You could say it was their destiny. As the UK's Born Free Foundation CEO and Born Free USA President Will Travers tells it, he always admired the Animal Protection Institute and when the opportunity came to have a closer relationship with the group, Will, along with the entire Born Free foundation jumped full force into the unknown--and has been admonishing the successes in animal conservation every since.
The Born Free Foundation was first founded in England by Will Travers and Virginia McKenna, while having been influenced by their time in Kenya. Initially, they did it in lieu of the untimely death of an elephant named Pole Pole, but soon realized that much more needed to be done in light of wildlife conservation and animal protection. And so they pushed full steam ahead with a sister organization in the US and subsequent coming together with the Animal Protection Institute.
Now Born Free USA is one of the leading animal advocacy and wildlife conservation organizations in the country. Let its CEO, president, and leader tell you why!
Tell me about the start of Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute and how you became involved with it?I had admired the efforts of the Animal Protection Institute for some years and I had always hoped that there might be a way of us working closer together. As CEO of the Born Free Foundation in the UK and President of Born Free USA, when the opportunity to get into a much closer relationship with API came along, I jumped at the chance.
Born Free USA and the Animal Protection Institute were two separate organizations before they merged? How did that happen?
As I say, I think there had been a significant degree of mutual admiration by both parties for some time. The fact that API were looking for a new CEO was the catalyst for earnest discussions which lead to the merger. This also fulfilled a longstanding public aspiration. People want to see different groups working more closely together and in some cases merger is the next logical step. I think the public like what we have done.
What are some of the ways you go about educating the public on conservation?
We have an incredible level of experience within Born Free. People who really are leading experts on individual animal welfare, captivity issues, species conservation in the wild and working with local communities to try and encourage a more harmonious co-existence between people and wild animals. By taking the stories that come out of that body of work and using the internet, the media, our magazines and our public speaking opportunities, we try to get our message of compassionate conservation out to as many people as possible.
What methods do you use to end suffering of wild animals and rescue animals in need?
Several: Public advocacy – the power of the individual multiplied by millions. If people don’t buy ivory or if people don’t go to the circus that form of animal suffering will end.
Legislation — We are always looking to improve legislative protection for wild animals – whether they be in abusive forms of captivity or kept in unacceptable conditions as private ‘pets’. We also carry out active rescues — The Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary in Texas is home to around 500 monkeys, all of whom rely entirely on us for their future. It’s one of my top priorities – to make sure that these animals have the best possible care. One way we try to do that is to offer Primate Adoptions so that for just $1 a week members of the public can play their part in that project and really make a difference.
Why do you focus so strongly on animals who are used in entertainment, such as circus animals?
Animals in entertainment are right on our doorstep – in the circus, in the zoo, on TV. And I have to say that the way we use these animals – and in many cases abuse them – is something that we can all do something about. That’s why it’s such a focus for our work. I simply don’t want another generation of children growing up to accept the way we have treated these animals in the past and believe that it’s OK.
What are you doing to incorporate animal rights laws into government legislation?
Well at every level, City, State and Federal we are trying to bring to the attention of our law-makers what is going wrong for wild animals in our society. Whether it’s trapping, the fur industry, animals in entertainment, hunting, wildlife trade, we know that there are tens of millions of people who want to see a change and they look to Born Free USA and others to lead the way in making sure that our laws reflect their concerns and desires.
How did the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary come to be?
The Sanctuary had been in existence for many years before API took it on in about 7 or 8 years ago. Today, under the Born Free USA name, it is one of those rare places that truly makes the welfare of the animals a top priority. These animals have come from labs, from roadside zoos, from private ‘pet’ owners. Many have not had the right nutrition or the right social environment. Some have barely stepped outside and felt grass under their feet or sunlight on their backs. I’m very proud of what we have done and what we are trying to do and I hope that some of your website visitors will want to help us.
How can we make the world more aware of animal suffering and animal rights?
We can talk about the issue – pure and simple. It’s ignorance as to the needs of animals that is our greatest enemy. Ignorance leads to the kind of abuse and neglect we witness day in and day out. So talking about these issues and then making a decision to do something about them and make matters better is the single most important measure each and every one of us can take.
What is your hope for the future of wild animals and animal rights?
That we, the human species, the dominant species on the planet, can find it in our hearts to make wise and compassionate choices that will allow other species and other living creatures to share our world without abuse, neglect, suffering or cruelty. And I hope that the next generation of leaders will embrace these issues and not be deflected from that path. We need compassionate conservation and we need it now.
For more on the union of Born Free USA and the Animal Protection Institute, check out the group video home page on YouTube.