Archive for April, 2013

Congratulations Virginia!

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

I’ve some wonderful news to share and wanted personally to tell you without delay.

My mother and Founder of the Born Free Foundation, Virginia McKenna OBE, has just been awarded the prestigious ‘Outstanding Contribution Honour’, at ITV’s inaugural British Animal Honours 2013. Broadcast earlier this evening, the dazzling awards ceremony was hosted by Paul O’Grady and celebrated the country’s most extraordinary animals and the amazing people who dedicate their lives to them. I hope you managed to see it, but if not you can see a video and read a transcript of Virginia’s speech here.

Here at the Born Free Foundation we’re deeply moved and very proud that Virginia’s tireless work for wildlife has been so publicly recognised – the tributes from Martin Clunes, Jenny Seagrove, Helen Worth, Brian May and Anita Dobson are still ringing in my ears.

The awards ceremony included a fascinating insight into her life as a wildlife crusader and, of course, as a much-loved actress.  Virginia, who was voted one of the most inspirational people of all time in a Daily Telegraph poll, starred in some of our best-loved films, including Carve Her Name With Pride, A Town Like Alice, Ring of Bright Water and of course, the phenomenally successful Born Free – a film which changed her life and that of my late father Bill with whom she co-starred.

But despite an exceptional career in cinema and theatre, Virginia pushed aside the glamour of movie stardom and the West End stage to focus on her personal mission with the Born Free Foundation, the wildlife charity she helped found back in 1984 and on whose behalf has worked unstintingly ever since.

Seeing her recognised in this way – by her peers and by the public at large – has given me fresh inspiration and I know you too share her passion for lions, elephants, tigers, gorillas, bears, dolphins, wolves and thousands of wild animals that rely on us for their safety and survival.

It’s great to count on you as part of the Born Free family and so, as a mark of respect for Virginia’s work, I have a personal request to make. I wonder if you would click on the buttons below and take further action to save lives, stop suffering, rescue individuals and protect species.

Virginia has just launched a major appeal to raise funds to protect Africa’s lions from exploitation and we urgently need your help and support.

And finally, you can keep up to date with our work to help animals through our social media.  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up to our free monthly e-newsletter BF-Mail.  Get connected to the wild today!

Together, thanks to Virginia, we are a voice for the animals and a force for good.

Anna Merz – A Tribute

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

When I received the news of the death of Anna Merz I was knocked sideways.  This wonderful lady, who was the ultimate champion of rhinos, just couldn’t be gone.  I have a recent letter from her on my desk awaiting my reply.  Now there won’t be one.  Only this tribute from a like-minded old person – one who shares her deep respect for living creatures and the natural world, and who also sometimes finds the way humans treat them callous, intolerable and mystifying.

In 1982 Anna created the Lewa Downs Rhino Sanctuary (now the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy).  Her vision, determination and compassion made her one of the pioneers of wildlife conservation in the wild.  A role model for us all.

I had the great joy of visiting her and her rhino sanctuary in the 1980s. I will always remember it, and her, and thank her for her loyalty and devotion to the animals she was determined to save, and for being such an inspiration to all of us who share her passion.


Virginia McKenna
Founder Trustee
Born Free Foundation

Follow the Tiger Tracks

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Dear Friends of Wildlife

The new Tiger Territory at London Zoo, following hard on the heels of the Zoo’s Gorilla Kingdom (almost £10m between the two of them) and Edinburgh Zoo’s dalliance with captive giant pandas (there goes another £6m) does surely call into question whether endangered species are getting the best possible support in these difficult times and when the challenges of survival in the wild are so pressing.

Having just returned from the CITES Conference in Bangkok where the global zoo community (10,000 zoos and hundreds of thousands if not millions of zoo professionals) were largely conspicuous by their absence, it seemed clear to me and the Born Free team that, with the best will in the world, the impact of this multi-billion pound global industry on the future of species and their habitats is largely negligible.

The handful that try to make a meaningful contribution provide barely a fig leaf to cover the zoo body-corporate but they cannot conceal the paucity of what zoos actually deliver compared to the conservation and education rhetoric they espouse.

You are probably aware of the Save Wild Tigers,  Born Free and EIA ‘Tiger Tracks’ event that ran throughout March at St. Pancras International, London. Last Thursday the 21st March I attended the Tiger Tracks Gala Dinner, an event to raise funds to help protect tigers in their natural habitat. The night was a great success, raising thousands of pounds for our life saving conservation and wildlife law enforcement work. Vitally, it showed that there is a real interest in protecting and conserving tigers in the wild, and not preserving in costly, minuscule, and alien living museums.

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