Archive for September, 2012

Breeding of Giant Pandas in Zoos: is it really worth it?

Friday, September 28th, 2012

A one-week-old giant panda has recently died at the National Zoo in Washington DC, USA. The cub, which was born on 16th September 2012, had been conceived through artificial insemination. Since a breeding programme began at the Zoo in the 1970s, at least 6 cubs have died, with only one surviving to adulthood.

Outside China, there are approximately 47 giant pandas currently housed in zoos, and records show that there have reportedly been 51 births and 60 deaths since 1937. The relatively low birth rate attests to the challenges giant pandas face in terms of successful breeding in captivity, especially outside of China and, clearly, non-Chinese zoos are effectively ‘consumers’ of giant panda.

Giant pandas are generally transferred to zoos outside of China under the terms of a loan agreement. The loan is for a fixed period of several years, perhaps as many as 10, and with a charge of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. In the case of Edinburgh Zoo the annual ‘rental charge’ is reportedly $1 million. The pandas are expected to be returned to China after the loan period and any cubs born remain the property of the Chinese government.

Animals are moved between zoos around the world for a number of reasons, and it is often claimed that transfers are necessary to ensure that genetic diversity is maintained within the captive population, especially for threatened species. However, in the case of giant pandas, breeding pairs are often sent to zoos around the world for political and economic reasons rather than as a necessary component of genetic management.

The conservation benefits of such transfers are highly questionable. Although it is claimed that the annual loan fee goes towards the conservation of the species, there is some doubt whether this money goes directly to conserving the species in the wild. Some sources claim instead that it goes towards the funding of captive breeding. To date, only one giant panda has ever been released back into the wild, and it sadly died a year later.

Transporting captive animals long distances and into unfamiliar surroundings can profoundly increase their stress levels. Stress can lead to a variety of health and welfare problems for captive animals, for example changes in social behaviour, prolonged inactivity, stereotypic behaviour, and lower levels of immunity, with associated higher susceptibility to illness and disease.

The arrival of Tian Tian and Yang Guang at Edinburgh Zoo in December 2011 can be interpreted as a diplomatic  gesture, aimed at enhancing political relations between Scotland and China while, potentially, generating a much needed increase in ticket sales for Edinburgh Zoo (In 2010 the Zoo had to be rescued with a £2m bank loan).

The last survey carried out estimated that there were around 1600 giant pandas left in the wild and this number is decreasing. More efforts need to be focused on protecting the giant panda’s natural habitat rather than transporting them to zoos around the world where conditions may be entirely unsuitable, the animals’ welfare may be severely compromised and the educational and conservation dividends are remarkably elusive.

Blogging off,


World Rhino Day 22nd September 2012

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

White Rhino

World Rhino Day 2012…. How long will we be able to celebrate this annual event if the poaching of wild rhino continues as it currently does? 394 rhino poached in South Africa so far this year – and there is more than 3 months to go.

Rhino are in such trouble. The have gone from Cameroon, they have gone from Sudan. They may go from Tanzania and other countries in a few short years.

Much has been written about the crisis and what to do about it. You’ll find some links here.

But words alone are not enough. Action is needed now. You can help! You can shout for rhino, write about rhino, campaign for rhino, fundraise for rhino, advocate for rhino, do anything for rhino – but don’t stay silent. Ignoring the plight of the world’s rhino will hasten their demise.

If we make enough noise – until the buyers stop buying and the poachers stop poaching – then in 365 days’ time we shall be able to celebrate World Rhino Day 2013… if not….

Less donations to charities from younger generation?

Friday, September 21st, 2012

As reported on Radio 4 Today programme, it seems that younger people today aren’t giving as much to charities.

That may be the case nationally but, at Born Free, we are inspired by the generosity of younger people (and in fact all our donors) who loyally support what we are trying to do to make the lives of wild animals better and safer.

Jumping out of planes, running the Great North and South Runs, finishing the Marathon, baking cakes, forgoing birthday presents, doing jumble sales, garage sales, car boot sales, organising events at school, at home, at work… members of the Born Free ‘family’ – young and old – are out there every single day doing their bit to make a real difference.

And we are always ready to help people with their ideas of how to raise money for the animals so don’t hesitate to check out our fundraising page or call 01403 240170, or if you simply wish to make a donation, you can do so here.

So a huge Born Free THANK YOU to everyone who cares and who supports us…. The animals can’t say it but I can!

Blogging off


Dear Friends of Wildlife

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

The furore relating to proposals to start culling badgers has reached new heights. The Government seems determined to press ahead with pilot projects in the West Country in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence indicating that this will have almost no positive or lasting impact on reducing and, eventually eliminating, TB in cattle. The public are outraged and the Welsh Assembly has decided to proceed with vaccinations and not a cull.

Born Free joins Team Badger

What do the Welsh know that we don’t?

It seems to me that they have taken a long-term and principled decision based on exactly the same evidence that is in front of Defra but that, Defra for best reasons known to themselves, are determined ‘to be seen to do something’ to appease the farming lobby even though that something makes no sense at all.

Born Free has joined Team Badger (as reported in the Telegraph, The Independent, Express and many more media outlets), along with Brian May, Save Me, The Badger Trust, RSPCA, The League Against Cruel Sports, Humane Society International, David Shepherd Wildlife Trust, Animal Aid, VIVA, Care for the Wild, IFAW, Stroud 100, Gloucestershire Against the Cull, Conservatives against the Cull, Political Animal Lobby, PETA and RETHINK Bovine TB, and we are asking everyone who agrees with us and wants the Government to step back from the brink and to sign the Petition It is our way of saying NO to culling and YES use the vaccination. It is the right thing to do.

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