Archive for January, 2014

WAZA: World Association of Zoo Apologists?

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Recent films such as Blackfish and The Cove have captured public attention and provoked global outrage about the plight of whales and dolphins. The Cove specifically focussed on the barbaric and brutal drive hunt fisheries in Taiji, Japan, where – year-on-year – dolphins and other small cetaceans are herded by boats into coastal bays and penned. In the subsequent days, some are selected for a lifetime in captivity in dolphinaria in Japan or overseas, while many others are – to put it bluntly yet honestly – brutally speared and hacked to death. The water, literally, turns red.

Despite international condemnation, including strong words from Caroline Kennedy, the United States Ambassador to Japan, the drive hunts continue and this month has seen yet another rash of heartbreaking news and photographs highlighting the atrocities meted out on these intelligent marine mammals in this small coastal town in Japan.

The association between the captive industry and the hunts is all too apparent. Several dolphinaria in Japan have reportedly received cetaceans from the Taiji hunt, including the Taiji Whale Museum which lies little more than a stone’s throw from the killing bays. And many have joined in the worldwide expressions of disgust and outrage, including the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) which has issued a statement appearing to condemn the hunt in no uncertain terms: WAZA “strongly condemns the Taiji dolphin drive hunt” and “is deeply concerned about this practice and is taking all action possible to help stop it”.

However, all may not be as it seems. While WAZA correctly points out that no Japanese dolphinaria are individual members of WAZA, it glosses over the fact that the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) is an organisational member of WAZA. JAZA’s membership includes several dolphinaria long-associated with the drive hunt including the Taiji Whale Museum.

So, it seems to me that WAZA cannot on the one hand claim to be deeply concerned, while on the other continuing to promote the work of a national association that permits its members to benefit from brutality and seemingly to avoid taking action against any of its organisational members who are involved.

But that’s the problem: as with other national and regional zoo associations across the globe, it appears that there are no real sanctions, no genuine incentive to uphold better standards of welfare and ethics. Zoo associations exist, first and foremost, to advance the interests of their member zoos. If a zoo is caught breaking their (voluntary) codes of practice, the worst that can happen is that zoo’s membership of the association is suspended or terminated. And what does that mean to the offending zoo? In most cases, very little.

Zoo associations such as WAZA must be clear: does membership even remotely guarantee higher standards of welfare and ethics, standards that the public worldwide increasingly expect, or is membership little more than an exercise in mutual back-slapping and collective self-promotion by facilities that, in some cases, have no qualms about flying in the face of public expectations and common sense?

The eyes of the world are on the people of Taiji, the Japanese Government and now WAZA. Will the world’s biggest Zoo Association use its influence to help bring the barbaric Taiji slaughter to an end with all the powers at its disposal and will it expel any of its members and organisational supporters who either tolerate, support or are even involved in such a heinous act.

Blogging off


Important Ivory trade Update 23/01/14

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014


Following China’s destruction of 6 tonnes of its ivory stockpile, Hong Kong has committed to destroying 28 tonnes of seized ivory, with 1.6 tonnes being held back for ‘education purposes’.

Over the past two years, Born Free has recorded the seizure of at least 14.2 tonnes by Hong Kong law enforcement agencies and some estimate the Region’s stockpile at 33 tonnes. So this destruction goes a long way to destroying the majority of this stockpile.

It’s massive. The biggest destruction of illegal ivory stocks in history. Even a year ago to think that China and Hong Kong would take such decisive action would have been fantasy. Are they now set to become global leaders in the fight against the ivory trade and poaching?

Now we need to go the extra mile. Close domestic markets  – no more selling ivory. Support Africa’s conservationists and the rangers in the field to make sure they get the training, equipment and support they need to protect elephants from the poachers. Use our global intelligence-gathering machinery to infiltrate and destroy the criminal syndicates that are behind the bloody slaughter. Stop the poaching of elephants and selling of ivory funding militant and terrorist organisations determined to destabilise communities far and wide.

Thank you!

Help protect elephants by visiting

Alert to elephant lovers everywhere 20/01/14

“In 3 weeks, the UK hosts a High Level Meeting on Illegal Wildlife Crime. What will our response be? My advice is clear. Give Africa the means to do the job. Put serious funding from our Overseas Aid Budget behind the African Elephant Action Plan and support the rangers who risk their lives daily to protect Africa’s wildlife heritage. “

China has now joined the US, Gabon, and the Philippines in recently crushing its ivory stopckpile – six tons of confiscated elephant tusks. It remains to be seen whether China’s ivory crush is a true step in the right direction for the world’s largest consumer of ivory. Publicity stunt or move toward an end to China’s domestic ivory market?

China’s crush took place in what many consider to be the epicenter of the country’s illegal ivory trade. But Hong Kong, one of China’s Special Administrative Regions, is a known consumer destination for ivory from elephants poached in Africa and is also a key transit point for ivory entering China.

It’s time for Hong Kong to destroy its ivory, too. Compassionate conservationists across the globe must make our voices heard: no more bloody ivory trade!

On the 23rd of January, next Thursday, a meeting of the Endangered Species Advisory Committee is being held in Hong Kong to discuss the option of destruction for the country’s stockpile. Let’s make sure they do the right thing. Write to:

Over the past two years, Born Free has recorded the seizure of at least 14.2 tonnes by Hong Kong law enforcement agencies ( and some estimate the Region’s stockpile at 33 tonnes.

Few would have imagined China would ever consider holding an ivory destruction event. But it’s been under consideration by the Hong Kong authorities for a while, since at least 2012. ‘Let’s open a museum, hold an exhibition. Give it to schools, universities and colleges’, they’ve been saying – ‘it’s educational’. Where have we heard this before?! If ivory is not on an elephant roaming wild and free it has no place on earth – not around a neck or a wrist, not on a mantelpiece and not in government reserves stashed away for a rainy day.

Blogging off,


Is a signature too much to ask to help save the elephants?

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Early Day Motions (EDMs) are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons. However, very few are actually debated. EDMs allow MPs to draw attention to an event or cause. MPs register their support by signing individual motions.

Right now, 117 Members of Parliament from 9 Parties (and 2 Independents) have signed EDM 773 which says:

That this House notes, with alarm, that an estimated 40,000 African elephants are killed each year, one every 15 minutes, out of a total population of 400,000; recognises that the profits from the illegal wildlife trade pose an increasing threat to security by funding criminal gangs and terrorism, including al-Shabab, the Somali cell of al-Qaeda; welcomes the Government’s active role as a Party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and its support for a total ban on ivory sales; further welcomes the training and support provided by the British Army for the Kenya Wildlife Service anti-poaching rangers; further welcomes the Foreign Secretary’s initiative to host a high-level conference on illegal wildlife trade in February 2014; encourages the Government in its efforts to secure a commitment from the international community to work together to reduce demand for wildlife products, to enforce the law, and to provide sustainable alternative livelihoods; and calls on the Government to encourage international support for the protection of elephants which are now universally acknowledged as intelligent, social, sentient beings and to use the overseas aid budget to make a substantial and strategically important contribution to the African Elephant Action Plan adopted in 2010 by all 38 African Elephant Range States in order to enable African countries to take the necessary steps to protect their elephants from poachers and to stop the illegal trafficking of ivory.

So why have only 117 MPs – out of 650 – agreed to sign? Well some can’t sign.

Ministers and government whips, Parliamentary Private Secretaries and the Speaker and his deputies do not normally sign EDMs. That’s more than 100.

To be clear, Ministers and whips really do not sign EDMs. However, the 2005 Ministerial Code stated that Parliamentary Private Secretaries “must not associate themselves with particular groups advocating special policies”, and they do not normally sign EDMs (so in theory, they can). Neither the Speaker nor Deputy Speakers will sign EDMs.

But even if all the above decline to sign there are hundreds who can and who have decided not to.


Some claim that EDMs are a waste of public money. Well maybe, in the past, EDMs have been used to highlight too many frivolous issues. However, they are a legitimate way for MPs to reflect issues of concern to their constituents and society as a whole, nationally and internationally.

I would say that signing an EDM should not be a matter of policy but a matter of conscience. It makes sense if it raises an important matter. Then, whether an MP signs it or not, should be a matter of personal choice and should be done on the merits of the Motion.

EDM 773 is clearly a Motion that deserves the widest possible Parliamentary support. It calls for action to help protect elephants, their habitat, the communities that live alongside them and the rangers who risk their lives to protect them. It also recognises the wider threat that illegal ivory trade represents as a source of funding for militant groups that are bent on causing local, national, regional and international instability and it identifies the substantial budget of the Department for International Development (DFID) as a source of the modest funding needed to make things happen.

On that basis I hope that ALL MPs that can sign EDM 773 will consider their position, review the Motion on its merits and decide to offer their support in this small but important way as we prepare for the High Level Meeting on Illegal Wildlife Trade which the UK Government is hosting on the 13th February 2014.

Not to be willing to consider supporting the EDM would be another indication, in my view, of the growing disconnect between the people and some of our politicians; a disconnect that does a disservice to democracy – not to mention undermining the survival of one of the world’s most iconic and threatened species.

So, to all MPs who can sign EDMs, please do sign EDM 773. If we can secure the backing of just 48 more MPs, this would make EDM 773 the most heavily supported Motion in this session of Parliament. C’mon! We have a month to make it happen!

For details of how to contact your MP click on this link

Blogging off.


PS. Find out the latest on poaching and the ivory trade at

Our 30th Anniversary

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Dear Friends

2014 – Born Free’s 30th Anniversary year! My Mum Virginia and I, and all at Born Free, can hardly believe it!

Not only that, but it is 50 years ago that cameras rolled to shoot the classic film, ‘Born Free’, which was the genesis of it all. And 20 years since our Founder and inspiration, my Dad, Bill, passed away.

Sometimes it’s good to look to the achievements and challenges of the past to inspire us for the battles of the future.

Our Zoo Check campaigns, highlighting the plight of wild animals locked away for life for our so-called ‘enlightenment’ – NOT! Our success at helping bring to an end the captive exploitation of dolphins in the UK. Our work to bring the curtain down on the use of wild animals in circuses (to become a reality in England in 2015). Our exposure of the countless slum zoos that still persist across the EU, despite the introduction of the European Zoos Directive.

Our conservation work, helping secure a future for tigers across the Satpuda landscape, the largest remaining area of viable tiger habitat in India. The 19 years (and counting) support we have given – and about £1 million – to conserving the beautiful and rare Ethiopian wolf (just 500 in all the world). The tens of thousands of tiny turtles that have safely made it to the Indian Ocean thanks to our partners at Sea Sense. The elephants of Kenya, Tanzania, Burkina Faso and, as we speak, Ethiopia, that have a better chance of escaping the poacher’s bullet because of Born Free and the rangers we support.

Our relentless efforts to curtail the predations of the international wildlife trade that is the demise of millions of wild animals each and every year, shot, trapped, snared, netted, for their tusks, horns, bones, or skins – or sold live to endure an all-too-short existence as a pet or in a zoo or circus, detained – for life – for our ‘pleasure’.

I am very proud of what we have achieved over the last 30 years and what we achieve every day, thanks to the unremitting support of our donors, members, adopters, activators, corporate and media partners, patrons, sponsors and friends.

They, and everyone at Born Free, our sister organisation, Born Free USA, and our Born Free offices in Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa and Sri Lanka, are determined that the demise of life on earth will NOT take place on our watch.

So what will the next year hold, this special year, our 30th and what will you do to recognise this extraordinary milestone? Well there will be some incredible opportunities for you to join us at events or on a special holiday (I hope to be climbing Kilimanjaro in October – join me!), but the chance to join us, adopt an animal in need of care, treat your friends to something extra special from the growing range of gifts in our online shop, join the team that gets results as part of Activate, take part in a sponsored activity (we have loads of ideas), get connected by subscribing to our free monthly E-News, find us on Facebook or Twitter, watch out for more Born Free films, field reports and video-blogs on YouTube… The list goes on and the choice is yours!

On 13th February, the UK Government will host a pivotal Heads of State meeting to highlight and, I hope, take major steps to tackle the illegal wildlife trade that is driving so many species – elephants, rhino, tigers, lions, great apes, birds, fish, reptiles and many more – to the brink. These are issues that Born Free has been campaigning on for many years – sometimes as a lonely voice speaking out against the devastating impact of trade, legal and illegal. Maybe that meeting will mark a turning point, when the creatures we share this planet with will find their voice, be given the recognition they deserve and be given the protection and care they desperately need in order to ensure their survival long into the future… Or at least for the next 30 years and more!

Blogging off!