Archive for December, 2015

As 2015 comes to an end, I reflect upon the past 12 months

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

Dear Friends,

As 2015 draws to a close, I was reflecting on the year that is past and, the more I thought about it the more I realised that despite all the horrors around us, some important progress was made on behalf of wildlife in the last 12 months.

Sometimes, although we want action and we want it now, it’s important to take the long view.

Here are my thoughts:

They say things never change, that the forces ranged against those who genuinely want to make this a more compassionate and caring world are too powerful, too influential, too wealthy – that they are invincible. Well, whoever they are, they are wrong.

In the 1970s there were dozens of captive dolphin shows in the UK and it seemed like they were here to stay. Today there are none – together with many others we worked tirelessly to get them closed down and get the dolphins out, and we succeeded.

Twenty five years ago circuses featuring wild animals were all over this country – there was even one which regularly featured on Television as a New Year’s Day Treat. Today there is just one circus with wild animals and, although it seems like it is taking forever, we have a promise from this government – overwhelmingly supported by all Parties and throughout the country – that this practice will be banned, as soon as Parliamentary time allows.

The Chinese love affair with and desire for the teeth of dead elephants – ivory – seemed insatiable.  Tonnes of ivory – the last mortal remains of thousands of elephant – made its way to China each year. Countries in Africa stood on the brink of losing their entire elephant populations. ON AVERAGE – over 30,000 elephants a year for the last 5 years have been killed for their ivory. I have seen the brutal, bloody consequences first hand; on elephants, on Rangers (more than 1,000 have been killed defending wildlife in the last 10 years), on communities and, yes, even on poachers – so often just exploited and expendable  pawns, sacrificed by those who run the international wildlife crime syndicates.

Who would have believed that only a few months ago, the Chinese President, Xi Xinping, and President Obama would announce that ‘within a year’ they would end virtually all domestic ivory trade’?  The end of the ivory trade may be in sight!

While commercial whaling has been banned for many years, so-called ‘scientific whaling’ has continued, with the Japanese at the sharp end. Who would have thought that the Australian Government would challenge and defeat this despicable practice in the International Criminal Court, but they have! And, as the whaling fleet sets sail once more, it looks like the Australians may challenge them yet again.

The entertainment giant that is SeaWorld seemed invincible when we started campaigning against the captive exploitation of orca and other marine mammals decades ago. Look at SeaWorld today – finances down, attendances down, share price down. A ban on trainers performing with the orca in the pool; a ban on breeding at some of their facilities… and their new Vision – bigger tanks – soundly rejected by everyone with an ounce of intelligence. Bigger tanks are just bigger prisons – they’re not fooling anyone!

When we witness with ongoing horror at Taiji, I believe we must look with a sense of history and perspective and, dare I say it, with a sense of hope. Thanks to The Cove and The Dolphin Project, Taiji will never be out of the public consciousness again. There are no ‘blind eyes’ and there is nowhere to hide.

Increasingly, people know that captive dolphin shows around the world are directly linked with the Taiji massacre. They are aware that captive exploitation is one of the key economic drivers that supports the slaughter. They know that if they don’t go to water circuses to see dolphins performing meaningless routines in artificial, alien environments, then the thing that matters most to these facilities – the bottom line – simply won’t stack up. It costs money – a lot of money – to run a dolphinarium. And if the punters don’t go, then the money doesn’t come in and the place will close. That is what happened here in the UK over 20 years ago and it can happen anywhere.

But we must not forget that to win these battles on behalf of wild animals in need will require commitment right up to the last moment. That is our job – my job, your job. Wherever we are in the world we must raise our voices of compassion long, and loud, and clear so that those who still perpetuate mass cruelty and suffering on intelligent, individual animals, appreciate that we are watching and that history will not judge them kindly if they continue.

I believe we are on the edge of a new future in terms of our relationship with wild animals and the natural world. My mentor, George Adamson, together with my father Bill and my mother Virginia, taught me that animals are individuals with individual needs, wants and desires. That is the key. No one wants to be a number – you don’t, I don’t, and neither do animals. You can do anything to a number, numbers don’t answer back.

But you cannot, should not, must not ignore an individual. We speak for each and every one of them and we will bear witness to their suffering until they suffer no more.

Blogging off

Will

It all counts

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

While Kenya prepares to destroy a staggering 130,000 tonnes of ivory, which may equate to over 14,000 dead elephants (1.8 tusks per elephant and 5kg average tusk weight), a major seizure at Heathrow Airport Terminal 4 is also significant.

The 110kg of ivory, abandoned by a passenger hailing from Angola, was intercepted by HM Border Force and National Crime Agency and is one of the largest seizures made in the UK in recent times.

As is usual practice, rather than be destroyed, the ivory is likely to be donated to dental teaching facilities as the UK does not have an ivory stockpile, as such. There is no chance that it will end up in the market place.

In the eyes of some people, the destruction of ivory is controversial. They argue that the ivory could be sold and the funds raised ploughed back into elephant protection and conservation.

Those who oppose any selling of ivory – and I am one of them – believe that any commercial sale of ivory would perpetuate the notion that ivory is a desirable, valuable ‘product’ and, as such, it is worth killing elephants for.

The auditing and destruction of ivory stockpiles has been a phenomenon of recent times with conflagrations taking place in Gabon, Ethiopia and Kenya, and ivory crushes in Hong Kong, the US, France,the Philippines and elsewhere. Countries such as Malawi have promised to destroy their ivory stocks but the process has stalled for reasons that are not entirely clear.

In 2014, Born Free conducted its own ‘ivory crush’, pulverising ivory items that had been donated to us by individuals who wanted to take ivory our of circulation.

With the recently announced news that China and the USA will end virtually all domestic sales of ivory within the coming year, it seems moves to globally end the commercial sale of ivory, or ‘white gold’ are coming to fruition.

Now we look expectantly to the EU and countries such as Thailand to take a stand and shut the markets once and for all.

The only place that ivory looks good – is on an elephant!

Well done to the Border Agency and the National Crime Agency for uncovering and foiling yet another wildlife crime.

My only disappointment is that we still don’t know if the National Wildlife Crime Unit has a future beyond 2016. Austerity measures mean that the future of the Unit is in doubt.  How can we call on developing countries to do more to protect elephants and defeat poachers when the very existence of our own specialist wildlife crime team hangs in the balance? Ggrrrrr!

Blogging off!

Will