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Celebrate National Bird Day

Born Free USA: 2012, the Year in Review

The year began with our 10th anniversary version of National Bird Day, the most vibrant yet, and concluded with a flurry of activity that saw our bid to have the African lion listed as "endangered" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act gaining steam. Find out more about those triumphs, and many of our other biggest accomplishments in 2012, in the paragraphs and links below.

Animals in Entertainment

In January, the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary welcomed an abused macaque found living in horrendous conditions at the Collins Zoo in Collins, MS, after an undercover investigation by The Humane Society of the United States revealed serious animal welfare issues and public safety concerns at the facility. "Mississippi Mac" settled quickly into his new compassionate digs!

In mid-May, Born Free-rescued Tom and Misha were released into the wild after a lengthy, complicated and costly rehabilitation project off the coast of Turkey. Two years earlier they had been taken from a fetid pool at a Turkish resort where they had "starred" in a disastrously botched "swim with the dolphins" exhibit.

Captive Exotic Animals

On and around Jan. 5, Avian advocates flocked together to make the 10th edition of National Bird Day one of the best yet. To celebrate NBD and in collaboration with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and the DVD/Blu-ray release of its comedy about birding, "The Big Year," we hatched our inaugural Free Bird Photo Contest, which attracted some 200 entries. See the winners!

In August, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation, drafted by Born Free USA, that tightens oversight on the dwindling number of New Yorkers who possess exotic "pets." While keeping exotic animals as pets is illegal in New York, people who owned exotic animals prior to the ban have been allowed to keep the animals. Assembly Bill 10041/Senate Bill 7078 requires those individuals to report any animal escapes and pay for the associated damages.

The cub Born Free rescued in August.
(Click image to see a larger version.)

Later in August, Born Free rescued a cheetah cub and welcomed her to our sanctuary in Ethiopia. Watch her playful and inspiring first experiences at the wildlife center in this short video. Earlier in the year, we rescued four other cheetah cubs who had been captured from the wild and were destined to be smuggled to the Middle East, where they would were destined to have warped, deprived lives as someone's miserable "pet."

In September, we announced the winner of the annual Born Free USA Compassionate Pet Supply Store Contest was Especially for Pets in Sudbury, MA. The contest asked consumers to nominate their choice for the most compassionate pet supply store and then vote online to determine the winner.

Primates and our Primate Sanctuary

In March, we began formally subsidizing our care of scores of feral cats who've been "discarded" at our sanctuary by launching Prairie's Fund.

In early June, after a 28-hour drive, a severely abused long-tailed macaque from Midland, MI, arrived at the sanctuary to begin a new life. For 10 years the monkey, named JR — but renamed Freeman by Born Free USA staff — lived in a cage (45.5 inches tall, 36 inches long, 25.5 inches wide) weighted by cement blocks to keep him from getting out.

In mid-September, our executive vice president, Adam Roberts, was invited to the U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters for a ceremony that was linked, in part, to our Primate Sanctuary's rescue of more than 100 monkeys from the Wild Animal Orphanage. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack presided over the event, which honored his department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for its animal rescue team. Roberts serves as board president for the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, which plays an integral part in the animal placement process and which has our Primate Sanctuary.

One of the WAO Group settles in.
(Click image to see a larger version.)

On Sept. 26, the last delivery of the 107 macaques and one baboon we rescued from the Wild Animal Orphanage arrived safely at the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary! This rescue, by far our largest ever, had been in the works for a long time. Following many months of negotiations and planning, in February we began building enclosures and recreation structures for what we call The WAO Group. We began accepting the monkeys, transported in stages by air-conditioned truck from nearby San Antonio, in late July.

A few days later, Baseball pitching legend and Texas Rangers co-owner Nolan Ryan — who once spoke about having once been an "ambassador" for the snow monkeys who were living in what is now the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary — presented Born Free USA with a $5,000 check at the Texas ballpark. The donation stemmed from the Rangers' July 1 home game, which was declared "Nolan Ryan Snow Monkey Day" and featured a Born Free USA video on the stadium's Jumbotron.

By early December, the 107 macaques and one baboon we had rescued from the bankrupt Wild Animal Orphanage were settling in nicely at our Primate Sanctuary.

Trapping and the Fur Trade

In March, we testified in Hartford, CT, before the Select Committee on Children, a joint panel of the Connecticut state Legislature in favor of House Bill 5324, a bill drafted in part by Born Free USA that would place restrictions on trappers.

In April, we tapped into our Trapping Victims Fund to help defray the veterinary costs incurred by Myra Combs in North Carolina after J.J., the family cat, was caught and severely injured in a Conibear trap. "Amazingly, J.J. survived but is still in considerable pain," said Born Free USA's Monica Engebretson.

In May, Engebretson joined colleagues from Trap Free New Mexico on an eight-city swing to highlight the dangers associated with trapping on public lands.

The fffashion-winning "Miller Dress"
modeled by Born Free's Melanie Scheible.
(Click image to see a larger version.)

In August, we announced that Fifile Nguyen and Michelle French from Austin, TX, had won our fourth annual Fur Free Fashion Competition, fffashion. Our panel of celebrity judges (including Melissa Rivers, Kelly and Sharon Osbourne, and Victoria Principal) pored over the Top 10 and also singled out second- and third-place winners. We also bestowed a Green Award.

In October, Born Free USA launched Safe Trails, a website with detailed information about the perils traps pose to companion animals and what you can do to cope with trap-related emergencies. It contains detailed descriptions of the types of traps most commonly used, and what you can do to release your dog from those traps should such an emergency arise.

In November, we reported 2012 had become the biggest year for the International Fur Free Retailer Program since its launch in 2006, with more than 50 retailers signing on and a record number (20) of countries served by the program.

In December, we asked our Action Alert team members in Wisconsin to urge limits on hunting and trapping in Wisconsin state parks. Hundreds of people did speak out, and as a result 2,511 more acres of state park land were protected.

Later in December, our efforts with the Fur Free Retailer Program bore more fruit when the Senate in the Netherlands voted in favor of a ban on mink fur farming. The ban will come into force in 2024, which means that by that date, there is no more fur farming in the Netherlands. With 6 million minks per year, the Netherlands is Europe's third-largest producer of mink pelts, after Denmark and China.

And just a few days before Christmas, we announced that Tréa, a young black Lab stray dog from Princeton, MN, had become the latest recipient of money from our Trapping Victims Fund. The dog was rescued from a snare trap in reportedly in horrific condition, partially mutilated by the snare trap. After emergency veterinary treatment, she began her recuperation in the care of a foster family.

Meanwhile, in California we spearheaded Senate Bill 1480, which would tighten regulations on "nuisance" wildlife control officers, whose traps injure and kill thousands of animals every year. (We prepared a three-minute video in support of the measure.) The bill triumphed all the way through the state Legislature, but at the last minute was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, who said people should be allowed more leeway in protecting their private property. We intend to re-launch this effort in 2013.

Wildlife Trade

In April, we shared some good news from Nevada, whose wildlife commission decided to spare Lake Tahoe Basin bears from being hunted in the summer and fall. Also in the Silver State in 2012, a Born Free USA-backed ban on allowing trade in bear gallbladders taken from out-of-state bears went into effect.

In June, Hawaii made great strides to protect bears when Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed SB 2232/HB 2296 into. The bill, spearheaded by Born Free USA, makes it illegal to purchase, sell, transport or deliver bear gallbladders or bile, or any product, item or substance containing, labeled or advertised as containing bear gallbladder or bile.

(Click image to see a larger version.)

In August, after we learned a restaurant in Wichita, KS, was planning to serve lion meat, we asked our Action Alert team members to express spirited opposition. The resulting barrage of e-mails, calls and media interviews were persuasive enough to chef Jason Febres that two days before the $160-per-plate meal (which he had absurdly dubbed "the ultimate dining experience") he removed African lions from the menu.

In November, tigers were the big winners when more than 150 people showed up in Hollywood for "Stars for Stripes," a red carpet event to support tiger protection in India. Alison Eastwood was the master of ceremonies; the celebrity host committee included Howie Mandel and David Copperfield; and the evening saw guest appearances by stars from "Deal or No Deal," "America's Top Model" and other TV shows. (See photos and watch interviews from the evening.) Co-hosted by Born Free USA and Peace 4 Animals, "Stars for Stripes" netted more than $12,000 for our Satpuda Landscape Tiger Programme, one of our global field projects.

Later in November, we learned that the U.S. government has released its "90-day finding" that declares our petition to have the African lion listed as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act may be warranted, and is soliciting comments on the petition for the next 60 days. In March 2011, Born Free USA and a coalition of other animal protection groups submitted the petition, and our Action Alert team members have been advocating for the petition ever since. (A few weeks earlier we asked our AA team member to call Dave's Pizza and Burger in Albany and tell Dave to stop selling lion burgers — and he reportedly stopped!)

On Christmas Day, we learned that Tanzania is retreating on its bid to sell more ivory to China and Japan. That move bodes well for the coming Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) gathering in Bangkok in March 2013.

Miscellaneous

Cabrón starts painting the mural.
(Click to see a time-lapse video of the art.)

In March, local painter and mural artist Alex "Cabrón" Forster started work on a mural entitled "El Tigre" on a 17-foot-by-85-foot exterior wall at the office of Born Free USA on in downtown Sacramento. The original, dramatic image of a tiger's face looking between the bars of a cage was completed a few weeks later, and soon hundreds of people helped us celebrate! (Purchase an artist-signed poster of the mural here.)

Also in April, we unveiled our Animal Sponsorship Program.

In May, ThinkSpace Art Gallery in Los Angeles hosted an opening reception for "Wild at Heart: Keep Wildlife in the Wild," featuring works by more than 100 artists. The exhibition raised awareness about the precarious predicament of wild creatures around the world and aided efforts to protect them in their natural habitat. Born Free USA received 20 percent of all sales, which netted us $21,000!

For all of June we celebrated Keep Wildlife in the Wild Month, created by Born Free USA to encourage people to protect wild animals in their own backyards and around the globe. This year's "call to action" included an essay contest for children, photo contest, educational tools, online activities and more, to engage the public to become more aware and protective of animals in the wild.

Also in June, Born Free USA's chief executive officer, Will Travers, was honored for his work to protect endangered and suffering animals around the world with an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire). The Order of the British Empire recognizes distinguished service to the arts and sciences, public services outside the civil service, and work with charitable and welfare organizations. Travers was presented with the award at Buckingham Palace later in the year

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In August, we announced that Especially for Pets in Sudbury, MA, is this year's winner of our Compassionate Pet Supply Store of the Year Award! The competition raises awareness about, and helps to build, our Pet Shop Locator. For the second year in a row we asked Born Free USA supporters to tell us about their favorite pet store that does not sell live animals, and from the dozens of nominations we received, six were chosen to compete in our online vote last month.

In September near downtown Sacramento, a "Final Friday" art reception and music concert raised money for and awareness of Born Free USA. This casual event, which featured live jazz and works by regional artists, presented a great opportunity for Northern Californians to relax, soak up some culture and chat with our staff members.

In October, our chief executive officer, Will Travers, spoke at a special fundraising event in Woodside (near Redwood City in the San Francisco Bay Area). "Forever Wild: An Afternoon for Wildlife" was presented by the Peninsula Volunteers for Born Free USA, and raised more than $13,000 for our organization!

See what some of our supporters are saying!

Read our 2011, Year in Review.

Read our 2010, Year in Review.

Read about our 2009 victories.