Archive for October, 2007

Make our pain worthwhile

Friday, October 26th, 2007

Dear Friends

It’s not about animals today, it’s about 90 feet.  Yes, the 90 feet belonging to the 45 brave (or may be slightly mad!) runners who will be competing in the Great South Run in Portsmouth, this Sunday, on behalf of Born Free – and guess who will be one of them?  I am joined in this foolhardy, but fun(?) endeavour, not only by 40 friends of Born Free, but by Mandy, Alison and Rachel from the Born Free office.  All their hard work and training peaks as we slice our way through the field of 18,000 runners seeking immortality and the prospect of our names being engraved on some cup or other. 

No, of course, that’s just a flight of fancy!  As the rain and wind lash the course, we will drag ourselves round but, with your help, raise significant funds for Born Free. The four of us set a target of £1,000.  We are 80% of the way to the target but wouldn’t it be great to pass that milestone (pun intended). 

So there’s 48 hours to go, and if you feel like supporting us, then please go to

We will be posting pictures from the event next week.

Blogging off


It’s a Parliamentary Circus!

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Dear Friends

Tuesday night’s meeting  at the House of Commons was singularly frustrating.  With a time limit of only 90 minutes, Lord Rooker consumed significant amounts of time with introductory remarks and lengthy responses to questions about FMD (foot and mouth disease), Blue Tongue and Bovine TB, all the while bemoaning the fact that the summer’s disease, floods and Cabinet reshuffle had blown departmental priorities off course.

In reality, this meant that member organisations, who had sat patiently for well over an hour, were faced with the prospect of asking 10 questions in the final 15 minutes and were clearly left wanting more.

The issue of more wild animal circuses had already suffered a pre-emptive strike in the Minister’s opening remarks when it was described as controversial but of lower priority.  My last gasp intervention on behalf of circus animals (as the clock counted down the final minutes) was given short-shrift.

While the Minister recognised that there were currently only a small number of wild animals in circuses, he conceded that the number could grow but stated that “not everything can be a priority” and that nothing that required further primary legislation stood a chance.

It seemed to me that he entirely missed the point; that ending the use of lions, tigers, elephants, primates, crocodiles – in fact all wild animals in circuses – would not require primary legislation just recognition that circuses cannot meet the needs of wild animals and, that being the case, their use in circuses should be ended.

C’mon UK gov!  We pride ourselves on our high standards of animal welfare but as far as circuses are concerned, we now lag behind Hungary, Austria and even brave Croatia. 

Soon we could become the sick man of Europe regarding the issue of wild animals in circuses.

If this situation distresses you as much as it does me, then write to your MP urging him or her to call on the Minister to bring the use of wild animals in circuses to an end. More info on circuses can be found at

Blogging off


Solomon Island Dolphins – the nightmare continues

Friday, October 19th, 2007

Dear Friends

If you thought I was mad before, now I am REALLY mad!

The news is that two plane loads of live dolphins left the Solomon Islands and arrived in Dubai yesterday.  They left behind three dead animals whose carcasses apparently lay on the side of the road leading to the holding pen.  The export of these dolphins, strongly opposed by numerous expert groups, NGOs and international government representatives, was brokered by a former Vancouver aquarium trainer described by some as a “dolphin slave trader”.  No-one knows for sure how many dolphins have been injured or died during the capture and holding process but a million-dollar deal ended in a 30-hour flight to a resort hotel in the Middle East.

Maybe the dolphins that died were – in fact – the lucky ones.  What prospects do the survivors have?  Instead of hundreds of miles of tropical ocean, the dynamics of living in their ever-changing pods, the freedom to communicate, and, if you believe as I do, discussing the world around them in a language we are too impoverished to understand, they face a lifetime in a pool.

If this was a ‘deal or no deal’, if they could choose ……. and the real tragedy on top of all of this is that we seem powerless to prevent this kind of archaic exploitation from taking place.  Governments complain, we wring our hands …… the authorities claim that there is nothing wrong.

I am deeply ashamed.

Blogging off.


PS  For further information click here

Live dolphin capture

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

Dear Friends

Since the early 1990s, the UK has been a dolphin-friendly zone. Born Free, together with other organisations, helped relocate three of the last UK captive dolphins to the Caribbean where, after ‘deprogramming’ they were taught to be self- sufficient and they were released into the wild.

But if you think it is all over and that no-one would, in their right minds, go out and capture dolphins, then think again. The Solomon Islands are preparing to capture up to 30 dolphins to ship primarily to captive facilities in the UAE! Despite international protests from the marine experts (including the Cetacea Specialist Group of the IUCN), NGOs and the Governments of both New Zealand and Australia, it seems that nothing will stop them.

Sadly, there seems little that CITES can or is willing to do. I spoke directly to the Secretary General of CITES on this subject and he said “There are millions of these animals in the sea and tens of thousands die as by-catch. You could hardly describe the live capture of 30 animals as being detrimental to the species”.

I am sorry, it is just not good enough.

The thought of these highly intelligent, social marine mammals being driven mad with fear as they are captured, being programmed to eat dead fish (I was once told by a leading vet that the way you get a dolphin to eat dead fish – not their natural desire – is you drain the pool, grab the dolphin, force feed and repeat ever day until the dolphin gives up and accepts the inevitable) being lugged half-way round the world and then being compelled to perform stupid mindless tricks in pools for a stupid mindless public, makes me mad (where have you heard that before?)

Shame on those who would allow this to take place. Shame on the Solomon Islands for exploiting these animals in this way. Shame on the UAE for perpetuating a practice that should long ago have passed into oblivion.

Please write and politely ask the ministers to abandon this project to:

Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands – Manasseh Sogavare – email address

Fisheries Minister Nollen Leni – email

Blogging off


PS Back in June Born Free highlighted this issue as part of its activate campaign – you can download that campaign document here: Activate Solomon Island dolphin campaign

‘Europe’s Forgotten Animals’

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Dear Friends

At a well-attended press conference at the International Press Conference Centre in Brussels today, delegates and members of the press were told about a new initiative to try and focus the spotlight on to ‘Europe’s Forgotten Animals’ that are languishing in zoos and circuses, performing in dolphinaria, or held as private pets.

The film that the ENDCAP Coalition (END the keeping of wild animals in CAPtivity) presented at the conference, had delegates in tears. An emotional Virginia McKenna OBE, asked “How, in the 21st Century, it is possible that animals are still kept this way?”.

Full details are on our website but my own personal message to anyone reading this is to help us. We will be announcing a series of actions, including a public participation opportunity, very shortly and details will be put on to our website. I will also be sending a blog on this in the future but I need everyone to spare a minute or two to make sure that these animals are no longer living in the shadows but become a priority of Europe’s decision-makers.

The film shown at the press conference is available to view below. The film does not contain images that are violent or offensive, but it is simply evidence of how badly we have got this wrong and what we need to do is to put it right.

Blogging off


Lucky escape for Kenya’s wildlife

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Dear All

It is a rough kind of justice.  Born Free and other groups have, for some years, been fighting both publicly and behind the scenes, to prevent hundreds of wild Kenyan animals being sent to Chiang Mai Night Safari in Thailand.  The Night Safari, a product of the denounced former Prime Minister of Thailand, Mr Thaksin Shinawatra (now being sought on corruption charges by the current Thai government) has been a tale of disaster from start to finish. 
The final straw appears to be the death of two elephants at the Night Safari and three other elephants ill. According to a news report in The Nation (Kenya), Suphoj Maythaphirat, a senior official, said “Night Safari animal keepers were partly at fault for not screening the feed bought from villagers, adding that elephants should not eat too much old grass in a single sitting”. He goes on to say “Insecticide in the grass – bought regularly from three communities in Tambon Mae Hia, Suthep and Nong Khwai – could be a reason for the deaths and that tests were currently underway”

I sincerely hope that this is the final nail in the coffin on the deal that Kenya and Thailand made so much fuss about two years ago and that we can, at last, put this to rest. 

 Giraffes were on the list of animals destined for Chiang Mai © Shelley Waterland

Kenya’s wildlife belongs in the wild, not in a Thai zoo and no matter how desirable it is to people, diplomatic relations between two countries should not be at the expense of the freedom of wild animals.

Blogging off.


P.S. Please visit the Born Free website ZooCheck section for further information.

Bad for Animals, Dangerous for People? The Return of Exotic Pets

Friday, October 5th, 2007

Dear Friends of Wildlife

You may have seen the rather flippant media pieces regarding changes to the legislation governing the private ownership of dangerous wild animals. The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (DWA) places restrictions on certain species thought to pose an injury risk to humans, requiring veterinary inspections, minimum safety standards a License from the Local Authority. DEFRA (Department of Food and Rural Affairs) have now seen fit to remove a number of species from their restricted list. So, anyone can now own a squirrel monkey, a coati mundi, sloth or a raccoon, among many other animal species. The justification for this decision seems to be that when this issue was put out to public consultation several years ago, little or no reported evidence was produced of injuries to people from these animals.

Sloth © Chris Draper

Naturally, in 2004 Born Free submitted information to DEFRA on the issue of Dangerous Wild Animals Act to try and prevent any weakening of the regulations. Subsequent incidents of human injury have been reported for several of the species that have now been removed from the list (e.g. coatis), yet as far as we know these cases did not influence the decision to remove these species.
Of course, what I suspect really happened was that existing legal owners of these animals (those with a DWA License) decided not to report any injuries from their “pets”, while illegal owners did not report injuries from their illegally-held animals for fear of tighter restrictions or more serious consequences like confiscation. The absence of evidence is, in my view, most certainly not evidence of absence of risk.
Born Free has been in touch with numerous experts on the care of wild animals around the world, and many people have raised concerns about the private keeping of the species being removed from the list, both in terms of the risk to humans and the animals’ welfare.  For more information on exotic pets, please click here.
Around the world, and in the USA in particular (where private ownership of wild animals is a huge problem), many laws are being introduced to restrict the private keeping of wild animals. Why is the UK bucking this sensible trend? These animals are not pets. The DWA as previously configured was an effective way of restricting widespread demand for unsuitable ‘pet’ species. Sadly, we can expect these animals’ welfare to suffer and potential for human injury to increase.

Blogging off