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Born Free USA: 2013, the Year in Review

In 2013, Born Free USA forged ahead with its vision of compassionate conservation and a world where all wild animals are safe in their natural habitats. We welcomed nine baboons to our Sanctuary in Texas and our first hyenas were rescued in Ethiopia; we had three major federal legislative initiatives launched; and we had monumental successes at an international trade conference in Bangkok. Read all about it below!

Federal Legislation

Born Free USA applauded U.S. Representatives Renee Ellmers (R-NC) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) for introducing the Humane Care for Primates Act in November. Current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulations allow the importation of primates for "bona fide scientific, educational, or exhibition purposes," which excludes sanctuaries and prevents needy primates overseas from being rescued by U.S. organizations. This bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to include certified animal sanctuaries within the categories for which primates may be imported in the CDC regulations. The Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary has been asked to take in primates from abusive circumstances abroad, but has sadly been unable to do so. This bill would allow our Sanctuary to welcome primates from overseas who need lifetime care.

Born Free USA spearheaded an important Congressional initiative to protect nonhuman primates through the Captive Primate Safety Act, which would prohibit interstate commerce in monkeys, apes, and other primates in the exotic "pet" trade.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) worked with Born Free USA and our colleagues to introduce the Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act. This important initiative would ban all body-gripping traps — snare, Conibear, and steel-jaw leghold — from being used on national wildlife refuges.

We advocated for the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act. This important congressional initiative would prohibit future possession and breeding of lions, tigers, and other big cats in the exotic "pet" trade. The bill would also require all current "owners" to register their big cats with the federal government.

Legislative Victories

Signed into law in October in California, The Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 (A.B. 1213), introduced by Assembly member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), prohibits the commercial trapping of bobcats, along with the commercial sale and export of bobcat pelts.

As a result of Born Free USA's undercover investigation linking the slaughter of lions and national lion meat sale to Illinois, Representative Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago) introduced H.B. 2991 to ban the sale of lion meat and the slaughter of the animals in Illinois. Born Free USA will continue fighting hard for the bill's passage.

Born Free USA and the State Humane Association of California sponsored the California Swap Meets Bill (A.B. 339) which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in September. This law prohibits the sale of animals at swap meets and flea markets and thereby prevents the suffering of animals, protects consumers, and eliminates related public health and safety risks.

California Trapping Act (A.B. 789) was also signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown! As a sponsor of this bill, Born Free USA had advocated for its passage for many, many months. This law bans the most heinous methods of killing wildlife such as drowning, chest-crushing, and injection with chemical solvents such as nail polish remover. It also reduces the size of Conibear traps ("kill traps") on land to decrease the chances of family dogs being inadvertently killed.

Finning is FINished in New York! Governor Andrew Cuomo signed A. 1769b/S. 1711b, a bill that will finally make the possession and sale of shark fins illegal in the state. We applaud the New York legislature for taking strong action to put an end to it, joining the groundswell of similar successes in other states around the country.

Animal Rescue

The Lucky Nine — Pearl, Missy, Chloe, April, Friendly, Spicey, Brooke, Kennedy, and Lulu joined 13 other baboons, 3 vervets, and more than 600 macaques at the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary in Dilley, Texas. These "lucky nine" female baboons, ages 13 to 23, were recently retired from a laboratory research program. Before receiving Born Free USA's loving care, they lived in separate cages, never experiencing the outdoors, and only rarely the company of other baboons. Upon arrival at the Sanctuary, they reached through the fence of their covered safety area to touch grass for the first time: a touching moment for all.

Three orphaned hyenas now have lives worth living at our Ensessakotteh wildlife center in Ethiopia. Matama, a spotted hyena, was the first hyena ever to be in our care. He's lucky that he isn't in Sudan, where he would have been cruelly kept as a "magic charm." Found tied around the neck and in a desperate situation, the young cub was rescued when Stephen Brend, our sanctuary director in Ethiopia, sprung into action. The latest two hyenas came to us from Haramaya University, in the eastern part of Ethiopia. Tigeste, an adult female who endured years in a small, barren cage, has adjusted well to life at Ensessakotteh. We fear that our third hyena, young Uwerr, may be blind—but we are monitoring Uwerr's condition carefully.

In October, Toka, Thika, and Iringa were finally moved to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in Northern California. The Toronto City Council voted in 2011 to send the elephants to the U.S. facility after facing pressure from Born Free USA and other animal protection advocates to make the move, partly because the aging animals weren't well-suited to cold weather, and because the concrete floor of their enclosure was hard on their feet. But, the move was delayed on several occasions by clashes with zoo staff and city officials. Toka, Thika, and Iringa are now settling into their new home, which provides them lots of space to roam, in an appropriately warm climate, and in the company of other retired elephants who were once in zoos or circuses.

The Trapping Victims Fund was established to help defray emergency veterinary care costs for companion animals, for wildlife hurt by traps, and for expenses associated with rehabilitating and releasing a wildlife trapping victim back into the wild. Assistance from this fund has recently benefitted Max the cat, who had to have a leg amputated after he was caught (for three weeks!) in a neighbor's leghold trap, and Tréa, a young black Labrador stray dog from Princeton, Minnesota. She was reportedly in horrific condition, partially mutilated by a snare trap.

Exposing Injustice

In May, Born Free USA Executive Vice President, Adam Roberts, appeared on "Inside Edition" in a segment about lion meat. Incredibly, and very unfortunately, the "king of the jungle" — a species in precipitous decline — is appearing on restaurant menus from California to Florida in the form of burgers, tacos, and other culinary "adventures."

Born Free USA and a coalition of other animal protection groups continued to pressure the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the African lion as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) following our 2011 petition. Listing the African lion under the ESA would almost completely prohibit the import of and commercial trade in lion parts, and thus would considerably reduce the number of lions taken by Americans each year.

Global Projects

We are on the ground in Burkina Faso, fighting against the poachers who slaughter the country's elephants for their precious ivory. With a population of between 4,000 and 5,000 elephants, Burkina Faso is home to the largest remaining elephant population in West Africa. A vital habitat for elephants in Burkina Faso is Park W, a 10,000 kilometer Protected Area that spans three countries — Burkina Faso, Benin, and Niger. We have raised funds to support the anti-poaching teams in Park W.

We were able to continue our much-needed support of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP)! The Ethiopian wolf is found in only a handful of pockets in Ethiopia. With fewer than 500 Ethiopian wolves remaining, they are in serious danger of extinction. But good news is on the horizon. EWCP monitors the wolf populations, and last year it reported a high number of births — and, even more importantly, the majority of the pups have successfully made it to sub-adult status!

Public Policy

Elephants, poaching, and the ivory trade took center stage when former U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in collaboration with Born Free USA, governments, and other conservation partners, implored the international community to end poaching and the smuggling of exotic animal parts such as elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn. "Unless we find a way to work together to protect such iconic animals, they will be lost to future generations," she said.

The Obama Administration has established a Presidential Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. Born Free USA is part of a group of NGOs advising the Council on strategies aimed at combating illegal wildlife trafficking and poaching of endangered species.

At the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), Born Free USA fought to address the rhinoceros and elephant poaching crises, the intensive captive breeding of tigers, the commercial logging of endangered tree species, the unsustainable fisheries that consume tens of millions of sharks each year, and so much more. Our delegation won success after success in these hard-fought debates. Vietnam, a major rhino horn consumer, was taken to task and urged to reduce demand; the West African manatee received the Treaty's strongest protection with the support of almost all of the species' range states; the African Elephant Action Plan, a blueprint for the species' survival across the continent, was reaffirmed and mechanisms for allowing new ivory trade were postponed; renewed calls to act on big cat conservation were sounded loudly; and commercially fished shark species and tree species were added to the CITES list of protected species for the first time.

Born Free USA, along with several other organizations, filed a petition with the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to strengthen the Animal Welfare Act by prohibiting potentially dangerous public contact with big cats, bears, and primates.

Legal Victory for Antelopes. Born Free USA, along with a coalition of other wildlife protection groups, filed suit in federal court against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for allowing the canned hunting of three species of captive-bred African antelopes (scimitar-horned oryx, addax, and dama gazelles) — despite their endangered status! In August, the court ruled that the FWS must apply the restrictions of the Endangered Species Act to protect these antelopes. Born Free USA — and the antelopes — win!

See what some of our supporters are saying!

Read our 2012, Year in Review.

Read our 2011, Year in Review.

Read our 2010, Year in Review.