Archive for December, 2016

New Year Message

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

Dear Friends,

Tomorrow, 2017 will begin.

As with every New Year, there is a sense of expectation. That war will cease, the poverty will end, that our planet will be protected and that compassion will conquer all.

It may not turn out like that but that is no excuse for not trying – we must strive as never before.

And we must not forget our fellow travellers, the animals who share our spinning orb and whose survival is in our hands.

Born Free will continue to do all it can for wildlife in the wild but, in 2017, we shall also return to our roots and focus our efforts with even greater intensity on the millions of wild animals detained for our ‘pleasure’ and our ‘entertainment’.

My mother wrote the following words in 1987, thirty years ago. They remain as true today as they did then and they keep the fire of indignation and outrage burning as strong as ever. Wild animals locked up for life in zoos, circuses and menageries for little better reason than that it provides a momentary distraction cannot go unchallenged and, with the help of our supporters around the world, Born Free will always be clear, strong and principled in our opposition to the exploitation of individual wild animals ‘for fun’.

Here’s what Virginia wrote all those years ago:

“Sometimes the anger I feel towards those establishments, and the people who condone the perpetuation of the kind of captivity I am fighting against, chokes me. Sometimes when things get rough I feel frustrated and hopeless; the proverbial brick wall seems thicker than ever, and my voice, a very small one, shouting against the wind. But then, in my mind, I see the animals in the zoos. The bear in an indoor cage, four metres by three; the solitary monkey chained within its concrete pen; birds so confined that flight is impossible; the jungle cat crouching in the doorway of its wooden box inside its tiny concrete cage. I see the look in their eyes. It is a look I cannot forget, which I will not betray and which will follow me for the rest of my days”Virginia McKenna writing in ‘Beyond The Bars’(page 39) ‘Past , Present – Future Indicative’, 1987, Thorsons Publishing Group.

Still so true.

So, may I wish you all a wonderful New Year and ask that, in the months ahead, you keep those fellow travellers in mind. I know you will.

Very best wishes

Blogging off


Please support our New Year appeal – Beyond the Bars

Christmas Blog

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Dear Friends,

This is possibly my shortest blog of the year!

2016 has seen a world full of challenge and change. The coming year looks set to be just as uncertain.

But one thing you can be sure of: Born Free, and our relentless efforts for wild animals in need, wherever they are to be found.

And you can also be sure of my personal appreciation, on behalf of those animals and also on behalf of all my friends and colleagues who work so tirelessly here at Born Free, for all the support we receive – the words of encouragement, the acts of kindness and the gifts of generosity.

As we close down for a break, to recover a little, to recharge the batteries, to re-energise for the year to come and the mountains we shall climb, may I say a profound ‘thank you’.

I hope your Christmas or seasonal holidays will be filled with friends, family and peace – and I look forward to your company on our journey towards a more compassionate world in 2017.

With best wishes and all good thoughts



Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Dear Friends,

Born Free’s ‘Year of The Lion’ may be coming to a close BUT it isn’t over yet!

And this Friday there is a special chance to ROAR for lions everywhere in our ‘Final Roar’ Tweetstorm.

It’s a unique opportunity to answer a series of lion challenges, share this year-end platform with hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of others – and make a difference!

Here’s what you do:

Head over to our Twitter at 13:00 on Friday, 9th December. We will be tweeting specific tweets over the course of one hour. Please feel free to retweet as well as answering our tweets with your thoughts on everything Born Free!

With an estimated 20,000 wild lions left across Africa, with fragmented populations under pressure from loss of habitat, depleted numbers of natural prey, persecution by communities in revenge for livestock predation, and the additional impact of poaching and trophy hunting – there has never been a more important time for us all to come to the rescue of a species that is heading for extinction across much of its range.

So find space in your heart, and time on Friday to join the ‘Final Roar’ Tweetstorm.

Spread the word and save lions!

Blogging off!

The EU Zoo Inquiry 2016

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

Dear Friends

In 1987, prompted by distressing images of captive wild animals in European zoos, and at the request of the European Commission, a fledgling organisation then called Zoo Check (now Born Free), embarked on an investigation to try and find out just what was going on in EU zoos. At that time, the best list of zoological facilities indicated that there were in the order of 300 institutions. By the time we had finished our work which took more than a year, we had 1007.

Of course, we were, even then, way off the mark because today more robust data indicates that there are nearly 4000 zoos across the European Union.

How do we know this? Because our original research led ultimately to the establishment of the European Zoos Directive (1999/22) which required, amongst other things, that all zoos be licenced.

So now we know roughly how many zoos there are, but do we know what goes on in them?

In 2009, Born Free launched a six year project, called The EU Zoo Inquiry, which actually visited hundreds of zoos and recorded millions of images to try to answer questions such as; whether the minimum requirements of the Zoos Directive had been implemented; whether the zoo community was delivering on its obligations to conserve bio-diversity; whether zoos were truly educating the millions of visitors who still come through the door.

The results of our investigations were shocking. A handful of countries and a handful of zoos have stepped up and were trying. The majority, not so much.

But our effort has resulted in two unexpected and positive outcomes. It has encouraged the European Union to pay for the creation of a ‘Good Practices’ zoos guide, published in 2015, aimed at building-capacity within the government authorities and the zoo industry. It has also prompted the commissioning of REFIT, An Evaluation of the Zoos Directive, which is now, as we speak, assessing the impact of the Zoos Directive.

Participating in the evaluation is open to everyone. It is not necessarily easy and it can be a little complex but, if you have the time to take part and complete the online questionnaire, which will help inform the European Union (whether you are a fan of the EU or not!), then here is the link.

Remember, there are millions of captive wild animals in thousands of EU zoos, including dolphins in dolphinaria, elephants, lions, primates, the mega-vertebrates.  But also there are so many species that so easily get forgotten – that fly under the radar.

If the Directive were rigorously applied and if the standards set by national governments were improved and enforced then the kind of neglect and suffering we still witness day in, day out in European zoos, would diminish significantly.

So you have time to spare (is it something for the weekend?) here is that link again and here is a link to a document that will help you complete the Questionnaire. The consultation process closes on the 8th December.

Good luck and thanks for helping.

Blogging off

PS. The deprivation and suffering of captive wild animals is never out of my thoughts for long. So watch out in 2017 for the launch of some exciting initiatives that could make a real difference – you can be part of the change!