We kicked off 2019 with our Living with Tigers campaign to raise awareness of the plight of tigers in India and our work there to help local communities live alongside wildlife peacefully. We were therefore delighted when new figures from the Indian government released in July revealed tiger numbers had increased by more than 30% in the last four years, including in the two states where we work.
Four lions, 9,000 miles, one home. In April, we launched our appeal to give Horus, Dadou, Cersei and Thea – the Lions of Lyon – a lifetime home at our big cat sanctuary in Shamwari Private Game Reserve, South Africa. They’d all been rescued from the exotic pet trade. You responded in your thousands and thanks to fundraising events, mountain climbs, a world record-breaking auction and much, much more, they were relocated to South Africa in October. They are the first new arrivals to benefit from a full refurbishment and expansion of our sanctuary, which has given us more capacity, improved conditions and greater security.
In April, a team led by Dr Hans Bauer of University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and supported by Born Free discovered lions for the first time at Mpem and Djim National Park in southern Cameroon. The incredible discovery seemed impossible to experts, and was welcomed by our Chief Scientist, Professor Claudio Sillero, as “the nicest lion news I have had in a long while”.
We love sharing our latest news and updates with our amazing followers on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. In May, we passed the half a million-follower milestone for the first time and now have more than 600,000 followers across the world. If you aren’t connected to us on social media yet, please come and say hello – we’d love you to join us!
Since 2016, we have led an international campaign calling for the Zambian government to cancel a controversial cull of 1,250 hippos. We argued that the cull had no scientific justification and was clearly a commercial venture disguised as wildlife management. In June, we were delighted when it was revealed Mabwe Adventures, the hunting operator originally awarded the culling contract in 2016, had withdrawn from the agreement.
We manage or fund conservation projects across the world that protect wild animals in their natural habitat and encourage co-existence. This year, we supported four new projects: National Park Rescue, which is tackling the poaching crisis in Chizarira National Park, Zimbabwe; Elephant Research and Conservation, which is working to understand more about the elusive forest elephant population in Liberia; The Elephant Listening Project in the Republic of Congo; and the Orangutan Foundation, which is protecting wild orangutans and their habitat in Indonesian Borneo.
In the summer, we launched a hard-hitting campaign to expose the myths around trophy hunting. Backed by a brand new report, we laid out our views on why trophy hunting does not benefit local communities, local economies or wildlife conservation. It followed our petition calling for the UK government to ban the import of hunting trophies, signed by more than half a million people. The UK government has since launched a consultation – you can take action – we’ve even suggested some responses for you.
Want to know more about the positive powers of poo, or how coding is used in wildlife conservation? Well check out our new kids magazine Hear the Roar!!, launched in July to inspire the next generation to take an active and educated approach to helping wildlife. If you know any budding conservationists, why not tell them about our new Hear the Roar kids club, too? And look out for Issue 2 of Hear the Roar!! in the new year.
It was the law we’d all been waiting for. In July, England finally banned the use of wild animals in travelling circuses. We’d campaigned for a ban for many years, and our Co-Founder Virginia McKenna OBE proclaimed there would be “few people who will not rejoice at the news”. England’s law closely followed the Welsh government introducing a Bill in the National Assembly to also outlaw this outdated practice.
We’ve been receiving public reports of captive wild animal suffering for many years. These reports are used, where possible, to help wild animals in need. This summer, we opened up our reports to the public for the first time through Raise the Red Flag, a new online reporting system to allow supporters worldwide to not only report incidents of wild animal suffering, but to also see reports filed by other concerned members of the public. It’s an online community prepared to Raise the Red Flag against captive animal suffering. Please bookmark the page and help us prevent the exploitation of wild animals in captivity.
2019 has been an unprecedented year for travel companies making a stand against wild animal suffering and exploitation, with much-welcomed announcements from Virgin Holidays and TripAdvisor, among others. We’ve been working closely with British Airways Holidays on its new animal welfare policy, launched in August. They have also thrown their support behind Raise the Red Flag, and our new Rescue Section at Panthera Africa. Welcome to the Born Free Family!
It sounds unbelievable, but until August this year it was legal for young elephants to be caught from the wild and shipped across the world for use in zoos and circuses. Thankfully, a major international wildlife trade meeting that took place in August outlawed the practice. We had worked for a long time to bring this heinous trade to an end, so were delighted with the result. But, we were horrified when in October 37 elephants were transported from Zimbabwe to China. We will continue our work to ensure that horrific shipments like this do not happen again.
Are you one of the more than five million people who have joined the movement to stop lion farming and canned hunting? In September, we put canned hunting firmly in the crosshairs with the launch of our tear-jerker animation The Bitter Bond, which told the story of a captive lion born into South Africa’s brutal canned hunting industry. Shared the world over, the animation was accompanied by a petition calling for the South African government to end canned hunting – it has now been signed by more than 260,000 of you! We’re also caring for lions rescued from this brutal trade, including ‘Hilts’, Ivana and Karlos.
We were overwhelmed by the number of entries we received for our summer photography competition Shoot to Thrill, designed to raise awareness of the horrors of trophy hunting and spread the message that wild animals should only ever be shot with a camera – not a gun. The quality of entries was outstanding and 28 photos were shortlisted for a public vote on Facebook. The very worthy winner was Robin Claydon’s image of a brown bear in Alaska. Congratulations to Robin and thank you to everyone who entered and voted.
Lionesses Alpha and Cora became the first residents of the new Born Free Rescue Section at Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary, in October. Rescued from a failed zoo, they made the journey from Belgium to South Africa thanks to the support of British Airways Holidays. We’re delighted to be working with Panthera Africa and hope the new section will allow us to rehome many more big cats in need.
Have you visited our online shop? Relaunched last month, each purchase from our exclusive selection helps fund our welfare and conservation work to Keep Wildlife in the Wild. From cards and calendars, to t-shirts and tote bags, there’s bundles of gift inspiration for animal lovers everywhere.
We have opened a new classroom at our Ensessa Kotteh Wildlife Rescue & Education Centre in Ethiopia. The classroom includes display boards with information about Born Free, animal welfare and Ethiopia’s unique heritage in three languages so that local schools and community groups can learn about wildlife. It’s the latest in a series of upgrades at Ensessa Kotteh this year, which has also included work on our animal enclosures.
At the start of 2019, we promised we would continue to advise the UK government to ensure its Ivory Act became law. We lived up to this promise when a small group claiming to represent the antiques industry claimed the Act was incompatible with European Union trade and human rights laws. Their claim was dismissed by the courts, much to our delight, and we’re continuing to work closely with the UK government to make sure the Act is introduced without further delay.