Tomorrow, 11th June, is my 30th birthday. Not quite the birthday or celebratory plans I had imagined, but as the world has changed quickly during 2020, so we must adapt quickly, too.
Rather than thinking about parties and presents, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight some recent, poignant rescue stories from Born Free and some of the amazing people who are raising money for the charity during this time — including Angela and Martin Humphery, whose combined age is six times my own!
It would make my birthday wish come true this year if some of my readers supported Born Free in their mission to Keep Wildlife Wild. Read these fantastic stories to find out why (and how!).
The fantastic four who are no longer in lockdown
Bringing some much needed good news to these uncertain times, international wildlife charity Born Free is delighted to announce its most recent successful rescues and rehoming projects — two cheetah cubs from the illegal wildlife trade in Ethiopia, and two leopards from the failed Bloemfontein Zoo in South Africa.
The male and female cheetah cubs, which are yet to be named, are thought to be siblings and are only months old. They were seized by the Somali regional authorities in Ethiopia, having most likely been taken from the wild to meet the demands of the pet trade in the Middle East.
After confiscation, the cubs were being cared for at a local police station.
Born Free was notified of their situation and were able to give them a lifetime home at Ensessa Kotteh, its wildlife sanctuary in Ethiopia, once all relevant permissions had been issued authorising their relocation.
A new chance at life
In South Africa, Born Free had been following the case of Bloemfontein Zoo for some time and understood that there were serious animal welfare concerns at the Zoo, including lack of food for animals, completely inadequate living conditions and a lack of veterinary care.
In March, the charity was asked by the local SPCA if it could assist in the rescue and rehoming of the animals, with a focus of providing a lifetime home to the zoo’s two leopards — Mowgli, a black leopard approximately 18 months old, and Zeiss, a spotted leopard around six years old.
Born Free was able to offer them both a place at its big cat sanctuary in Shamwari Private Game Reserve.
“These are two very different cases, but they highlight the problems with big cats in captivity, and the continued exploitation of wild animals,” explains Dr Chris Draper, Head of Animal Welfare and Captivity.
“The cheetah cubs are active and alert, despite their ordeal, but they are vulnerable and have a long road ahead. Both are undernourished and walking with a slight limp, and the female also has two older, injuries to her front paws.
“The leopards have now been released into their main enclosures at our big cat sanctuary. Mowgli is very nervous, while Zeiss is more inquisitive, but both are eating, drinking and settling into their new homes.”
These animals have all had terrible starts in life, whether in the illegal wildlife trade or in inadequate captivity in zoos.
“Born Free is delighted to offer lifetime homes for both sets of cats, and hope they can now all thrive in a more natural environment with the best care possible,” Dr Chris Draper adds.
“There is very little space in sanctuaries for wild animals rescued from captivity: to achieve the maximum impact for animals, we need to work to prevent such problems from arising in the first place, by stamping out the illegal trade in animals as pets and tackling the wholescale exploitation of animals in zoos worldwide.”
Angela & Martin (combined age of 180) are Going Bats for Wildlife
As a Trustee of Born Free, I’m always incredibly inspired by stories about our wonderful supporters. This incredible couple are no exception.
Husband and wife, Angela and Martin Humphery (age 89 ½ and 90 ½), are taking on a remarkable new challenge during lockdown in a bid to raise vital funds to help shut down wildlife markets across the globe.
Advised to get ‘out and about’ by their GP after Martin’s recent open-heart surgery, the couple saw this as a great opportunity to start fundraising and are currently undertaking a one-hour ‘fast trot’ around a three kilometre circuit on Hampstead Heath — a task they will have undertaken every day for TWO MONTHS.
The dynamic duo have already raised nearly £9,000 for international wildlife charity Born Free, to enable it to step up its efforts to persuade the World Health Organisation (WHO) to shut down wildlife markets, regarded by many experts as the source of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Born Free’s work has been something close to the hearts of Angela and Martin for some time.
“We have been avid supporters of Born Free since Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers and their son Will established the charity back in 1984,” explained Angela.
“This particular fundraising challenge came about after Virginia told us about a horrendous scene that she had once witnessed in Asia, where women were playing mah-jong together while tossing live kittens into vats of boiling oil.”
“We knew then we needed to do whatever we could to stop wildlife markets and the ease with which these and other innocent animals are traded.”
“Somewhat ironically, just a few months after that conversation, this devastating pandemic struck and the horrors of the markets, human consumption and trade, and how they had enabled this particular virus to spread, were thrust into the limelight.”
Angela continued: “Stuck in lockdown we weren’t sure how our fundraising could begin but then, thanks to the inspirational Colonel Tom Moore who raised a phenomenal amount for the NHS, it seemed only fitting that we too could push ourselves to the maximum on our daily walks – trying to raise just a fraction of what he did but this time for the beleaguered wildlife on our planet.”
“We know that supporting Born Free’s efforts, and the coalition they have formed with so many other wildlife charities around the world, is the one step we, as members of the public, can take to help get these wildlife markets shut down for good — not only to prevent the decimation of wild species and the loss of animal lives, but to stop future viruses spreading to humans as they have done with COVID-19.”
“We know that so many charities are asking for help at the moment and the world is a scary place, but we would be extremely grateful for any support we and Born Free receive as a result of our fundraising efforts.”
Ricky Gervais lends his support
Animal champion Ricky Gervais said: “My friends Martin and Angela, who have a combined age of 181, are doing a sponsored walk to raise funds for the fabulous charity, Born Free. Check out the link. Please donate. Stay safe.”
See Ricky Gervais’ message of support here.
Virginia McKenna OBE, actress and co-founder of Born Free, concluded: “The coronavirus pandemic, and its devastating impacts on the lives of people and the global economy, has brought home once more the immense risks that commercial wildlife trade and consumption also pose to human society.
“We are calling on the World Health Organisation and other key agencies to work with governments, non-governmental organisations and all stakeholders to secure a safer and healthier future for wildlife and people alike. Our work wouldn’t be possible without the wonderful support of people like Angela and Martin and this incredible fundraising task they are undertaking.”
My birthday wish at 30
Of course it is my hope that the Covid-19 pandemic and the lessons learned during lockdown help pave the way to a greater respect for nature; including shutting down wet markets once and for all — a huge step in the fight to end wildlife crime.
As I enter my 31st year on this amazing planet, I will certainly be taking with me the things that I’ve learnt during this global pandemic. Striped of all the things we want, we’ve surely seen the things our planet Earth needs –– and the ways that we, as a species, have exploited it.
In the words of my wildlife hero, Virginia McKenna (who also celebrated her birthday this week — at 89 years): “The warning signs have been there for years, but we have failed to learn from past mistakes. We cannot afford to do so again. As the world looks to recover from COVID-19, a return to ‘business as usual’ cannot be an option.”
To donate to Angela and Martin’s ‘Going Bats for Wildlife’ challenge, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/goingbats
To support Born Free in providing these animals with lifetime care visit www.bornfree.org.uk
Learn more about Born Free
Find out more about the zoo debate
- Coronavirus outbreak and animals in zoos
- New film raises awareness of zoo animals’ welfare issues
- British Zoos — their politics and history
- I suppose it all starts with zoos…
- Be the one traveler, long I stood
- Conservation: the cons, count downs and continuations
- A lifelong love of animals
Learn more about elephants in captivity
- Jumbo the Elephant – London Zoo’s most famous resident
- The Elephant in the Room film
- Elephants – Captivity vs. Paradise
Learn more about lions in captivity
- Big Cats in captivity
- Claws Out film exposes the truth about volunteering with lions in South Africa
- Claws Out: Beth Jennings interview
- YouthForLions: Breaking the captive lion cycle
- Big Cats in captivity