Archive for July, 2008

A cool decision in Chile

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

While the Westminster authorities seem content to allow the use of wild animals in circuses to continue despite overwhelming public and Parliamentary opposition, an increasingly long list of countries and municipalities around the world have taken a stand against this outdated practice.

News reaches us that that Raul Alcaino, Mayor of Santiago, Chile, has recently decided to ban all circuses using animal acts to “prevent animals from being cramped together and taken away from their natural habitat.” I would like to extend the thanks of the Born Free Foundation to Sr. Alcaino for his prudent and compassionate decision.

Blogging off


P.S. You can pass on your thanks to the Mayor via the following email addresses:

Christian the Lion Lived In My Garden

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

A remarkable video documenting a reunion between a lion named Christian and two men who had cared for him early in his life has been making the rounds on the internet and in the media and I wanted to share some additional information about this story because it is very personal to me and central to the being of Born Free Foundation as an organisation.

This lion used to live in my garden.

Christian was bought from Harrods pet store in London and came, via a furniture shop and my garden in England, to live in Africa (Kora in Kenya), where he was returned to the wild by the world-famous George Adamson.

My late dad (Bill) filmed this great adventure.

The film is extraordinary and exemplifies the spirit that underpins Born Free – every individual matters. Even way back in the 1970′s, this was our way of giving Christian a shot at freedom.

This is part of the Born Free legacy. If it wasn’t for Born Free, the film, my dad and mum (Born Free’s founder, Virginia McKenna) would never have met Ace and John (the two young men in the clip) who would never have brought Christian from London to my garden. My dad, Bill, would never have negotiated with the Kenyan government for Christian’s return to Africa. We would never have had this memorable and inspiring story – and Christian would never have had his freedom.

Today, the Born Free Foundation (and Born Free USA in the States) carry on the spirit of Born Free – helping wild animals in need, fighting injustice, cruelty and neglect and working to change animals’ lives for good.

Support Born Free by joining us and you can become part of the Born Free family. To watch the clip, visit:
Thank you. Do share this story and film clip with your friends. And do join us.

Will Travers
Born Free Foundation

P.S. Born Free does not advocate the keeping of any wild animal as a ‘pet’. Christian’s story was from another era and was unique. Today we must do all we can to ‘keep wildlife in the wild’.

John Rendall is based in the UK and still supports wildlife conservation both with Born Free and with the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust. Ace now lives in Australia.

Christian lived the life of a free, successful lion, in and around the Kora area until he was seen no more. It was assumed by George Adamson that he had crossed over the Tana River and out of the Reserve.

When is an elephant like a fish?

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Dear Friends

I was wondering about this today… why?

Well let’s imagine that the EU – including the UK – recognised that an increasingly rare fish species – found only in EU waters – was subject to high levels of illegal trade. Let’s imagine too that the EU felt that the best way to protect this species was to prevent all further trade. It might be anticipated that other countries, such as all the African countries (none of which had this fish species) would support the EU in its effort to prevent the fish from becoming extinct. That’s what you’d do right? Support the EU in its effort to prevent further decline. It’s polite, respectful and appropriate.

Now imagine that those same African countries decided that they did not want any further trade in ivory to be legalised. That they wanted their elephants to benefit from maximum protection and that to do so, trade in ivory with a fabulously wealthy state known to be a major illegal ivory trade destination would have to be shelved. Wouldn’t you expect the EU to show respect and support Africa in their endeavours?


The EU has no elephants but continually acts as if it does and consistently ignores the views of the many (majority) of African elephant Range States who want no more trade. Why? I don’t know. With power comes responsibility and, frankly, that’s in very short supply here in Geneva.

Oh, and by the way, after yesterday’s high-risk vote approving the inclusion of China as an ivory stockpile trader, two female Chinese nationals were intercepted at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, caught in the act of smuggling nearly 40 pieces of ivory out of the country.

It’s endless and it’s going to get worse – and the CITES Standing Committee has just, in my view, made things a whole lot worse.

Blogging off


If you would like to find out more about the work Born Free undertakes with elephants please click here

Ivory Trade Approved for China

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Below is the Born Free Foundation press release on this issue. More to follow later:



It’s crunch time for elephants (again!)

The decision by the Standing Committee of CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) to approve China as a ‘trading partner’ for over 100 tonnes of stockpiled ivory from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe has left many conservationists and wildlife managers stunned and appalled.

“Unbelievable, naïve and deadly.” Stated Will Travers CEO of the Born Free Foundation, a member of the Species Survival Network. “It was bad enough when Japan was approved as a trading partner more than a year ago but approving China is, in my view, like pouring petrol on an open fire.”

The reasons why China should not have been approved are numerous:

  • The lack of comprehensive internal law enforcement and trade controls
  • The steady stream of illegal ivory shipments destined for China.
  • The increasing involvement of Chinese nationals based in Africa in ivory trafficking
  • The continued high levels of elephant poaching (estimated to be running at between 20,000 and 25,000 animals a year)
  • The rising price of ivory (poached Sumatran ivory tusks have reportedly increased in value by 300% since 2005)
  • The fragile nature of most African elephant populations (only half a dozen or so African countries have robust and significant elephant herds out of a total of 36 countries that are home to the species)

“Now, in addition to all these challenges and threats, we are faced with the prospect of China and Japan bidding against each other for the ivory stockpiles, driving up the price and heightening still further the incentive to poach and smuggle ivory” said Mr Travers, speaking from Geneva where the Standing Committee of CITES is convened.

Born Free and the SSN have comprehensive records relating to massive and entrenched levels of elephant poaching over the last 10 years. Together with other conservation groups, Born Free has consistently argued against any relaxation in the original ivory trade ban approved by CITES in 1989 following a decade when Africa’s elephant population fell by more than 50% from 1.3 million to 600,000. Today, elephant numbers are estimated to hover at around 475,000 – 500,000. Asian elephant numbers stand at a precarious 30,000-40,000.

The role of the United Kingdom and the EU has been subjected to significant criticism throughout this process.

“Overwhelmingly the UK public are opposed to any ivory trade but the UK government has steadfastly refused to take a principled lead on this issue, using the notion of EU unity as an excuse for lack of independent action. The UK has also continued to state that it supports sustainable utilisation of wildlife species, including the killing of species such as elephants.” Commented Shelley Waterland, International Trade Specialist with Born Free. “Quite clearly, today’s decision will encourage poachers, traders and traffickers and may well sound the final death knell for small, vulnerable elephant populations in West and Central African countries.”

It will also be shocking to many conservationists to learn that the decision to approve China as a trading partner was supported by WWF amongst others.

The illegal black market in ‘white gold’ seems set to cause parts of Africa to run red with elephant blood once more.

For some elephants E may well be for Extinction.

CITES Standing Committee Day 1 – will China be approved as an ivory trading partner tomorrow?

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Dear Friends

Geneva – 14th July 2008 – 57th Standing Committee to CITES*

Once more elephants are top of the bill:  will China get to bid for 110 tonnes of ivory? 

A highly critical report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a member of the Species Survival Network (SSN) ( indicates that any move to approve ivory trade with China is dangerously premature.

  • Ivory sales continue apace in Chinese shops
  • Illegal shipments are being sent to China
  • Chinese nationals based in Africa are implicated in illegal activities involving ivory
  • The whereabouts of over 100 tonnes of ivory from the Chinese stockpile that allegedly went missing in the decade up to 2002 remain unknown.
  • Such surveys that have taken place looking at the effectiveness of domestic law enforcement measures in China appear to be limited in nature.

Born Free Foundation (BFF) and SSN member organisations remain deeply concerned about the current situation which could see a bidding war break out between Japan (already an approved trading partner) and China (seeking approval) that could drive up the price of ivory, increase the incentive to trade and quite possibly accelerate poaching which would in all likelihood hit the most vulnerable elephant populations hardest. 

The elephant debate and decision is set to take place on Tuesday 15th July during the afternoon session.  Right now, I fear the wrong decision will be made: bureaucrats with little experience of what can actually happen on the ground, little understanding of the poaching phenomenon and little appreciation of the enormous challenges faced by elephant conservation authorities across much of Africa and throughout Asia and who are unelected and unrepresentative, will make the fateful decision.

May it be a wise one.

For many millions of people around the world are watching and elephants’ lives depend on it.

Blogging off,


*Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora