Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Thomson Airways

Thomson Airways, part of the TUI Group, have been working with Born Free since 1995 with Born Free receiving 25% of their in-flight collections, which have now totalled over £3 million.

Thomson staff also  fundraise in various ways.

Born Free Foundation’s CEO, Will Travers commented. “Thomson Airways' support has allowed us to tackle some extraordinary projects that have helped thousands of animals in need.”

Thank you for your support!

To book a flight with Thomson Airways please visit

Anthony Lumley winner of the cabin crew incentive from Thomson Airways visited Kenya to help out with some of Born Free's work there. Read more here

Thomson Airways Celebrate 20 Years with Born Free

On 10th March 2015 the Born Free team, including our President Will Travers, paid a visit to the Thomson Airways headquarters in Luton to speak to their dedicated Charity Champions and thank them for all their hard work and support over the years. 2015 marks the 20th year of our partnership with Thomson Airways, during which time the team has managed to raise over £3 million for Born Free through in-flight collections! This is such an incredible achievement and we are so grateful to Thomson for all they have done for us in this time. We are now looking to the future and working together on how we can make our partnership even stronger in the years to come!


When Born Free rescued dolphins Misha and Tom from their fetid, tiny pool in Hisaronu, Turkey in September 2010 we were uncertain what the future held. The two young male dolphins had been brought there as a tourist ‘trap’; their owner hoping to entice people in, in order to experience the ‘magic of swimming with dolphins’. Many local tour operators, including TUI, complained about the operation and along with local residents were up in arms.

When Born Free visited with Coronation Street’s ‘Gail’ Helen Worth to help expose the situation; we found two dolphins bobbing aimlessly in the corner of a tiled pool littered with fish remains and dolphin faeces. While there were protracted negotiations for their release; ultimately the disappearance of their owner gave us just a few days to pull together a rescue team. Working with Turkish partners, Sualtı Araştırmaları Derneği (S.A.D), Misha and Tom were moved to a temporary sea pen in the hope that we could rehabilitate and return them to the wild from where they were stolen.

The initial few weeks were difficult; they were not eating properly having been fed a very limited diet of frozen anchovy. But slowly, with expert care and a new, specially constructed sea pen, they were getting fitter and healthier. Born Free visited Misha and Tom at the end of March for an update on their progress.

The work involved in trying to rehabilitate two captive dolphins is intense. We are lucky to have a dedicated team from S.A.D. and the support of two dolphin experts, Stephen McCulloch and Jeff Foster, along with our own veterinary consultant, John Knight. Fish has to be thawed and transported out to their pen five or six times a day. At each feeding session the dolphins have to be put through their paces. On the surface, this appears much like a dolphin show, but we have a limited environment in which to get two ‘captives’ ready to swim the equivalent of a marathon. Their 30 metre diameter and 15 metre deep pool may be one of the deepest pools for captive dolphins in the world, but we still have to get them exercising and ready for release. Speed swims and ball work encourages them to be active; while gentle encouragement for a ‘lay-out’ next to the platform has allowed the team to take bloods and samples for health checks without capturing them. What we saw when we were there were two much fatter, healthier dolphins, but there is still a way to go. After one feeding session, the dolphins took off and raced around the perimeter of the net. It was wonderful to see them move so fast after their years in a tiny pool, but after their ‘work out’ they came to the surface out of breath.

It was essential they get fitter before their release. It’s like training someone, whose only exercise to date has been to get up off the sofa to make a coffee, ready for the Olympic Games. Captivity does that to dolphins; it strips them of who they are; swift, intelligent, agile ocean predators. Our work then was to restore Misha and Tom and to bring out the true ‘dolphin’ in them. Thomson Airways’ in-flight donations helped fund the rehabilitation of Tom and Misha. BFF Patron Helen, who visited the two dolphins for a health check along with TV programme Daybreak said, "It’s thanks to the help of Thomson Airways that we are able to help these generous creatures back to where they belong."

Sponsorship of New Orphan Care Unit at Malawi’s Lilongwe Wildlife Centre

Cabin crew from Thomson Airways’ Gatwick base, Marie Nichols and Ozma Saleem, recently popped in to Malawi’s Lilongwe Wildlife Centre. The crew presented a commemorative plaque to mark the sponsorship of a new orphan care unit, part-funded via in-flight collections on Thomson flights.

Building a Sanctuary - 2011

Collections help build new Sanctuary in Ethiopia as first rescued lion is moved to his newhome.

Funds from in-flight collections are helping fund the veterinary facilities in our new sanctuary in Ethiopia. BFF founder Virginia McKenna, who flew to Ethiopia in 2011 to help move Dolo into his new home and meet the president as plans were being made, said, ‘As always, huge thanks to the cabin crew and passengers of Thomson Airways, their support has helped make our new centre possible. It is just brilliant being here and seeing what a difference we are all making in this area.’ Virginia is seen here with a commemorative plaque, detailing Thomson Airways' support.

Photo Copyright George Logan

With many of Born Free’s projects and campaigns we need to be persistent and prepared to commit for the long haul! And it’s thanks to Thomson Airways that we have been able to make such a commitment to our project in Ethiopia. Our plans to develop a Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education Centre began back in 2006 and with support from the Wildlife Authority and His Excellency President Girma we are now starting to bring benefit to many rescued wild animals that need our care. Regular readers will be familiar with the story of Dolo; a young male lion who was originally held on a one metre long chain for four years before his removal to a temporary facility in Ethiopia’s Awash National Park.

Finalising the land agreement and sourcing building materials took their time, but finally, on March 22nd 2011, Dolo was moved to his new lifetime care facility at our Centre which offers him space, shade, peace and most importantly the companionship of Safia, a young lioness who has also been rescued by Born Free Foundation thanks to support from Thomson Airways. Our first task though was to ensure Dolo settled in. Sadly, when we darted him and performed a veterinary exam just prior to his move, our fears about his eyesight were confirmed.

Dolo has retinal atrophy, probably due to a nutritional deficiency when young and this has left him with very limited vision. He has therefore had to get used to his new environment; a space far bigger and more complex and stimulating than anything he had experienced before. Already he is exploring and his posture and demeanour is improving. Dolo is still a young lion and we hope that ‘Ensessakoteh’ will work its magic on him; turning him from a despondent, depressed animal on the end of a chain to a handsome male who can lay claim to his territory with powerful roars and who can explore the bushes and trees and hopefully find a few favourite shady spots to rest up in.

Dolo’s enclosure has been designed to allow a safe introduction of the two rescued lions. With separate ‘sub ranges’ the lions were able to get to know one another through the fence before they were released together into the main range. Companionship is one of the most vital enrichment tools for such animals in captivity.

Now that we have perfected the building of a secure lion enclosure; that has to give consideration to the materials available; the costs and of course the provision of a great environment for the lions, work will begin on the second enclosure. There are already several animals waiting to come to the Rescue Centre with Dolo and Safia leading the way for the lions.

More about the new sanctuary

Past Thomson Support

Leopard Re-homing 2009

On Saturday May 30th  a family of leopards set off for a new life in a South African sanctuary following a re-homing scheme headed by Born Free. The three leopards were flown from Cyprus to London Gatwick sleeping in the heated cargo hold of the aircraft. The leopards then continued their journey to their new home in Shamwari Game Reserve in South Africa.

The leopards have been re-homed from Limassol zoo which is due to be transformed to meet the conditions of the European Zoo Directive - a European law that requires animals be kept in conditions that meet their biological needs.

Born Free’s founder Virginia McKenna and her team were also onboard the flight to accompany the leopards. Virginia made a PA announcement to all the customers onboard,  explaining the re-homing of the leopards and the work Born Free do. The customers thoroughly enjoyed the flight and felt part of the experience.

A huge thank you to the two Charity Champions Alison Green, Marie Nicols and the crew operating the flight who made the entire journey an occasion to remember. They went above and beyond to ensure everyone was taken care off and had everything they needed.

2008 Rescue

Brutus the six-year old male lion is the ‘top secret big cat’, featured in Born Free’s appeal last autumn. For four long years, the sum total of his world was a cramped ‘beast-wagon’ in the tiny hamlet of St Denis d’Authou in northern France. With the help of, Brutus the lion has been given a new home in Africa, together with two female cubs rescued in Romania.

Two lucky crew members won the opportunity to accompany our team to rescue Brutus the lion from France. Nina Housley and Rachel Kelly, who act as Born Free ambassadors, were selected to experience a rescue first hand from their bases in Doncaster and Bournemouth. Like all Thomsonfly staff, they had tirelessly promoted our projects and rescues on their daily flights, resulting in their bases collecting the most amount of money over last year.

Nina and Rachel travelled with the team from Dover driving down to Chateau Gontier in central France to collect Brutus. They were involved with all the elements of the rescue and even managed to carry sedated Brutus into his crate with a little help! The team then travelled on an overnight ferry back to the UK’s Heathrow airport so Brutus could undertake the final leg of his journey to South Africa. Thanks yet again to staff and passengers for their relentless fundraising.

More about the lion rescue

Nina and Rachel with Brutus’s travel crate


  • passengers and crew made a generous contribution to the Three Lions appeal, to rescue the French circus lions in 2006.  Collection totals have doubled during this time from last year, making a significant contribution to the total raised.  Not only were able to help with the rescue of Djunka, Nalla and Shada, they have also provided the three lions vast new enclosure and funds for their ongoing food and lifetime care.


  • A new inflight film was made with Martin Clunes, Jeremy Guscott and Virginia McKenna when Britannia Airways changed it’s name to
  • Baboon Rescue.


  • Rescued lioness Achee from Romania, and flown to UK on route to new home in South Africa, assisted by Amanda Holden.
  • In-flight film with Martin Clunes and Amanda Holden nominated for prestigious travel award.
  • New elephant hospital at the Elephant Transit Home, sponsored by Britannia, opened in Sri Lanka by Born Free patron Helen Worth.
  • Responding to public complaints about captive animal exploitation, including information reported by Britannia crew.
  • Born Free campaigner visits Mexico to investigate big cat suffering, courtesy of Britannia and Thomson Holidays (an ongoing campaign).
  • Martin Clunes receives £1.5 million cheque representing total money raised to date by Britannia’s passengers and crew
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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