Archive for April, 2015

The Border Point Project

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Dear Friends of Wildlife,

Every day we read in the newspapers, see on the TV, etc., the latest news about another seizure of wildlife products. It could be ivory going into Thailand; rhino horn going into Vietnam; bear body parts or pangolin scales going into China. While effective wildlife law enforcement in the field – in other words, protecting the living animals where they live is vitally important, as are efforts to reduce demand for these kind of products in consumer countries – the ability of border agencies to identify and intercept illegal wildlife products leaving their country, is also a key factor.

Inevitably, the capacity of an individual country to carry out border checks varies enormously – and even in some of the world’s most affluent countries significant illegal trade occurs. For example, it has been estimated that five tonnes of bushmeat (the meat of wild animals) is intercepted at Charles de Gaulle airport in France every week.

Imagine how challenging securing borders is in parts of Africa!

As a result of a successful bid for funding from the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, a fund established by DEFRA in 2014, Born Free is working with the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA) to implement a Border Point Project in the Horn of Africa in an effort to reduce trafficking of ivory and live animals such as cheetah, caught from the wild and shipped to the Arabian Gulf States as ‘exotic pets’.

You can find out more by going visiting the Born Free website.

In the last few weeks, another three cheetah were intercepted by the authorities and are now at Ensessakotteh, Born Free’s Rescue Centre, outside Addis Ababa. There they will live out the rest of their lives in the best possible circumstances we can provide – their chance of ever going back to the wild and contributing to the survival of their species is very slim.

Born Free hopes that through the Border Point Project and working with EWCA, the police, customs, military, judiciary, municipal officials and airport staff, over 10,000 officials will have a better understanding of both national and international wildlife laws. Armed with that knowledge we hope they will be able clamp down on wildlife crime.

I know that the criminal networks that make a killing trading either live wild animals or their body parts are highly entrepreneurial. I know they will always try to exploit the weakest link. The Ethiopian Border Point Project will make their lives more difficult, reduce levels of criminality – and save the lives of wild animals in the process.

It is just another way that, with your support, Born Free and our partners around the world are making a difference.

Blogging off


Wednesday 22nd April: The 45th United Nations Global Citizens Earth Day

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

What was I doing?  Sitting at Public Hearing to try and prevent potentially devastating oil and gas exploration in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the Surrey Hills above Dorking.  The height of irony.  At a time when a billion people around the world (according to the UN) were thinking about conserving, protecting and nurturing natural environments, we were in a dog-fight over this issue.  The outcome won’t be known for weeks – possibly months – but I hope that common-sense will prevail and that this precious natural area will not be jeopardised for what, at best, might deliver between three to five days hydro-carbon use for the UK.

However, that’s not the only thing we need to pay attention to!

On Sunday 26th April, a fabulous team of athletes (!) will be running the London Marathon for Born Free including our very own Mark Jones.  It is a day when the Nation comes together, considers the plight of those less fortunate (people and animals) and approximately 40,000 put their best foot forward to raise funds for charity.  I am going to make my donation now and I do hope that you will consider showing your support by going to

Blogging off (or should that, in this special week, be jogging off?).


Non-Human Persons?

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Guest blog from Liz Tyson –Born Free’s consultant on Animals in Entertainment

Judge who granted chimpanzees, Leo and Hercules, “non-human person” status, reconsiders landmark ruling

On Monday, in a first-of-its-kind ruling anywhere in the world, the Manhattan Supreme Court granted an Order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus to two chimpanzees, Leo and Hercules, who are currently being used in biomedical research in the State of New York. The move was heralded as a significant step forward by the organisation which brought the chimps’ case before the court, The Non-Human Rights Project. Then, late yesterday, it was reported that the Judge had explicitly removed the “writ of habeas corpus” from the Order; much to the disappointment of animal advocates around the world.

So, what exactly does all this actually mean?

The principle of habeas corpus is quite simple; it is used when it is believed that the imprisonment of a person is unlawful and calls for that person to be brought before the court to have this point decided, one way or another.

Being granted writ of habeas corpus does not guarantee that the person in question will be set free, but it does allow for the case to be considered. The individual will then be released only if the court rules that the ongoing detention is unlawful and cannot be legally justified.

In recent years, animal advocates have attempted to use the principle of habeas corpus to challenge the imprisonment of non-human animals. Cases involving whales held in captivity, primates used in laboratories and, most recently, an orang-utan in an Argentinian zoo have all been brought before the courts, with varying degrees of success.

Most of the applications have been rejected by the courts but, in December last year, an orang-utan named Sandra who lives in an Argentinian zoo was allegedly granted writ of habeas corpus. However, on closer reading of the court judgment, legal experts were not convinced that this was in fact the court’s intention and Sandra currently remains in the zoo.

In contrast to the Argentinian case, yesterday’s ruling was initially clear: the legality of the ongoing imprisonment of the chimps will now be examined by the court and, if found that it is not legally justified, Leo and Hercules will be freed and transferred to a sanctuary where their needs can be better provided for.

But animals are transferred from labs to sanctuaries, from zoos to sanctuaries and from circuses to sanctuaries fairly regularly, so why is this particular case so important?

You might have noticed that habeas corpus applies to “persons”; a term that we normally associate with humans.  And it is this small word which may have made the world of difference; not just for Leo and Hercules, but for non-human animals all over the world.

In issuing the writ of habeas corpus, the court appeared to have recognised both Leo and Hercules as “persons”, and “persons” are generally recognised as having certain basic rights under the law. These include the right to bodily integrity and the right to liberty. Until this point, non-human animals had only ever been recognised as “property”; legally speaking classed as “things” rather than living, breathing, feeling individuals.  Sadly, it is the habeas corpus part of the Order which has now been reconsidered and removed; leaving advocates uncertain as to whether Leo and Hercules are indeed being considered “legal persons” or if the judge has had second thoughts on the potentially far-reaching implications of the original ruling.

Monday’s ruling in its original form had the potential to pave the way for the legal status of animals to change dramatically and, with it, shift the boundaries of how we humans can use animals for our own purposes. For example, a chimpanzee with personhood status could not be subjected to painful experiments while an orca with personhood status could not be held captive for entertainment in a small tank for his or her lifetime. The implications of recognising non-human animals as “persons” are huge, but it remains to be seen whether or not, in either its original or amended form, the Order will have the impact that animal advocates hope.

What is clear is that Leo and Hercules, whether recognised as “persons” or not, will have their day in court as the institution holding them still has to present just cause to the court, as originally ordered. It may be that, in practice, the exclusion of the habeas corpus element of the order has very little impact on what remains a landmark case in legal history. For now, we will be watching developments with great interest and we heartily congratulate all those involved in this important process.


Spring in our step

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

So, although it is months away, I am already preparing for the Maidstone Fun Run (yes, I know it is not the Marathon!) in August.

Top Born Free supporter, Anneka Svenska (@AnnekaSvenska) and I will be blasting round the 5km course in double-quick time (or not!).  Of course, it is the perfect opportunity for you to join us and raise additional funds for Born Free and we can have a good old chat as we jog round! More information on how and where you can Fun Run for Born Free

Seriously, I have just returned from my fantastic sports physio, Helen King ( and she is determined to sort out my bad back and make sure the run is enjoyable.  From here on, I will be building up on a weekly basis until I am as fit as the proverbial flea!

But I am not the only one who has got running on the brain.

Mark Jones, Born Free’s Programmes Manager Wildlife Policy,  and a stellar team of athletes, supporters and friends will be running the London Marathon on 26th  April and I know that they would love to have your support as they grind out the 26+ miles.  You can show them the love by going to

Hats off to Mark and the rest.  I have done the London Marathon and it is certainly not a challenge for the fainthearted!

So, as the sun comes out, our ‘plimsolls’ come on (yes I know, trainers) so why not join us and put your best foot forward for animals.

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