Archive for July, 2011

Sharks, ivory and meeting the Prime Minister

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Dear Friends of Wildlife

Well done to the South African shark conservationists who, when a great white shark landed on their boat (!) did whatever it took to get the animal back into the water safely (even after it had subsequently beached itself). Sharks don’t usually get such care and attention.

Well done to the Lusaka Agreement Task Force and the Government of Kenya for burning 5 tonnes of ivory yesterday in Tsavo National Park, sending a (smoke) signal to poachers and the criminal gangs who run them that killing elephants for their teeth and risking the lives of rangers and wardens will not be tolerated.

But….. Not wanting to dwell on the scandalous phone-hacking issues that have taken place and which are rightly a cause for outrage and distress, I learnt this morning that the Prime Minister has had many meetings with representatives of News Corporation – 27 of them – in the last 15 months. That’s almost one meeting every two weeks!

Virginia McKenna OBE, Born Free’s Founder, sent a letter on 23rd May, asking for a meeting with the Prime Minister, that was 9 weeks ago…… Just one meeting about a matter – ending the use of wild animals in circuses – about which the country is united. We are still waiting…. Doesn’t seem right to me.

Blogging off.


Holidays and Origins

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Dear Friends of Wildlife

Exciting news for responsible holiday-makers!

I was lucky enough to attend, last week, the launch of Kuoni’s Ananea online brochure which offers unforgettable nature, authentic encounters and respectful travel, and I must say, it seemed to strike a chord with the many journalists who also came to the Royal Opera House to hear all about it.

Born Free has had a long-standing and excellent relationship with Kuoni over the years, both in terms of Born Free holidays and the wonderful support we receive from all Kuoni members of staff, from top to bottom.

It is very exciting!

By the way, did you know (thinking about places I would like to revisit) that An Elephant Called Slowly is now available on DVD from Born Free. It is a charming film made in Tsavo National Park (in Kenya) in the late 1960s by my mum and dad and features not only the legendary George Adamson but the elephant, Pole Pole, whose death at The London Zoo in 1983, sparked the creation of Zoo Check which became the Born Free Foundation. It is a family film with many humorous moments not least the mud-wallow, the temperamental (but wonderful) Land Rover, rhinos and lollipops, and an elephant in the bathroom!

It is suitable for all the family and is available in the UK now for the first time in many, many years – you lucky lot!

Blogging off



Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Dear Friends of Wildlife

Trust me; 9,000 words is a huge article but somehow even the efforts of one of our greatest wordsmiths, Alex Shoumatoff, writing in Vanity Fair, could not entirely capture the enormity of the plight faced by elephants across Africa and Asia ……. but he did a damn fine job, supported by a wonderful portfolio of both heart-warming and distressing images taken by acclaimed photographer, Guillaume Bonn. This landmark article not only explores the reality of elephant life – their complex and social make-up, their communities, their families – but follows the bloody trail of ivory from the plains and forests of Africa through the heaving markets of the Near East to the rapacious retail outlets of China.

And China features heavily not only because that is where demand for ivory is being driven from but because, as Chinese nationals numbering more than a million expand their footprint across the African continent, building roads, mining, and carrying out timber extraction etc., so it would appear that Chinese nationals are behind the poaching and associated corruption that comes with it, according to Alex.

Here’s a link to the article, a short film and a photo-gallery …….. judge for yourself.

What is to be done?

From Born Free’s perspective we are supporting law enforcement in a number of Central and West African countries helping bring poachers to book, making sure the laws which protect elephants on paper, protect elephants in reality. We are supporting the conservation work of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, and others and we are exposing the true scale of its trade to the more than 170 countries that have signed up to the CITES Treaty (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) which is supposed to protect wildlife from unsustainable trade ( And make no mistake, it is an unsustainable trade – an estimated 35,000 elephants a year are being killed for their ivory and with only between 400,000 – 500,000 elephants in total…you do the maths.

We and the enforcement agencies and the dedicated conservationists can only do so much. Without political will we will fail. So, the international community, the USA, the European Union, the British Government, need to listen to the voice of Africa. They need to pay attention to the newly approved African Elephant Action Plan, endorsed by every single one of the 37 African countries with wild elephants. This Plan is the blue-print for the survival of the species but while ‘one-off ivory sales’ continue, while the UK Government, the EU and others fail to withdraw the ‘favoured ivory trading nation’ status from China and Japan, while some (perhaps including the UK Government officials who advised our former Environment Minister Joan Ruddock) continue to believe that limited, legal ivory sales stockpiled ivory can ‘satisfy demand’, then we will be fighting a losing war. Rampant demand is fuelling supply and far outstripping the potential supply of ivory. All the elephants would have to die and even then demand would not be ‘satisfied’!

Therefore, the only appropriate and effective course of action is, once again, to make all ivory trade illegal. No more one-off sales. No more concessions to trade. No more ivory tusks being sold at a staggering US$1,500 a kilo (US$700 a pound). Only then will the message be clear, will the poachers realise they have nowhere to hide, will the enforcement agencies and customs authorities be able to act with certainty …… and will the world’s wild elephants stand a fighting chance.

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