Archive for September, 2013

Confusion reigns at Chessington

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Chessington World of Adventures is claiming that visitors wearing animal-print clothing may be ‘confusing the animals’, and has banned such items from being worn in the park. This follows the opening of a new safari ride which allows visitors to journey through a 20 acre area with animals including giraffe, rhino and flamingos. The more cynical among us might wonder whether the ban is a publicity ploy, as it appears to have captured the media’s attention, with the Guardian reporting that the animals were ‘confused when they see what looks like zebras and giraffes driving across the terrain in a 7.5 tonne truck’.

Strangely, there is no word on the animals’ reaction to the presence of the 7.5 tonne truck, full of people using cameras and phones in their enclosure. Such ‘safaris’ occur regularly which would surely cause constant disturbance to the animals. Visitor reports on Tripadvisor indicate that guests are disappointed when they do not see much – but who can blame the animals for keeping their distance when there is a noisy truck rumbling past?

Perhaps Chessington should take another look at what is really upsetting its animals.



Panda pregnancies – facts on panda conservation

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

While Edinburgh Zoo remains suspiciously silent as the due date of their much-anticipated and highly-publicised possible baby panda slips by, researchers at the Chengdu Research Base in China reveal pictures of an assembled collection of 14 captive-bred panda cubs, from a total of 20 born at the facility this year alone.

What this demonstrates is that breeding pandas in captivity, at least by using artificial insemination in China, is no longer a challenge. So why the song and dance about the (seemingly fading) possibility of a panda cub at Edinburgh Zoo? After “natural” mating was deemed to have failed, Edinburgh Zoo attempted costly, invasive artificial insemination of the female panda Tian Tian in April 2013. Since then, the media has been almost saturated with coverage of the possibility of a new baby panda, with the kind of anticipation usually reserved for a Royal baby.

What is lacking in all of the hysteria is some perspective. Recall that the import of the two adult pandas to Edinburgh Zoo was a “primarily commercial” transaction, with some speculation as to whether much of the £6m fee paid to the Chinese Government will likely filter through to assist in the conservation of pandas in the wild. Captive pandas, and especially captive baby pandas, may sell newspapers and drive visitors to zoos but they do little or nothing for the long-term security of the species.

Dr Sarah Bexell, director of Conservation Education at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, was reported as saying that captive-bred pandas are no more than a ‘caricature’ of the real thing: “The cute, fluffy panda stories that we always read, where the scientists are saving the panda and everything is OK, are actually hurting the wild pandas.”

If ever there was an example of a zoo diverting our focus away from the very challenges of genuine conservation, this could be it.


Terror in Nairobi – A Human Tragedy of Mammoth Proportions

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Usually in my blogs I write about my outrage at the cruelty and suffering inflicted by people on animals.  Today it is the brutality of people on innocent people.

The terrorist attack in Nairobi fills us with horror.  The images are burnt into our brains.

Our deepest sympathies go out to Kenya and its people.

Those of us who have worked for and supported conservation in Kenya for many years and worked with some outstanding people feel personally traumatised and I know people who have lost their lives in this tragedy.

But there is a wildlife link.

Al-Shabab, al–Qaeda, The Lord’s Resistance Army and others are bent on destroying society as we know it through a campaign of terror have to get their funds from somewhere and research has confirmed that the slaughter of tens of thousands of elephants across Africa and the sale of their ivory provides a vital economic life-line to these brutal and heartless organisations.

The bloody ivory trade is intrinsically linked to national, regional and global terrorism and now is the time for the resources of the international community and our unrelenting attention to be turned to the eradication of organised wildlife crime as part of our global effort to make the world a safer place.

Today, as the siege enters its last phase and we hope that the security forces will secure the safe passage for the remaining hostages, our thoughts must be with the human victims of this outrage.

But from this day forward, we must not only show compassion for people but we must be do all within our power now as individuals, as communities, at government level and internationally to crush terrorism and make the world a safer place for people and wildlife.

Will Travers OBE

CEO Born Free Foundation

Elephants in Cyanide Shock

Monday, September 9th, 2013

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

You think you’ve seen and heard it all. Animals beaten to death, locked away in solitary for year, turned into fur coats, ivory bangles, pseudo-medicinal products….

And then someone takes it to another level of depravity.

In an incident that has only recently come to light, Zimbabwean authorities report the poisoning of over 40 elephants with cyanide – all for the sake of their ivory.

Great, magnificent creatures dying in agony and left to rot. And the poison will also kill any wild scavengers that subsequently come to feed on their elephantine, grey-ghost carcasses.

Cruel, indiscriminate (babies and adults, killed without compassion or thought) and utterly heartless.

The local authorities, many of them doing their very best, have recovered 17 tusks (worth an estimated US$100,000 or more) and 6 suspects have been arrested, but clearly someone has made a killing.

There are fewer and fewer elephants still wandering the plains and forests of Africa. They are the target of spearing, shooting, hunting, poisoning and persecution. The forces protecting them are ill-equipped, thin on the ground and poorly paid.

Our job? To make a difference (as we have just done in Burkina Faso). It’s going to be a hard, long battle for the elephants – but it’s a war we simply cannot afford to lose.

This incident has made me MAD – but the fightback starts now!

Blogging off.

Will Travers OBE
CEO Born Free Foundation