were dozens of captive dolphin shows in the UK and it seemed like they were here to stay. Today there are none – together with many others we worked tirelessly to get them closed down and get the dolphins out, and we succeeded.

Twenty five years ago circuses featuring wild animals were all over this country – there was even one which regularly featured on Television as a New Year’s Day Treat. Today there is just one circus with wild animals and, although it seems like it is taking forever, we have a promise from this government – overwhelmingly supported by all Parties and throughout the country – that this practice will be banned, as soon as Parliamentary time allows.

The Chinese love affair with and desire for the teeth of dead elephants – ivory – seemed insatiable.  Tonnes of ivory – the last mortal remains of thousands of elephant – made its way to China each year. Countries in Africa stood on the brink of losing their entire elephant populations. ON AVERAGE – over 30,000 elephants a year for the last 5 years have been killed for their ivory. I have seen the brutal, bloody consequences first hand; on elephants, on Rangers (more than 1,000 have been killed defending wildlife in the last 10 years), on communities and, yes, even on poachers – so often just exploited and expendable  pawns, sacrificed by those who run the international wildlife crime syndicates.

Who would have believed that only a few months ago, the Chinese President, Xi Xinping, and President Obama would announce that ‘within a year’ they would end virtually all domestic ivory trade’?  The end of the ivory trade may be in sight!

While commercial whaling has been banned for many years, so-called ‘scientific whaling’ has continued, with the Japanese at the sharp end. Who would have thought that the Australian Government would challenge and defeat this despicable practice in the International Criminal Court, but they have! And, as the whaling fleet sets sail once more, it looks like the Australians may challenge them yet again.

The entertainment giant that is SeaWorld seemed invincible when we started campaigning against the captive exploitation of orca and other marine mammals decades ago. Look at SeaWorld today – finances down, attendances down, share price down. A ban on trainers performing with the orca in the pool; a ban on breeding at some of their facilities… and their new Vision – bigger tanks – soundly rejected by everyone with an ounce of intelligence. Bigger tanks are just bigger prisons – they’re not fooling anyone!

When we witness with ongoing horror at Taiji, I believe we must look with a sense of history and perspective and, dare I say it, with a sense of hope. Thanks to The Cove and The Dolphin Project, Taiji will never be out of the public consciousness again. There are no ‘blind eyes’ and there is nowhere to hide.

Increasingly, people know that captive dolphin shows around the world are directly linked with the Taiji massacre. They are aware that captive exploitation is one of the key economic drivers that supports the slaughter. They know that if they don’t go to water circuses to see dolphins performing meaningless routines in artificial, alien environments, then the thing that matters most to these facilities – the bottom line – simply won’t stack up. It costs money – a lot of money – to run a dolphinarium. And if the punters don’t go, then the money doesn’t come in and the place will close. That is what happened here in the UK over 20 years ago and it can happen anywhere.

But we must not forget that to win these battles on behalf of wild animals in need will require commitment right up to the last moment. That is our job – my job, your job. Wherever we are in the world we must raise our voices of compassion long, and loud, and clear so that those who still perpetuate mass cruelty and suffering on intelligent, individual animals, appreciate that we are watching and that history will not judge them kindly if they continue.

I believe we are on the edge of a new future in terms of our relationship with wild animals and the natural world. My mentor, George Adamson, together with my father Bill and my mother Virginia, taught me that animals are individuals with individual needs, wants and desires. That is the key. No one wants to be a number – you don’t, I don’t, and neither do animals. You can do anything to a number, numbers don’t answer back.

But you cannot, should not, must not ignore an individual. We speak for each and every one of them and we will bear witness to their suffering until they suffer no more.

Blogging off

Will

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It all counts

December 3rd, 2015

While Kenya prepares to destroy a staggering 130,000 tonnes of ivory, which may equate to over 14,000 dead elephants (1.8 tusks per elephant and 5kg average tusk weight), a major seizure at Heathrow Airport Terminal 4 is also significant.

The 110kg of ivory, abandoned by a passenger hailing from Angola, was intercepted by HM Border Force and National Crime Agency and is one of the largest seizures made in the UK in recent times.

As is usual practice, rather than be destroyed, the ivory is likely to be donated to dental teaching facilities as the UK does not have an ivory stockpile, as such. There is no chance that it will end up in the market place.

In the eyes of some people, the destruction of ivory is controversial. They argue that the ivory could be sold and the funds raised ploughed back into elephant protection and conservation.

Those who oppose any selling of ivory – and I am one of them – believe that any commercial sale of ivory would perpetuate the notion that ivory is a desirable, valuable ‘product’ and, as such, it is worth killing elephants for.

The auditing and destruction of ivory stockpiles has been a phenomenon of recent times with conflagrations taking place in Gabon, Ethiopia and Kenya, and ivory crushes in Hong Kong, the US, France,the Philippines and elsewhere. Countries such as Malawi have promised to destroy their ivory stocks but the process has stalled for reasons that are not entirely clear.

In 2014, Born Free conducted its own ‘ivory crush’, pulverising ivory items that had been donated to us by individuals who wanted to take ivory our of circulation.

With the recently announced news that China and the USA will end virtually all domestic sales of ivory within the coming year, it seems moves to globally end the commercial sale of ivory, or ‘white gold’ are coming to fruition.

Now we look expectantly to the EU and countries such as Thailand to take a stand and shut the markets once and for all.

The only place that ivory looks good – is on an elephant!

Well done to the Border Agency and the National Crime Agency for uncovering and foiling yet another wildlife crime.

My only disappointment is that we still don’t know if the National Wildlife Crime Unit has a future beyond 2016. Austerity measures mean that the future of the Unit is in doubt.  How can we call on developing countries to do more to protect elephants and defeat poachers when the very existence of our own specialist wildlife crime team hangs in the balance? Ggrrrrr!

Blogging off!

Will

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Is there a change coming?

November 30th, 2015

The great news:

France decides to ban the import of lion trophies.

SeaWorld ends orca performances in one of its US facilities The US and China indicate they will virtually end all domestic ivory trade in the next year.

Kenya announces it will destroy its 130+ tonne ivory stockpile The new film, Racing Extinction, secures a worldwide release on Discovery simultaneously on the 2nd December 2015 (watch or set your recorder).

Blood Lions, the hard hitting film about the ‘canned lion hunting industry’, continues to make waves and shows to sellout audience at the Royal Geographical Society London (Friday 27th November) The Botswanan Environment Minister declares that he can see no moral difference between despicable canned hunting and regular trophy hunting (Botswana recently banned trophy hunting, breaking a long-standing Southern African common position in this issue).

The good (ish) news:

UK Environment Minister Rory Stewart announces that UK will consider banning Lion Trophies if countries with wild lions that permit trophy hunting do not get their act together to manage it properly (I said good-ish).

The South Africa Professional Hunters Association has condemned canned hunting in an effort to distance itself from this disgusting practice (nice try!

The bad news:

South Africa announces that it may now legalise domestic trade in rhino horn! The expression ‘when you’re in a hole, stop digging’ springs to mind.

For once, the great news at the top of the page significantly outweighs the good-ish and the bad.

On Saturday the 28th November I spoke at a day of presentations on hunting at the University of Winchester. Under pressure, it’s reported that those who were due to speak in support of hunting have withdrawn.

So what is going on? Has the moral compass shifted? Have the oft-repeated justifications for trophy hunting (money to local communities, protects habitats, there is no alternative, it it good for conservation) finally been exposed for what they are – weak, anthropocentric, self-serving. Are the days of the killing of wild animals for ‘fun’, confining wild creatures in captivity for human entertainment, wearing the body parts of some of our most iconic (dead) wild species, etc., coming to an end……?

I am watching. We all are watching. Is there a change coming?

Blogging off!

Will

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The dangerous reality of wild animal “actors” laid bare by trainer

November 9th, 2015

Guest blog from Born Free CEO Adam Roberts.

“Penned by a journalist as part of the UK Newspaper, The Guardian’s, “Action and Adventure Film” section, an article published in the last few days highlighted the career of former US-based entrepreneur, Randy Miller, who now makes a living out of using live wild animals in “attack scenes” in major Hollywood productions. Written in such a manner so as Mr Miller is presented as something of a charismatic daredevil, the article highlights how he began collecting wild animals, such as big cats, in the days when his business was flourishing. When he was later declared bankrupt in the mid-nineties, he established a company that hired out the animals for use in films.

Miller recounts the time he “took a bite from a tiger for Russell Crowe” during filming for ‘Gladiator’ and was viciously attacked by a bear during filming for ‘Semi-Pro’ in 2008, when he stood in for actor, Will Ferrell. Miller survived these attacks. The article recounts the tragic story of his cousin, Stevie, who was killed by one of Miller’s bears as he attempted to film a TV commercial with the wild animal. The article suggests, in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner “this seems like madness” but goes on to conclude “it’s clear how much he loves his animals and lives for them”.

What is particularly interesting about the piece is that Miller appears to relish the danger of the role and so, unlike many other animal trainers who work with wild animals and insist that the practice is completely safe, Miller lays bare the reality; these remain dangerous wild animals who can injure and kill at will. This begs the question: why on earth is this practice still permitted around the world?

While there were always be people who want the supposed thrill and excitement of “wrangling” a wild animal, when things go wrong, both people and animals pay. Had the tiger who (predictably) attacked Miller during the scene for Gladiator continued to attack, in all likelihood he (and potentially Miller, too) would have lost his life. If the bear had not loosed his grip, he too would have been stopped by potentially lethal force. Miller’s cousin paid with his life for the desire to have a bear in his company’s advert. If the people, both those working with animals and in the companies employing them, refuse to heed the very clear warning signs, then does it not stand to reason that the decision be taken out of their hands and this use of animals be prohibited? No film, television advert or programme is worth losing a life over; animal or human.

And this is in addition to the wider animal welfare concerns surrounding the use of these animals in this way. A lifetime of captivity, separated from their families usually before weaning, transported from place to place and subjected to the chaos of a film set; these animals simply deserve better.

Miller admits in the piece that work is becoming scarce as more companies wisely turn to computer generated imagery (CGI) to create lifelike animals to great effect; just look at the Planet of the Apes films or the recent epic “Noah” for examples of animal-free productions. But can we really stand by and simply wait for this outdated, dangerous and cruel industry to die a natural death? I believe not. It is time that wild animals were recognised and respected for what they are. It is time we got them out of the studios and film sets and it is time that we stop celebrating the people who continue to exploit them. It is not brave to wrestle a wild animal. It is, at best, extremely ill-advised and, at worst, a very dangerous form of animal exploitation.

You can help to bring an end to the use of wild animals in entertainment by contacting Born Free if you see a production that uses live wild animals so that we can reach out to the production companies and urge compassionate change. You can also choose to avoid films and other productions which exploit animals in this way. If you work in the media industry then you can ensure that you only work on productions which commit to a “no wild animals” policy. Together we can help to bring the exploitation of wild animal “actors” to an end.

Adam”

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