Archive for December, 2011

Glass Half Empty or Glass Half Full?

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Well it’s easy to be a Glass Half Empty person. Just look around. A tide of terror in Iraq; Syria in bloody turmoil; the Eurozone in crisis (again); the US limping out of recession; earthquakes; floods; unrelenting pressure on wild species and habitats; rampant rhino poaching; massive ivory trade; over-fishing; animal cruelty; political indifference..

But that, of course, is not the whole picture.

I’m a Glass Half Full person: South Sudan, a State born in relative peace; the Arab Spring; the optimism of a new Libya; the growth of philanthropy;  the empowerment of women in many previously oppressive societies; the establishment of more protected areas; the ban on seal skin imports by the EU; a new climate control treaty..

And then consider what we at Born Free have been doing too.

Rescuing lions in Ethiopia; exposing the barbarity of the trapping industry in the USA; building lion-proof bomas in Kenya; caring for our big cats in South Africa; investigating zoos in Europe; drawing the curtain down on wild animal circuses in England; supporting wildlife law enforcement in Central and West Africa; helping the Kenya Wildlife Service fight the ivory trade; protecting wild tigers in India; working with local communities in more than half a dozen countries through Global Friends;  rescuing dolphins in Turkey; saving and homing over 100 primates in Texas. I could go on (and on).

I’ve celebrated, raged, laughed, cried, championed, decried in equal measure.

But is that why I am an optimist – is that why my Glass is Half Full?

Not quite: For me it’s because wherever I look, despite all the horrors, I see the innate goodness of so many people. People who will spend their Christmas serving others less fortunate; who will cross the road to alleviate suffering; who care for all life and, in their own way, do what they can to help; who find the time when others are ‘too busy’; who give and expect nothing in return; who stand up to be counted when others sit; who speak out against injustice when others remain silent.

This is what I admire, respond to, am inspired by. The wellspring of humanity (or should that be humane-ity) that, out of a deep-seated and profound sense of compassion and justice, believes in a better world for all living beings – and is prepared to play their part in making that dream a reality.

To you all, I raise my Glass Half Full (which, by the way, is running over).

Happy New Year!



Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Edinburgh Zoo predicts up to 2 million more visitors over the next 10 years, following the arrival of 2 Giant Pandas ‘Sweetie’ and ‘Sunshine’ from China.

But will it all be financial sweetness and light as the zoo hopes - or are there hard financial lessons to be learned from the past?

“We are not aware of any revenue coming in associated with our pandas. It is a common misconception about keeping pandas.” Christina Simmons San Diego Zoo. The Daily Record January 30th 2011

“The four zoos (Washington, Atlanta, Memphis and San Diego) collectively spent $33 million more on pandas from 2000 to 2003 than they received in revenue from exhibiting them.” Washington Post August 2005

‘One reason zoos hope for births is monetary: “It helps us allay some of these costs”. Donald Lindberg San Diego Panda Conservation Team. Washington Post 2005

“It was astonishing too see, in most cases, how much more it was costing the institutions that [the panda exhibits] were bringing in.” David Towne. Giant Panda Foundation. National Geographic News 2006

“The loan agreements, most spanning ten years, have become a financial headache for the Nation’s zoo” National Geographic News March 2006

At Zoo Atlanta visitation levels shot up by 60%when pandas Lun Lun (femail) and Yang Yang (males) first arrived in 1999. After a few years, though, the crowds usually dwindle while costs remain high” National Geographic News March 2006

“For Edinburgh Zoo the pandas are a godsend after the most difficult period in its 102 year history. Last year, the zoo lost £1.5m, saw its visitor numbers slump 15% to just under 550,000 and had to be rescued with a £2m bank loan; while this year it has seen directors suspended for alleged misconduct. One was exonerated and reinstated, one was dismissed and its previous chief executive left”. The Guardian December 4th 2011

Loan a Panda: Definition of Insanity?

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Pandaesia: (Noun) A rare but serious affliction which sporadically affects millions of people generally in countries which have temporarily imported Giant Pandas from China as part of a vastly expensive ‘loan agreement’ to be placed on public display and commercially exploited for uncertain objectives. Often linked to panda-monium (Noun), a form of mass hysteria surrounding the arrival of said Giant Pandas (see recent outbreak in Edinburgh, Scotland – Dec 2011).

Usually accompanied by sounds of ‘oooh’ and ‘aaahh’. Both afflictions can, on rare occasions, lead to a panda-emic (Noun) where up to a million people misguidedly move en masse to the captive facility displaying the Giant Pandas in the often forlorn hope of witnessing captive-bred panda cubs (see pandalusional), not realising that these extremely rare births do little to enhance the conservation of the species which has doubled in number in its native China in the last 20 years. All such Giant Panda-related activities are usually associated with high level diplomatic interventions, ministerial photo-opportunities and even the endorsement of members of the Royal Family.

Fortunately these conditions subside relatively quickly after people come to their senses, following corrective information provided by organisations such as The Born Free Foundation (Noun) a UK registered charity working to keep wildlife in the wild.