Archive for May, 2007

3 days to go!!

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

Dear Friends

Excellent news ……. The Species Survival Network (SSN) message about timber and tree issues is now running coast-to-coast in the USA media including newspapers such as the Boston Mail, Washington Post and San Francisco Chronicle and today’s press conference in the Hague should raise the tempo even further. It was well attended with significant interest in the top-line species (tigers, elephants, sharks, timber and leopard trophy hunting) and, particularly, the important role that the EU now plays at CITES with its block vote of 27 countries.

No details have emerged yet from the African Elephant Range States Dialogue meeting but we have heard that some people are discussing whether we should accept that there is a sustainable level of illegal trade in ivory. This seems to me like we should accept that there is an acceptable level of illegal use of drugs. Surely, our policy should be that it is illegal and our actions should be consistent in trying to prevent illegalities. That is not to say that we can necessarily end all illegal activities but, in my view, we should not condone the ivory trade or the drugs trade, both of which involve corruption, brutality, greed and death.

This evening, Professor Sam Wasser will be presenting his findings concerning the DNA tracking of ivory. He is able now, after many years, to determine the origin of intercepted consignments of ivory through DNA analysis. It should be fascinating and will, undoubtedly, add one more tool to our toolkit for fighting the illegal trade in ivory.

And possibly good news from China !? The China Daily News reports today that the State Forestry Administration is publicly reaffirming its commitment to a total ban on the sale of tiger products. Details are scant but we will investigate further and hope that firstly it is true; secondly, that it is implemented and reinforced; and, thirdly, that it is permanent.

More to follow shortly.


4 days to go before Conference begins

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

Dear Friends 

Four days to go until the start of the Conference proper and African delegates are meeting in closed session as part of the African Elephant Range States Dialogue meeting.  Various non-government organisations hover nervously around the building but they can’t get in.  We are all desperate to know what the African delegates think about the proposals from Botswana and Namibia to open up the ivory trade and what they think of the proposal from Kenya and Mali to prevent any further trade for at least twenty years – its nail biting stuff. 

I have been involved in elephant issues since the late 1980s.  In fact I saw my first poached elephant in 1974 and I showed my son his first poached elephant just a few years ago.  It’s a memory that stays with you and it’s been part of my inspiration to try and prevent further slaughter ever since.  It seems strange that here in The Hague, one of Europe’s more traditional cities and, seemingly, a million miles from the forests and plains of Africa, decisions will be taken that will either hopefully prevent an escalation in the slaughter of elephants or could do exactly the opposite.  May be later today someone will tell us what the African delegates have been talking about but they go back into the huddle again tomorrow – we will just have to be patient.

More tomorrow.


News from The Hague in the run up to CITES Conference of the Parties

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

Dear Friends

First day of real activity in the build up to CITES.  I attended a press conference, together with other representatives of the Species Survival Network (SSN) at the International Press Centre in Brussels today (29th May 2007).  The hot CITES issues that were previewed in this month’s Geographical magazine are the topics of conversation as the full Conference approaches in just five days time.  Information on these and the other issues to be discussed at the 14th Conference of the Parties were handed out to international press representatives at the Centre and at the other IPC nearby.

Already in The Hague, the Conference is the talk of the town.  Delegates are flying in and, in particular, those involved in elephant issues, since starting tomorrow, the African Elephant Range States Dialogue meeting will begin to discuss what is probably one of the single-most controversial subjects under discussion – whether to allow Botswana and Namibia permission to trade in vast quantities of ivory thus potentially fundamentally undermining what remains of the ivory trade ban introduced in 1989.

Related and sad news from Kenya is that last week three rangers and four poachers were killed in a shoot-out in the north-east of the country.  The ivory trade is a bloody business.

More to come tomorrow direct from The Hague in the lead up to the Conference.

Blogging off


Does China care?

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

Dear Friends

Born Free Founder and Chair of Trustees, Virginia McKenna, today commented on new information contained a report produced by Sky News, on zoos in China, “I have been to China on several occasions and have witnessed this cruel practice myself. With the Olympic Games just a year away, China has a short window of opportunity to tackle these issues and faces the very real possibility that many of the millions of sports enthusiasts travelling to the country in 2008 will return not with memories of the Olympic spectacle, nor of China’s undoubted ancient civilisation and culture, nor of the sparkling new China that has emerged in the last few years, but of the animal welfare horrors that still go on, cause such suffering, and offend us all.”

It is not the only reason China and animals are in the news at the moment. Certain ‘tiger farmers’ in China, together with some officials from the State Forestry Administration, are promoting the idea that there should be a reopening of tiger parts trade in China from their tiger farms. The results could be catastrophic for wild tigers and a coalition involving all the major players in tiger conservation, including Born Free, known as the Campaign Against Tiger Trafficking, are calling on the Chinese government to reject such proposals and confirm their commitment to the total ban.

It seems crazy to me that when Born Free and other groups are working so hard in the field to try and protect tigers, there could be those who want to make the commercial trade in their body parts widespread, convenient and acceptable.

I am travelling to The Hague for the CITES meeting on Monday 28th May and from then on I will be doing a daily blog from the Convention as decisions are taken which could affect the future of endangered species right around the world.

So, blogging off for now but much more soon.


See footage here,,30000-1266775,00.html

PS Offset your air travel carbon emissions with Born Free – I do! Go to

Will Croatia become a dolphin-free zone?

Monday, May 14th, 2007

Dear Friends 

News in today that thanks to an international effort led by Animal Friends of Croatia, and numerous members of the Species Survival Network, the Mayor of Vodnjan, Klaudio Vitazovia, has ruled against the creation of a dolphinaria in his city.  It seems that the Mayor was significantly affected by the international outcry at the creation of such a facility and it looks like it will lead Croatia to completely banning the holding of this species in captivity.   

2007 is described by the UN as ‘Year of the Dolphin’ and so this is especially good news at this time.   

The UK has no dolphins in captivity.  This practice ended in the early 1990s due to a combination of public distaste, new government guidelines and a campaign which saw the last dolphins flown out of the country to the Caribbean, a project called ‘Into the Blue’ which was significantly supported by Born Free Foundation.   

Of course, we should not be complacent.  There are constant rumours that a new dolphinaria will be created in the UK, possibly in London, and that a species which should only enjoy its liberty at sea could once more be housed in yet another chlorinated tank for our so-called enjoyment.  We must be on our guard, like Croatia, and push for an end to the keeping of dolphins in water circuses. 

Blogging off. 


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Chain Reaction!

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

Dear Friends 

Just back from Ethiopia and for one lion it is good news.  Born Free was recently made aware that a solitary male lion was being kept in a small cage on a one metre chain near the Ethiopian border with Somalia – not the safest place in the world!  The Ethiopian authorities advised us that they were willing to confiscate the lion and get it out of these appalling conditions but had no funds to mount the mission.  Born Free stepped in.   

I am happy to report that Dolo (named after the town where he was confined) is now in a temporary holding enclosure in Awash National Park.  I saw him last Saturday. He seemed calm but slightly bemused as if he could not understand how his life was being transformed.  He is off the chain and he can now at least walk without restraint.  He is thin but not emaciated and with better food together with a little exercise he should improve.   

Despite being four years old, he has virtually no mane.  We are not sure why – it could have been the chain that rubbed it off. 


We are considering what to do for the longer term but thanks to the intervention of the Natural Resources Department of the Ethiopian Government, Dr Rea Trchopp, a Swiss vet willing to make the 60 hour round trip, and Born Free’s financial support, Dolo can make a new start. 

Blogging off 


P.S. Offset your air travel carbon emissions with Born Free – I do! Go to