Archive for June, 2012

Message from Virginia

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

“ It was with indescribable joy that I learned that my son Will had been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. I suppose I have a particular and personal understanding of his unfailing dedication to the work we do at Born Free. As, together with his late father, Bill Travers, we have shared much of the long and often challenging journey since we started our charity 28 years ago. His commitment to the plight of animals , whether in the wild or in captivity, is total, and it is his vision that has enabled our work to expand.

Like his father Will never asks anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. In this way he is a team player. In another way he is an exceptional leader. Speaking always with an informed voice and a voice of reason and compassion. His deep-seated modesty will make him believe he receives this award on behalf of all his colleagues at Born Free and those who work in the field of conservation and animal welfare. Of course, in this work one never does things completely alone, we each of us rely on the support of our colleagues and friends, but I hope he will realise that it is he himself who has been recognised and who inspires so many people. Including myself.”

Virginia McKenna OBE
Founder and Trustee, Born Free Foundation

When is a rescue not a rescue?

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Dear Friends of Wildlife

When is a rescue not a rescue?

Having just taken part in the rescue of Kebri, the juvenile lion from a remote part of Ethiopia (who is now safely at Ensessakotteh, Born Free’s centre, just outside Addis Ababa), I think it is safe to say that Born Free knows a thing or two about rescues.

So when we heard that a zoo in Mexico had ‘rescued’ nine juvenile African elephants faced with certain death in Namibia, we thought we understood what was going on.

But a recent statement by the Namibian authorities tells a different story. Apparently these elephants were not going to be killed, had not been orphaned and were sold to the zoo in Mexico as part of a straight-forward financial transaction! The Mexican zoo, Africam Safari Zoo, is a member of the American Zoo Association (AZA) and it is my understanding that there is little to prevent some or all of these animals being moved to AZA zoos in the USA, at some time in the future.

So what was this ‘rescue’ really all about?

Well, it’s not because these elephants would otherwise have been killed and surely not because Namibia had no space for them (Namibia has less than 3 million people and is bigger than Kenya). And it’s surely not because Namibia needs the money (it is one of the wealthiest countries in Africa based on per capita income).

So is it because the number of African elephant calves born in zoos in the USA does not replace the number of African elephants that die in those same zoos? Is it because without an injection of new blood the captive African elephant population in the USA will evaporate over the next 20 to 30 years? And is it because directly importing wild-caught elephants into the USA is very difficult and Mexico might prove to be an easier staging-post?

As I say, when is a rescue not a rescue. You decide.

Blogging off.

Will