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Born Free USA: 2011, the Year in Review

With animals facing innumerable challenges worldwide, Born Free USA and its members worked tirelessly on their behalf in 2011, and those efforts were rewarded with many victories, advances and other positive developments. Challenges remain many and daunting as the new year approaches, but with your continued generous support and activism we can build on our 2011 successes, many of which (but by no means all!) are listed here.

Primates and Our Sanctuary

Rescued 112 macaques and a baboon. When the Wild Animal Orphanage declared bankruptcy, we started a long, difficult but very rewarding process of arranging for the transfer of 113 primates to the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary near Dilley, Texas. The monkeys are scheduled to arrive early in 2012, but late in 2011 we were busy making preparations such as the construction of enclosures and the search for more caregivers.

Worked to reform captive primate laws on a federal level. Born Free USA again spearheaded an important congressional initiative the Captive Primate Safety Act to protect nonhuman primates. Introduced July 6, the Captive Primate Safety Act (S. 1324) prohibits interstate commerce in monkeys, apes and other primates in the exotic "pet" trade.

Rescued another baboon. In September 2011, a 3-year-old baboon who was surrendered to Dane County Wisconsin Animal Services in August after living in a basement laundry room came to live at Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary in Dilley, Texas. Dane joined 13 other baboons in a 2.5-acre enclosure at the 186-acre sanctuary.


Exposed the hidden world of wildlife trapping. In March, we released our groundbreaking undercover investigation inside the world of recreational and professional wildlife trapping. "Victims of Vanity" sheds light on a horrific, highly unregulated, inhumane and dangerous industry. The results of our investigation are being used at the national and international levels to combat the cruel trade in fur from trapped animals.

Took a stand against trapping in New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Nevada. In direct response to the findings of our landmark undercover trapping investigation ("Victims of Vanity") conducted in Pennsylvania and New Mexico we petitioned the New Mexico and Pennsylvania game commissions to protect wildlife from egregious trapping cruelty. We joined forces with other organizations and as part of TrapFreeNew Mexico held a public forum on public lands trapping. Also, we teamed up with TrailSafe Nevada to successfully pass a bill that requires that state's Board of Commissioners to adopt regulations to restrict trapping in congested residential areas.

Provided relief to victims of cruel traps and their families. In January 2011 we established the Born Free USA Trapping Victims Fund to help defray veterinary care bills for victims of traps. The first beneficiaries were Dozer, a North Carolina dog who got caught in a trap on a neighboring property and suffered broken bones, puncture wounds in his leg, and had to have his tail amputated after painfully releasing himself from the trap; and Valiant, a Maryland cat who as a result of his foothold trap injuries had to have a front leg amputated.

Worked to end trapping on National Wildlife Refuges. Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) worked with Born Free USA and our colleagues to reintroduce the "Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act" (H.R. 2657). This important initiative finally would end the horrific practice of trapping on national wildlife refuges.

Captive Exotic Animals

Responded to the Zainesville OH, wild animal tragedy. In October, Born Free USA was the go-to organization for media looking to shed light on a shocking incident in which 49 captive exotic animals, including 18 tigers and 17 lions, were shot dead by law enforcement after they had been released from backyard pens in Ohio. Born Free USA previously conducted an investigation into the captive ownership of exotic animals in Ohio and the results were alarming. Once again we stand ready to work with Ohio's governor to create the best laws possible regarding captive wildlife.

Provided an invaluable resource for lawmakers and media. Our constantly updated Exotic Animal Incidents database tracks often-violent encounters between humans and captive exotic animals as a resource for the media, lawmakers, activists and the public to help shed light on the magnitude of the issue and serve as a catalyst for change.

Lobbied hard for tigers. We urged our team members to urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to rescind the "generic tiger exemption." Many of the tigers in captivity (thousands in the United States alone, more than exist in the wild worldwide) can be sold, killed or in other ways exploited because of a loophole in the Endangered Species Act. We also rallied support behind a tiger-protection law being considered in New Jersey.


Helped zoo elephants go to a far better home. Years of work by Born Free USA and other colleagues finally paid off in October 2011 when compassionateminded Toronto City Council members agreed with our recommendation and voted to move the last three elephants from their woeful quarters at the Toronto Zoo to the PAWS sanctuary in Northern California. There, they will have far more space to roam, in an appropriately warm climate, and be in the company of other retired elephants who were once in zoos or circuses.

Took a dramatic stand against ivory. Born Free was there when President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya set ablaze 335 elephant tusks (the sad remains of hundreds of elephants) at a ceremony in Tsavo National Park. By torching the 5 metric tons (11,000 pounds) of ivory, whose contemporary illegal street value is an estimated $7.5 million, the Lusaka Agreement Task Force and the Government of Kenya made one thing quite clear: The ongoing elephant genocide requires immediate action, or one of the world's iconic animals could someday disappear permanently from many African countries.


Uncovered the shady lion meat trade. A shocking proliferation of ads for lion burgers at restaurants across the country led Born Free USA to undertake a year-long investigation into the sale of lion meat for human consumption and uncovered a shady business — a cycle that involves lion cubs bred for the captive display industry, caged lions shot at a slaughterhouse, and lion meat sold to unwitting consumers without proper regulatory oversight of animal welfare of human health and safety.

Petitioned to protect lions. In March 2011, along with other animal welfare and conservation groups, Born Free submitted a petition to the U.S. Secretary for the Interior to have the African lion listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. We provided evidence to the U.S. government warning that unless urgent action is taken now a species that is symbolic with the heart of Africa will be lost from most of its already diminished range. Relocated captive lions to sanctuary in Africa.

Helped rescue four lions. In November, thanks in part to generous donations from more than 200 Born Free USA team members, we relocated a pair of brother lions, Major and General, to our Ethiopian sanctuary at Ensessakotteh. They previously had been confined for 10 years to a cage half the size of a tennis court. Earlier that month, Andrea and Janu were rescued and relocated to Ensessakotteh, too.


Helped curb the bear parts trade in New York. The New York Legislature officially passed our bear gallbladder/bile trade bill. (Gov. Andrew Cuomo subsequently signed it into law.) Drafted under our direction the bill prohibits the trade in bear gallbladder and bile, thereby aiding in the protection of bears not just in New York but everywhere. Protected bears in California. In March 2011, along with other wildlife protection organizations we helped to successfully block the California Fish and Game Commission from expanding black bear hunting by 30 percent.

Spoke up for bears in Nevada and Minnesota. We supported to efforts to combat a bill in Nevada that would establish a permanent bear hunt in Nevada (the bill did not pass) and pushed to protect radio-collared study bears in Minnesota from hunters. (Shooting collared bears is now discouraged by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, but not yet prohibited.)


Rescued and African gray parrots in Cameroon. We provided support for the rescue, rehabilitation and release of 700 wild-caught African gray parrots confiscated by government authorities in Cameroon, Africa, and turned them over to our friends at the Limbe Wildlife Center. We also created an online petition urging the South African government to immediately halt all future imports of wild-caught African gray parrots as South Africa has become an important hub for the international trade in wild-caught birds.

Saved scarlet macaw chicks in Honduras. We provided crucial support to a conservation research station to protect scarlet macaws that live near the small community of Rus Rus in the eastern Honduras region of La Mosquitia. With our support the local people were able to confiscate 11 scarlet macaw chicks who had been poached in the area. The chicks were fed, protected and cared for and allowed to return to the wild to join their flocks and families, instead of spending the rest of their lives in small cages.


Took on the cruel shark "finning" industry. Born Free USA helped work on a successful proposal by the city of Toronto ban the ownership, sale or consumption of shark. We also added our voice to dozens of animal welfare groups, conservation organizations and private citizens in the successful passage of bills in Oregon, Washington and California banning the sale of shark fin &mash; and called on our members in Florida to support a subsequent push. These combined victories will go far to protect global shark populations.

Public Education

Promoted compassionate fashion. Born Free USA's third annual Fur Free Fashion Competition (fffashion) attracted emerging designers from around the globe who believe in the benefits of shunning fur, protecting animals and the environment, and embracing the green fashion movement. Fur free fashion was further promoted at our fur free fashion show in L.A.

Noah, a sixth-grader in Toronto,
raised awareness and money
for Born Free USA by selling
jelly beans to fellow students.

Encouraged wildlife conservation. In June 2011 we celebrated Born Free USA's third annual Keep Wildlife in the Wild Week, designed to encourage people to protect wild animals in their own backyards and around the globe. Keep Wildlife in the Wild Week focuses on creating a national movement to stop the exploitation of wildlife and protect our planet. Educated dozens of communities about co-existing with coyotes. We provided our Co-Existing with Wildlife packets directly to more than 50 communities around the United States concerned about coyotes — a concern that too often leads to lethal control and trapping.

Produced resources to protect beavers. Adding to our series of Co-Existing with Wildlife brochures and resources we completed a "co-existing with beaver" brochure and community education packet, complete with plans for building "beaver deceivers" and a model management policy to mitigate conflicts without resorting to cruel traps. The packets are sent directly to communities that request them or in response to reports of city-sponsored trapping programs.

Advocated for avian protection. In January 2011, we spearheaded the ninth annual National Bird Day, bringing national attention to the plight of birds in captivity and in the wild. We provided more than 100 specially designed and messaged posters to educators and others and garnered great media coverage, including more than 35 online media mentions and a national mention on CBS' "The Early Show"!

We got "Lucky." In coordination with other conservation organizations we helped facilitate the school and library release of the Spanish translation of the educational children's book "Lucky" in the two largest cities in Colombia, thereby bringing the message to hundreds of children that birds are most beautiful and belong in the wild.

Increased enforcement of pet shop protections in California. To aid in the enforcement of California's pet shop laws following a successful bill championed by Born Free USA and inspired by our groundbreaking undercover pet shop investigation, we produced the California Pet Shop Law Guide to help law officers enforce humane pet shop laws and to improve the welfare of animals sold in a retail setting. We provided free copies for animal law enforcement officers training programs in California.

Promoted compassionate pet supply stores. We adapted our one-of-a-kind Pet Supply Locator, which connects conscientious consumers with pet supply stores that don't sell live animals, so that it's available on handheld devices — thereby dramatically improving its potential to provide guidance when needed. We also sponsored our inaugural Compassionate Pet Supply Store contest, won by Mounds Pet Warehouse in Sun Prairie, WI.

Read our 2012, Year in Review.

Read our 2010, Year in Review.

Read about our 2009 victories.