Archive for January, 2016

Helping Wildlife on the Home Front

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Dear Friends,

It seems these days, wildlife news is dominated by big guys and big issues – elephant ivory trade, lion hunting, tiger farms, beached whales, rhino poaching.

Some could be forgiven for thinking that wildlife in need is somewhere overseas or that our own wildlife doesn’t really matter.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

When Born Free steps up for wildlife we mean ALL wildlife – as my colleagues Tarnya Knight and Celia Nicholls explain:

“Here in the UK we are blessed with a unique variety of wildlife species from hedgehogs, foxes and badgers, to deer, otters, bats and birds. But sadly they can face many threats and dangers. Every year numerous animals are injured and orphaned, and this is often because of humans.

Problems include road traffic accidents, entanglement in rubbish and fishing lines, poisoning by pesticides, attack by domestic pets, window ‘strikes’, and much more. These incidents take a huge toll, especially when, additionally, you factor in loss of habitat, intensive farming practices, hunting and building development.

Born Free and our Care For The Wild experts are fighting to protect the wonderful wild animals found here in the UK. Together with specialists from across the country, we rescue animals in need, providing the good food, special milk, medicines and expert care they need and preparing them for life back in the wild, whenever possible.

Our own rescue work and that undertaken by UK sanctuaries (run by dedicated staff and volunteers) means thousands of animals are effectively treated and the vast majority are successfully returned to the wild each year.”
It’s impressive and heart-warming to know that so many individual wild animals are being given a second chance, right here on our doorstep.

That’s why our latest Born Free raffle is raising funds specifically for native wildlife rescue, care and, where possible, release. If you’d like to play and contribute then don’t hesitate to call 01403 240170 or to enter the raffle online go to
But you can also directly help UK wildlife. For example, Tarnya, Born Free’s UK wildlife carer, offers the following tips which could make a world of difference to a species that has suffered catastrophic declines in recent years – the hedgehog (Mrs Tiggywinkle).

“Helping Hedgehogs

Leave an area of your garden ‘wild’ – hedgehogs’ homes should be placed in a quiet and shaded area of the garden where they won’t be disturbed.

Avoid using slug pellets – many contain metaldehyde which will kill a range of wildlife, including hedgehogs.

If using netting on your plants, please make sure it’s at least a foot above the ground, otherwise hedgehogs can become entangled in the netting.

For anyone planning a bonfire, the easiest way to ensure that there will be no hedgehogs in the pile is to build it on the day you are going to light it, or by dismantling and moving it to clear ground before lighting.

If you have a pond, please make sure that it has one gently sloping side, or form a ramp out of chicken wire or something similar to create an escape route.

If you’re using a strimmer, always check the area beforehand in case any hedgehogs are in the long grass. Every year many animals suffer terrible injuries as a result of garden maintenance.

Finally, make a modest hole in your garden fence at ground level so that hedgehogs can roam freely from garden to garden.”

So, as Spring draws closer, let’s make a UK Wildlife-Friendly start to 2016

Blogging off


More UK wildlife articles here

Captivation Without Captivity

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

You could, perhaps, be forgiven for thinking that because the 1966 film Born Free featured a cast of captive lions (even though the story was all about freedom) that The Born Free Foundation would at least tolerate the use of captive wild animals in films.

Nothing could be further from the truth, as we have said for nearly 30 years.

Now our good friends at The Captive Animals’ Protection Society (CAPS) have, once more, exposed the reality of life for captive wild animals exploited for our so-called entertainment.

It is 50 years since the film Born Free was premiered in London, a fact celebrated as part of 2016 ‘Year of the Lion‘. All those years ago there was no alternative to using live animals in films such as Born Free. But, today, things are radically different.

The new Leonardo DiCaprio blockbuster, The Revenant, features CGI (Computer Generated Images) so believable that audiences cannot distinguish between real bears and those created inside the ‘mind’ of a computer.

Using living captive wild animals is lazy film-making. It perpetuates the kind of lifetime captivity exposed by CAPS and endorses companies like Amazing Animals which make a living from hiring out tigers, lions, hyenas, primates, leopards – and Zara the polar bear. Film and TV production companies who use captive wild animals do not have the imagination to use alternatives and are seemingly prepared to turn a blind eye to the unnatural and deprived lives these animals are forced to endure.

I asked my mother, Virginia McKenna OBE, one of the stars of Born Free, whether she would support the filming of a remake of the classic film that has inspired generations of animal lovers and conservationists worldwide. Her answer is crystal clear:

“That was 50 years ago. My late husband Bill and I knew little about the issue and were not presented with any alternatives. We did manage to return three of the lions used in the film back to the wild under the supervision of our dear friend and mentor George Adamson. As far as a remake of Born Free is concerned? Sure, why not. But ONLY if there is a cast-iron guarantee that no captive wild animals are used in the retelling of this amazing and inspiring true story.”

So Born Free’s message to the film, television and advertising industry is simple. Say no to the ongoing exploitation of captive wild animals for ‘entertainment’ and say yes to film-making with a compassionate heart.

Well done CAPS and DiCaprio. The future’s bright – the future’s WILD!

Blogging off


Hong Kong to Ban Import/Export of Ivory and Close Domestic Markets

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Another Nail in the Coffin for The Ivory Trade?

Dear Friends,

Who would have believed, just a few years ago, as the terrible news about escalating elephant poaching levels and massive ivory seizures relentlessly dominated the wildlife news headlines, that at the start of 2016 we would be reading the following, published in the Hong Kong Gazette (where the government of HK publishes its work plans). Hong Kong has long been recognised as a major importer and distributor of ivory.

“The Government is very concerned about the illegal poaching of elephants in Africa.  It will kick start legislative procedures as soon as possible to ban the import and export of elephant hunting trophies and actively explore other appropriate measures, such as enacting legislation to further ban the import and export of ivory and phase out the local ivory trade, and imposing heavier penalties on smuggling and illegal trading of endangered species.  Meanwhile, the Government will strengthen enforcement and take rigorous action against the smuggling and illegal trade in ivory.”

This, following hard on the heels of a range of other initiatives involving: the UN General Assembly decision that wildlife crime is a ‘serious crime’ meriting a tariff of 4 years in jail; the High Level meeting on Illegal Wildlife Trade, hosted by the United Kingdom Government in 2014 and followed up by the successful Kasane Meeting held in Botswana in 2015; the joint announcement by Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama that they would end ‘virtually all’ domestic trade in ivory; the decisions of numerous countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, France, the Philippines, Belgium, the United States of America, Chad, China and Gabon, to destroy or put beyond commercial use their ivory stockpiles.

And that’s not all. While attending the CITES Standing Committee meeting in a Geneva (11-15 January 2016) Sri Lanka has announced that it will deal with its ivory stockpile, putting it permanently beyond commercial use.

In addition, plans to develop what is known as a Decision-Making Mechanism for a future trade in ivory were all but abandoned, with many countries and non-government organisations such as Born Free and SSN (the Species Survival Network) recognising that when elephants in so many countries are in crisis and the illegal ivory trade continues unabated, discussions about a future ivory trade send all the wrong signals and may stimulate further poaching.

However, even with all this positive news, there is no room for complacency. The crisis facing elephants across so much of their range continues without respite. Rangers continue to lose their lives on conservation’s thin green line. The poaching syndicates and organised criminal networks behind the bloody ivory trade remain intact and continue to use all their ingenuity to defeat the forces of law and order. And, while public information and education initiatives have achieved remarkable results in reducing demand there are still many millions of people who want to buy ivory, fuelling the poaching.

I believe another nail has been hammered into the coffin of the global ivory trade but the coffin has yet to be buried once and for all.

Blogging Off


Presidential Blog from CITES Standing Committee 66 in Geneva.

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

The Best and Only Tool in the Box!

The Born Free team is here in Geneva working hard on many aspects of wildlife trade. Their reports will bring you more news and results soon.

But, in the meantime, here are my broader reflections on CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

Can it be possible that I have now been to every CITES meeting of the Conference of the Parties (the big meeting which takes place every 3 years) since Lausanne in 1989? Wow – I feel old!

On top of that I have also been to almost every CITES Standing Committee meeting since then. They are held every single year!

Some say why bother? Some say CITES is a busted flush, ineffective, a ‘talking shop’ that has presided over the mass slaughter of elephants, rhino, tigers, sharks, pangolins and many more species to fuel international trade.

Well – FOR SURE – CITES can do better. A lot better. It can and should get tough and take countries to task if they break the rules. It can and should show compassion and pay far greater attention to the welfare impacts of live animal trade. It can and should be wise and take a precautionary approach to trade – where there is doubt, then the benefit of the doubt should go to the species of animal or plant, not to the traders.

And it can and should get real and take resolute action to end trade if species are threatened by international trade, or animals suffer.

The question is: will it?

Well that’s why Born Free and the other members of the 100 organisation-strong Species Survival Network is here! Pushing hard to keep things moving in the right direction.

The worldwide outcry from hundreds of millions of people confronted with the killing of Cecil the Lion;  the wiping out of up to 1,000 of Tanzania’s elephants a month, every month, for the last 5 years; the brutal impact of poaching on South Africa’s beleaguered rhino population – these tragedies are making many countries, and our elected representatives, think again.

I sense a change in mood. The legal, international trade in wild species of fauna and flora – including fish and plants, such as timber species – is valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars each and every year. The illegal trade, alone, is worth between twenty and thirty billion dollars each year and can drive species towards extinction. Recognising that, as the human population continues to sky-rocket, our combined impact on wild species and the wild places where they live may simply be too great to allow for any further trade. An example of this might be great whales. Another is tigers. Others should be rhino, lion, elephant, various species of fish and reptile.

Without a global mechanism enabling us to bring about the end of commercial trade, when required, we will never achieve the results so many of us hope and work for. Of course, implementing the decisions of CITES relies on the willingness and dedication of each individual country. But that is where we can each play our role – encouraging, campaigning, voting, condemning and supporting, as appropriate, so that we end up with the world we want to see, not simply accepting the world as it is today.

In short: CITES is the best and only tool in the box that has the potential to address international trade in wild species of fauna and flora on a global basis. We would be unwise to lose it. We would be wise to use it to deliver effective protection wherever we can.

Blogging off

Will Travers


New Year Blog

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

Dear Friends,

Well, after my rather long previous Blog I wanted to keep this one shorter and totally forward looking.

It hardly seems possible that Born Free Foundation is nearing its 32nd Birthday. I recall very clearly that room in London where it all started – a room full of passion and outrage in equal measure. Outrage at the death of Pole Pole, the last African elephant in the London Zoo matched by a passionate desire to ensure that her death had not been in vain.

The subsequent journey has been filled to the brim with triumph, joy, horror and disgust – but never despair.

We are evolving. Too slowly for most, too quickly for a few. These changes are less about how we look and has more to do with how we feel and think. And it is that evolution in our thinking (or is a revolution) that is beginning to deliver the kind of compassion the world is crying out for.

Of course, there is a long way to go. Of course, the struggle is far from over – but this a movement on the march – a movement where individuals matters and where compassionate conservation overcomes.

I am so very proud of the role that Born Free and all its supporters, friends, donors, sponsors, and partners have played across more than three decades. If I could, I would shake the hand of every single person involved.

2016 is here. Please don’t think of it as just one more year in a continuum. Think of it as a blank sheet of paper. The parchment of time on which you are about to write your manuscript of hope.

There are millions of people who stand shoulder to shoulder and who believe in better. I am one of them. You are one too.  Never lose sight of that, and always believe that we can change the world for good – one animal at a time.

Have a Sparkling New Year.

And thank you.

Blogging off