Archive for February, 2007

Is ivory poaching out of control?

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

Dear Friends

A new report by Dr Sam Wasser, Washington University, USA, describes current levels of illegal ivory poaching as “devastating”. This backs up Born Free’s own record-keeping which was published late last year (2006) indicating that since the last CITES Conference in November 2004, approximately 30 tonnes of ivory has been seized. If this represents 10% of the real total being smuggled, 250 tonnes could have been illegally traded or up to 40,000 elephants could have been poached in the last two years. These figures are shocking. What is more shocking is that Tanzania, Botswana and Namibia have all put in proposals to the next CITES Conference (COP14 June 2007) to seek permission to relax the ivory trade ban still further and allow for massive renewed trading. How can this be? Only a week or so ago reports from Tchad spoke of hundreds of elephants being killed and rangers shot in the line of duty.

I am preparing a Born Free team to go to the CITES meeting in June to fight these dangerous proposals. We will be part of the Species Survival Network (SSN) delegation that will not only focus on elephants but on other threatened species. For example, at least two countries are seeking increased leopard trophy hunting quotas, the USA wants to remove the American bobcat from CITES all together and Brazil wants to reduce protection for the black caiman. On the other hand thankfully, Germany and the European Union want to improve protection for a number of shark species.

But back to elephants. It looks like we are going to need all the support and help we can get to make sure that CITES does not increase the threat to the very species the Convention is supposed to protect from trade.

Please keep checking the website and if you would like to support our mission to The Hague this June then any contributions would be gratefully received.

Well done to Dr Wasser and his team. Their DNA sampling will at least allow us to determine where the huge quantities of smuggled ivory originate from and target our meagre conservation resources to those beleaguered elephant populations.

Blogging off.


Link to article in the independent.

Further travels in Kenya

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Following the ‘10 to 4 Mount Kenya Cycle Challenge’ last Saturday, the Born Free team headed north to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in the north of Kenya. As mentioned in my last blog, the two vets within the team assisted in the rescue of a baby eland.

We then moved further north to Sera, where we found the Mission Africa Lodge in fine shape and we were only the second guests to stay at this new, discreet and beautiful facility in one of Kenya’s more remote areas (See Mission Africa, BBC1 Monday nights at 7 pm). The well built by the Mission Africa team for the local community and livestock was working and the solar units that power the two units at the Lodge were both fully functional although there is a need for more lightbulbs!!! The food prepared by two of the local community was sensational and cooked over an open fire in the middle of the dry riverbed.

We then moved to the east, to the last home of Joy Adamson and we saw Joy’s Camp, a new tourist facility in Shaba National Park. This is a marvellous place that, if protected, is truly a living tribute to Joy Adamson’s conservation spirit. We are hoping to provide additional mementos to furnish the small museum area dedicated to her memory. As if to cap it all, on our final morning in Shaba about 10 kms from Joy’s Camp, we saw five beautiful lions sitting on top of a rock, bathed in the morning sunshine.

We are now heading back to Nairobi for a gala evening where Born Free will be presenting Mizoga (Carcasses), an exciting new Kenyan film, which explores the complex issues surrounding the illegal commercial trade in meat from wild animals, also known as bushmeat. See for further information about the film.

Late evening, we will then catch our flight back to the UK but we will be taking with us many, many wonderful memories of the Cycle Challenge and our time at Lewa, Sera and Shaba.

Blogging off


Race Recovery

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Dear Friends

Spent yesterday day recovering from the race. Two vets on the Born
Free cycle challenge team attended an injured eland calf with a
damaged jaw.

Last night we travelled to Lewa moved on to Sera today – the
star location of the BBC 1 series ‘Mission Africa’ on
tonight at 7pm so tune in.

Very hot and dry in Sera also no signal so out of contact for two
days. More soon.

Blogging off


Mountain Bike Challenge begins!

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Dear Friends

The 70 km 10 to 4 Mountain Bike Challenge began at 8.30 am today
(Saturday 17th February) and the Born Free team cycled the first 5 km through the wonderful cedar forests on
the slopes of Mount Kenya and then down to the agricultural area with
fields of wheat and along very dusty roads until we entered the forest
on the foothills which is home to elephants and other species. We saw
plenty of evidence but no sightings.

Margie, one of the Born Free team, found the terrain incredibly tough,
as we all did, and sadly had to drop out at 45 km but myself, Kim and
John pushed to the end, finishing in just under 6 hours. Everyone
agreed that the route is beautiful and a very worthwhile cause.

Tonight, Born Free will be hosting for all the competitors, a viewing
of “Mizoga” (Carcasses), a film that Born Free together with Kenyatta
University and sponsored by Safaricom has filmed telling a story about bushmeat and the detrimental effect
that this trade has on the human population as well as wildlife.

We were also very excited to hand over at the end of the race, two
Land Rover mountain bikes to the two winners of the Black Mamba race,
The Black Mamba race runs alongside the 10 to 4 Challenge but is only
open to competitors who ride inexpensive with no gears, Black Mamba
bikes. The winners were delighted to receive the Mountain Bikes,
kindly donated by Land Rover.

All in all the event has been fantastic and will have raised a good
amount of money for the Bill Woodley Mount Kenya Trust to help them in
their work, working with local communities on Mount Kenya, to protect
the habitat and the species that live within this precious, important
and fragile environment.

If anyone reading this blog would like to make a late donation to the
team’s efforts, this would be hugely appreciated. Go to

Blogging off!


The day before the race!

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Dear Friends

The day before the race! Stopped for provisions en route out of Nairobi and drove the 5 hour up-country journey to the slopes of Mount Kenya. Right now, as the sun sets, I am standing looking down from the foothills across towards the lower plains of Isiolo and the desert country beyond.

Hired the four bikes for the Born Free team, tested mine and immediately fell head-over-heels off in front of everybody! Luckily no serious injuries but pride mightily dented.

Most of the other competitors have arrived (up to around 200 people altogether).

The route has changed so tomorrow morning early, we start by climbing a further 300-400 ft up Mount Kenya before turning and heading down. The sunset is beautiful but we are feeling that it is the calm before the storm.

Check in for tomorrow’s blog about the race itself.

Blog off


Kenya once more!

Friday, February 16th, 2007

Dear Friends

Kenya once more! And two days to go before the Mount Kenya 10 to 4
Mountain Bike Challenge. The team arrived in Nairobi in good heard but
Alice Owen, Born Free’s Operations Manager in Kenya, had
arranged back-to-back meetings all day to try and further Born
Free’s mission in Kenya. Key amongst those was a meeting with
the Director of Kenya Wildlife Service, Julius Kipng’etich who reported
his growing concerns that the proposals to relax the ivory trade that
have been submitted to the next CITES (Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna & Flora) meeting in the
Hague 3rd – 15th June 2007, could, if adopted, open the
floodgates to widespread poaching which would put Kenya’s 30,000
elephants under renewed threat. He and Kenya is calling for a 20 year
moratorium on any future ivory trade. I will be at the CITES meeting
with colleagues from Born Free and the Species Survival Network
working hard to help Kenya and its elephants.

Tomorrow, we head up country. It is a six hour drive by Land Rover to
Timau on the northern slopes of Mount Kenya. There we will gather with
the other participants (around 200) who will be undertaking the 70 km
plunge down the mountain on Saturday.

Personally, I have only three objectives:

To finish
Not to be last
To help the Born Free team raise the most money of any team entering this year’s race.

Look out for my next blog which will come straight from the mountain.

I will blog off now!


My First Blog

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

Dear Friends

How exciting! My first blog!!

The Born Free website has just undergone a transformation. Easier to navigate, more informative than ever, great images and quite simply the best place to find out about getting involved with – and supporting – Born Free’s work for animals. Annually, 1.3 million people already come to this site and with the new look I anticipate that to grow dramatically so please tell your family, your friends, your colleagues – in fact tell everyone you know about

My next blog will be from Kenya, hopefully on 15th February, from where I will be reporting (and taking part) on the 70 km Mount Kenya Mountain Bike Challenge – The 10 to 4. More news then and throughout the year so make Born Free your favourite bookmark and help us make it a better world for wild animals.