Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Ethiopian Wolf Conservation

Monday, April 10th, 2017

Dear Friends of Wildlife

I’m absolutely freezing!  It is hard to believe that in Africa you would need to wear three layers inside your sleeping bag but at nearly 14,000 feet above sea level, high up in the Bale Mountains at the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Research Centre, that is exactly what you need – and hot soup helps too!

I am here with Professor Claudio Sillero, Born Free’s Head of Conservation, Dr Zelealem Tefera, Born Free’s Country Manager in Ethiopia, together with Alo and the rest of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Project team, looking for the world’s most endangered wolf.

They are only found at 10,000 feet above sea level; they are only found in Ethiopia; they are only found in the wild; and there are none in captivity.

This elegant red and white wolf, a specialist hunter, which feeds mainly on rodents (and, in particular, the one kilogram giant mole rat) is incredibly rare and beautiful. Against the dramatic skyline, as scudding clouds, in turn, shift the landscape from blazing sun to almost purple grey, the Ethiopian wolf stands out. They hunt alone but live together, taking enormous care looking after and raising their precious pups.  Over 12 months ago, a rabies outbreak (contracted from dogs living in outlying communities) decimated the population but this year’s pups are numerous and wolves are on the increase again.

Born Free has been supporting this incredible conservation work for nearly 20 years and, together with Oxford University, the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA) and the Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN), we have managed to give this most unusual predator a fighting chance.

I reflected as I walked with Alo, the Head of the Wolf Monitoring Team, across the stark but beautiful landscape, how strange it is that there are four times as many giant pandas in the world – recipients of millions of column inches and tens of millions of dollars – and yet the Ethiopian wolf barely gets a look in. It is even more bizarre to think that while almost none of us will see an Ethiopian wolf in the wild, we have its ‘relative’ in millions of households across the UK. The companionship of domestic dogs which bring much joy into our lives would not exist were it not for wolves and so, as we fight to save this species and its fragile habitat, I reach out to all dog owners, asking them to show some respect and to lend their support to the ancestors of the animal that sits by the fire, fetches the ball and pulls us along full of joy and glee when we shout ‘walkies’.

So when you next look at your dog, remember the  Ethiopian wolf and help us at Born Free to give the species a long-term future.

Blogging off.
Will

Tilikum’s legacy

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Dear Friends,

The recent news of the death of Tilikum (aged 35), the famous captive Orca, created world-wide news, coming, as it did, hard on the heels of the death of Granny, the oldest-known wild orca.

That stark comparison seems to have a struck  a chord with many, including my good friend and colleague, Samantha Goddard.

Here is her Guest Blog.

Best wishes
Will

I was truly shocked when I read aloud the news that Tilikum, the most famous orca in captivity, had died on Friday 6th January 2017. He had long suffered deteriorating health due to a drug-resistant bacterial lung infection, and yet his death still shocked me and millions of others.

I can still remember the first time I saw Tilikum. Following the death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, there was a flood of footage on newsmedia around the world about orcas in their tanks. One of them was, of course, Tilikum, the largest of them all. I remember seeing an aerial shot of him in the medical tank, not much larger than his own body. That image has always stayed with me; an epitome of injustice.

Following his capture from the waters off Iceland in 1983, aged just 2 years old, Tilikum was held in captivity for 33 years, spending the last 24 of those at SeaWorld Orlando. In 2010, he became the most talked about orca in the world after he killed trainer, Dawn Brancheau. This was why I first saw Tilikum in the news, and incidentally why film director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, decided that his story was one that had to be told to the world – and tell it she did.

In 2013, the film documentary, Blackfish, was released. It exposed, in a heart-breaking and truly shocking way, the real plight of orca in captivity, the capture, the wasted lives of confinement, the injuries and tragedies, the exploitation. Blackfish  was a smash hit, having now been seen by more than 100 million people.

Following its success the public attendance fell, profits fell, the stock price fell (and continues to fall) and reputation of SeaWorld – a company that once seemed untouchable – sank. This sea-change is down to a growing sense of uneasiness amongst members of the public and the campaigning efforts over decades of organisations such as Born Free.  But more than that, it was down to Blackfish, and one in particular – Tilikum.

The loss of Tilikum is a cause of great sadness, but not the only one we have recently had to accept. The news of Tilikum’s passing came just two days after the death of the world’s oldest-known wild orca, Granny. On 4th January 2017, The Centre for Whale Research announced Granny’s presumed passing. She was estimated to be 105 years old (born in approximately 1910) and enjoyed a life of freedom in the wild. This is a stark comparison to the life led by Tilikum, who endured life in a tank for over thirty years. Despite these shocking differences, both lives should be equally celebrated, for they both remind us that our continued flight for the plight of these animals in captivity is something that will never waver until all the tanks are empty. They remind us that, despite all the challenges, wildlife belongs in the wild.

#EmptyTheTanks, #SanctuariesNotTanks

#TheFinalRoar

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!
Will

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
Will

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!

Hanoi Conference 2016

Friday, November 18th, 2016

Dear Friends,

As the delegates to the Hanoi Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade fly home, we need to reflect on the outcomes.

Ahead of the meeting, hopes for real progress had been high and citizens around the world waited eagerly for news.

The result appears to be distinctly lacking both in lustre and ambition.

While attendees re-affirmed their intention to crack down on the illegal trade in products such as ivory, to pursue demand-reduction strategies and to tackle domestic ivory markets, concrete evidence of progress were sorely lacking.

As Prince William said in his keynote address, “We aren’t moving fast enough to keep up with the crisis”, admitting that “we’re still falling behind.”

Indicators of that lack of progress include:

• the ongoing and devastating impact that it has on wildlife populations of iconic species such as elephants and rhino;

• the murderous way that it is carried out which causes the death not only of hundreds of thousands of wild animals each year but many people including rangers, wardens, community members and, of course, poachers;

• its links to terrorism and organised crime;

• the fact that few people of significance have been arrested and convicted,

• the rate of poaching and illegal trade which seems undiminished;

• evidence of high level corruption which protects those involved.

The Hanoi Conference did indicate a greater willingness on behalf of wealthy countries (notably Germany, the United States, France and the UK) to make higher levels of investment in a suite of measures aimed at tackling wildlife crime from improved enforcement in the field, the training of prosecutors and judiciary; the upgrading of national laws; increased tariffs and penalties, including deterrent sentencing and the sequestration of assets; the disruption of trade supply routes; and additional education-led demand reduction strategies in consumer countries.

Nevertheless any sense that the measures taken so far are having the desired impact is hard to find.

Notwithstanding its welcome step up in terms of financial commitment, the United Kingdom did not announce, as some had hoped, a timetable for the closure of its domestic market but, again, paraded its interim measure – a ban on the sale of all modern, ‘post-1947’ ivory – a move that has been widely criticised as being wholly inadequate.

Already over 63,500 people have signed a Petition calling for immediate and conclusive action to honour a now long-in-the-tooth Manifesto pledge, made in both 2010 and 2014, to “press for a total ban on ivory sales.”

Despite the urgency of the situation (some estimate that one elephant is poached every 15 minutes) and despite evidence broadcast in the BBC documentary ‘Saving Africa’s Elephants – Hugh and the Ivory War’ (BBC1 October 2016) that clearly showed the link between sales of UK ivory declared as ‘antique’ and the laundering of modern ivory to markets in the Far East, the Government plans to ‘consult on the ban in early next year (2017) as a first step to meeting the manifesto commitment.

It is simply not enough.

On a more positive note, the United Kingdom has agreed to host the 4th Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in 2018 but what sort of picture will we be looking at by then?  Thousands fewer elephants, rhino, pangolins, lions? And what will we read in our newspapers – that another meeting has come and good, fine words have been spoken, more pledges have been made, more hands wrung?

Or will we see the results of concerted international action, based on a proper, published plan, with measurable outcomes that reduce poaching, increase protection, secure convictions, dismantle supply-routes, improve security, champion anti-corruption and depress demand?

I hope so because the world’s threatened wildlife cannot wait, and my friends in ranger forces and wildlife law-enforcement agencies cannot hold back the tide forever.

As things stand, and as Prince William said in Hanoi, “A betting man would still bet on extinction.”

Blogging off
Will

Zoo Check team member, Katie Richards, blogs on her recent trip to Edinburgh Zoo

Friday, November 11th, 2016

Dear Friends,

As part of Born Free’s long term agenda, I have been visiting zoos for over 30 years. Whilst I have seen some improvements along the way, the vast majority are still significantly substandard. My colleague, Katie Richards has recently been to Edinburgh Zoo and explains all about her visit in her guest blog below.

Blogging off
Will

The newest member of our Zoo Check team, Katie Richards, blogs on her recent trip to Edinburgh Zoo

Since taking up my role within the Zoo Check team 8 months ago, I have visited several zoos across the UK to monitor conditions first hand and to keep an eye on the welfare of the animals. It has been a surprising and sometimes shocking few months, as I have seen many cases of woefully inadequate environments, often lacking in the most basic care, in some of the UK’s most popular zoos.

A recent visit to Edinburgh Zoo stands out in particular. Zoos in the UK have a legal obligation to educate their visitors about biodiversity conservation and to accommodate their animals in appropriate conditions. Yet, on the day of my visit, a capuchin in the indoor primate area was repetitively pacing back and forth in its indoor enclosure, and twisting its neck in exactly the same spot each time. I returned 3 hours later to find, sadly, that the monkey was following exactly the same sequence. Having previously worked at a primate sanctuary, I am familiar with the behaviour of capuchin monkeys in captivity, and it was evident that this monkey was displaying stereotypic behaviour: repetitive, functionless behaviour that develops in some animals in captivity as a result of impoverished or frustrating environments that it may be experiencing or may have experienced in the past.

Capuchins are intelligent primates and it was distressing for me to see this particular individual displaying stereotypic behaviour. It is of course possible that this monkey developed this behaviour elsewhere before arriving at the zoo, but nevertheless it was still on display to the public without any explanation. How can this ever be justified as educational?

Unfortunately, the abnormal behaviour was not limited to the capuchin. I witnessed stereotypic behaviour in the giant anteater, a red-fronted macaw and several other animals.

What was particularly troubling was how visitors appeared to interpret the abnormal behaviours of the animals. For example, at the Asiatic lion enclosure, barriers had been put up with a note to explain that the lions needed privacy. Despite this, several people stood watching as the lions walked back and forth, continuously pacing; again, indicative of stereotypic behaviour. While I stood videoing the lions a young child of around 6 or 7 stood beside me and innocently asked her parent “why is the lion doing that?”. Desperately wanting to answer, I continued to film waiting to hear the response, hoping that the parent would explain that the animal is in fact showing a behaviour that is abnormal. Sadly, the child’s question went unanswered and I can only assume she went home none the wiser.

That one moment really brought home to me just how easy it is for zoos to avoid being truly educational. By presenting visitors with a fleeting encounter with animals in an unnatural environment, how easy it is to overlook the problems of life in captivity. And what little hope there is of inspiring future generations to actively contribute to wildlife conservation, if we must rely on education in zoos. I can honestly say that I have learnt so much more from wildlife documentaries than I ever will at a zoo. While it is so tragic to know that the child never got the correct answer for why the lion was pacing, it is even more tragic to think that a single visit may be the only time that child comes close to seeing an Asiatic lion. It begs the question as to why the animal is there in the first place. Is it a true representation of how lions live naturally in India’s Gir Forest? Not by a long shot, in my opinion. Will the lions currently at Edinburgh Zoo ever be reintroduced back in to the wild where they belong? I am very doubtful.

After my visit, I shared some of the footage on my personal social media account. As usual, the videos received quite a lot of attention with many people commenting on how they have witnessed similar behaviour during their trips to zoos and how it has put them off visiting again. However, I was surprised to receive a comment from someone who works as a zookeeper, saying that the video was a “misrepresentation” of how the lions live at the zoo.
Now, if my video, simply recording what the animals at the zoo were doing on the day of my visit, was a “misrepresentation”, surely the biggest misrepresentation of all is keeping these animals in captivity in a zoo in Scotland, in enclosures that bear little resemblance in terms of space and complexity to their natural habitat – in the name of education?

It is all too easy to forget that we are looking at living, sentient animals in zoos, and it is not good enough to simply accept claims that zoos are educational and necessary for conservation, especially when there are questions about the welfare of these animals.

The downside, it seems to me, far outweigh the meagre ‘benefits’ on offer to either animals or people.

Katie Richards
Zoo Check Officer
Born Free Foundation

Improving The Lives of Animals in Europe’s Zoos Can Only be Achieved by Working Together

Friday, October 14th, 2016

Dear Friends,

There are millions of wild animals in Europe’s 4,000 or so zoos. Many live in grim conditions. Making their lives better, even while we work towards the day when our efforts and resources are directed at ‘keeping wildlife in the wild’, must be a top priority, as my friend and colleague, Daniel Turner, explains.

Blogging off
Will

Improving The Lives of Animals  in Europe’s Zoos Can Only be Achieved by Working Together

This week, Born Free has been exhibiting a series of extraordinary photographs of wild animals taken at zoos across the European Union.

The exhibition, presented at the European Parliament in Brussels, is striking, yet shocking, considering the plight of these animals were captured this year. Our photographers, award-winning Britta Jaschinski and Jo-Anne McArthur, have ensured the debate about the role of zoos focuses, for once, the way in which the animals are kept.

“Great pictures, and a necessary initiative” expressed Josu from Italy, who has visited the exhibition this week, whilst Barbara, from the Czech Republic, commented, “A long way to go. Horrifying!”.That’s Born Free’s biggest concern. There are millions of wild animals in the estimated 4,000 EU zoos and if even half that number are being kept in conditions that fail to meet their basic welfare needs, how can we begin to make a difference to the lives of so many animals?

Politicians, who have rallied behind our efforts this week, can help us make a difference. The South East of England MEP, Keith Taylor, who sponsored our exhibition, also organised a 2-hour round-table discussion on the welfare impact on zoo animals, ensuring that key issues were considered in detail. Politicians can hold the European Commission (the EU civil service), those responsible for the implementation of the EU zoo law (the EU Zoos Directive), to account and highlight the need for significantly improved animal welfare standards.

The governments of each of the 28 EU countries can certainly make a difference too. Ultimately their relevant authorities – State employed zoo inspectors and veterinarians – are responsible for the implementation of the requirements of the EU Zoos Directive and the enforcement of national zoo law.

Born Free’s EU Zoo Inquiry has revealed that many authorities actually lack the knowledge and expertise needed to ensure high standards in wild animal care. Addressing this surprising and deeply worrying revelation is the next priority for the Born Free Foundation team but, only a collaborative approach, with other stakeholders, is likely to address this knowledge deficit.

Last, but by no means least, the public’s ability to influence change must never be under estimated. The welcome announcement by TripAdvisor yesterday, that it would be stopping its promotion of captive animal attractions that exploit animals through direct public interaction, is a result of public pressure.

YOU can influence your politicians, your national government and even the zoos themselves. How? By contributing to an EU-wide public survey evaluating the role of zoos – and specifically whether zoos do or should contribute to biodiversity conservation. Want to take part? Born Free has developed an informative guide which helps you through the process, but it is vitally important, for the sake of the animals, that you find the time to contribute. Then, together, we can truly make a difference!

Born Free’s guide to completing the public consultation survey

Access the public consultation survey here

Baltimore decides to #emptythetanks

Monday, June 20th, 2016

As another dolphin display facility takes a brave step forward, in this guest blog I have asked my good friend and colleague, Samantha Goddard, to reflect on the prospect of a brave new world. Blogging off! Will

“Monday, June 13th 2016, bought fantastic news in global efforts to end the captive exploitation of dolphins. The Baltimore National Aquarium (Maryland, USA) announced that they are to move their eight bottlenose dolphins to a coastal seawater sanctuary by 2020.  The Director of the Aquarium, John Racanelli, eloquently stated that the decision is ‘right for the dolphins, the community and for the aquarium.’

The news follows the recent announcement from SeaWorld Entertainments which introduced an immediate and companywide ban of their orca breeding program in March this year. This means that the generation of orca currently held at SeaWorld parks will be the last.

The move to change their business model in line with both public opinion and concern is massively significant, although they have yet to determine whether their future plans include moving their 23 orcas to a seaside sanctuary. These announcements confirm in my mind that we are witnessing profound and irreversible change which cannot and will not be stopped.

Clearly part of a new vision for the future will include removing captive cetaceans from tiny concrete pools in favour of sectioned-off parts of the ocean, or seaside sanctuaries. NGOs in the US and Europe have mobilised public opinion to call for the establishment of the first sanctuaries, as announced recently in the US (The Whale Sanctuary Project) and in Italy (Dolphin Refuge). These efforts are vitally important and may have had significant influence on the decision of the Baltimore National Aquarium to support the sanctuary model and idea of caring for dolphins in a wild, more natural environment.

We should all applaud such leadership and hope that others will follow suit to promote the establishment of seaside sanctuaries. After all, the responsibility for captive animals lies with those who keep them captive.

The time really is now to move forward with a solution for addressing the future care of cetaceans already in captivity. That this spells the end for the dolphinarium industry! I have not doubt. It is no longer a matter of if – it’s just a question of when.

Trophy Hunting – Is The Tide Turning?

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Trophy hunting is in the news again.

The ghost of Cecil, Donald Trump’s sons and their bloody exploits, and the seeming acceptance by Prince William that the trophy hunting of old, infirm animals can deliver conservation and community benefits, continue to grab the headlines.

Let me consider this in more detail:

Trophy hunting – the killing of wild animals for ‘fun’ – generates about US$200million a year across the whole of Africa, half of that in South Africa.

Wildlife tourism – that does not involve killing of wild animals – generates about $1 billion a year in Kenya alone.

Research by Economists at Large indicates that instead of delivering significant resources to impoverished local communities, only about 3% of trophy hunting revenues are applied at local community level.

Far from being in favour of trophy hunting, the tide is turning against it, with all trophy hunting recently being banned in Botswana, formerly a strong trophy hunting proponent.

Huge question marks hang over the sustainability of the practice, with the EU banning or suspending trophy imports of:

  • Lions: from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia (suspension), Mozambique
  • African elephants: from Cameroon (suspension), Mozambique, Tanzania
  • Hippos:  from Cameroon, Mozambique (Suspension)

There is much to admire about the way Prince William and United for Wildlife are helping tackle the Illegal Wildlife Trade. The Declaration of the International Taskforce on the Transportation of Illegal Wildlife Products, signed just days ago at Buckingham Palace, and an initiative lead by Lord Hague, has brought together powerful players in the transport sector to help strangle the illegal wildlife supply chain between the field and the markets.

However, on trophy hunting, I think the Prince has been poorly advised and, in my view, the views hen expressed are increasingly out of step with a growing body of evidence and the progressive views of the majority of citizens.

I hope that his views will change and evolve as the Prince becomes more informed and more confident about this particular issue.

The bottom line is this:

There are 7.4 billion people alive today. That number will rise to 11 billion by the end of this century.

Compared to that:

There are 400,000 wild African elephants. There are about 80,000 wild giraffe. There are about 25,000 wild rhino. There are maybe 20,000 wild African lions…

Trophy hunting is the preserve of a tiny elite who, by virtue of nothing more than their wealth, have the power to take the life of some of the world’s most magnificent wild animals, thereby depriving the rest of us of seeing, experiencing and admiring those animals (even from afar) and depriving the animals themselves of their very existence – for sport, for ‘fun’.

How can that be right?

We need a new compact with nature, one that compassionately conserves, protects and respects life. We can no longer subscribe to the notion of ‘it pays, it stays.’ We need to come up with a way of conserving life on Earth, not because of its economic value but because of its intrinsic values – that should be our job, our responsibility as human beings.

I think we are evolving in the right direction – the question is, will we evolve in time before thousands more animals needlessly lose their lives – for fun!

Blogging off

Will

‘Land of the Lions’ – The Conservation Claims of Zoos

Monday, March 21st, 2016

As London Zoo opens a new £5.2 million “Land of the Lions” exhibit, Chris Draper comments on the costs and conservation claims of zoos

Here’s the all-too-familiar blurb accompanying the announcement of the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) new Asiatic lion exhibit at London Zoo:

ZSL’s two zoos play a central role in educating the public on conservation issues and supporting global conservation breeding, ensuring a ‘safety net’ against extinction and protecting the genetic viability of species. ZSL’s new Land of the Lions exhibit will inspire our visitors and also supports an international breeding effort.

The usual “conservation” fanfare that accompanies every new enclosure, new building, new event at a zoo. It seems that anytime a zoo does anything the PR mantra remains the same: it’s all about conservation.

The trouble is that while zoos are so quick to use the language of “conservation this” and “education that”, when you really try to nail zoos down on what exactly they do for conservation and education, the façade starts to crack.

Yes, some zoos give some funds to field conservation – funds that may be desperately needed – but these funds are, as my colleague Ian Redmond has termed them, “scraps from the table” – a pittance compared to the income made by these zoos each year. Fund-raising for conservation simply is neither the priority nor the mandate for zoos. For example, 2014 finances for the ZSL (the charitable organisation that operates London and Whipsnade Zoos) show that it spends at least five times more on simply keeping and displaying animals at its two zoos than it does on all its conservation programmes. And zoo associations such as the US-based Association of Zoos and Aquariums encourage their members to commit a paltry 3% of their income to field conservation (and that figure is aspirational). As a means of generating funds for conservation, running a zoo seems to be a remarkably inefficient and wasteful way to operate.

And while the conservation funds raised by zoos are relatively uninspiring, their expenditure is astronomical: $28m on a gorilla exhibit at Houston Zoo; €11.3m on an elephant exhibit at Opel Zoo in Germany; $56m on the Smithsonian National Zoo’s elephant exhibit, the list of new developments in recent years goes on and on – by modern zoo standards, London Zoo’s £5.2 million is actually a relatively modest spend for an animal exhibit.

But £5.2m would represent a relatively earth-shattering sum for the conservation of the Asiatic lion – if only the funds were being spent in India and not on keeping animals captive in Regent’s Park for visitors to gawp at.

But surely £5.2m at least delivers a state-of-the-art enclosure, replicating life in the wild near-perfectly and allowing the animals a wide range of behavioural opportunities? Well, London Zoo’s “Land of the Lions” is proudly stated to be 2,500m2. Sounds a fair size? Well, not when you consider that this is around the size of 1/3 of a football pitch; or when you consider that the natural range of an Asiatic lion in India is about 12,000 times that size! In fact, the whole of London Zoo (approx. 37 acres) would fit into the range of one wild Asiatic lion 200 times over.

The message from zoos seems to be this: build small, spend big, and call it conservation.