Born Free USA Blog
by Will Travers,
Chief Executive Officer
What can you say about a big-hearted bloke who has rescued dolphins, tigers, elephants and more and whose parents once helped a lion cub from a department store by caring for him in their backyard and engineering his rightful return to Africa? You can safely say that he's got great animal instincts! In 1984, Will Travers joined his parents — "Born Free" film stars Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers — to form what became The Born Free Foundation. With knowledge, passion and compassion dripping from his every word, Will's blogs are sure to make you embrace our crusade to Keep Wildlife in the Wild ®.
Last week, my friend and colleague, Ofir Driori of the Last Great Ape Organization, received the Future for Nature award in The Netherlands for his outstanding efforts in protecting wild animals .
In Ofir’s acceptance speech he talked about the need for transparency and accountability in wildlife law enforcement and the diverse needs that come into play to successfully conserve wildlife.
But make no mistake, fighting corruption at the highest levels of government and protecting wildlife on the ground are intense, substantial challenges. Wildlife poachers and profiteers are well-funded, well-armed, ruthless killers. Wild animals are not the only ones at risk — wildlife protectors are imperiled as well.
Just over a month ago, one of Ofir’s investigators was kidnapped by a ring of illegal elephant ivory dealers! The investigator had infiltrated the ivory dealer’s network, secretly videotaping them with elephant tusks, talking about how they exported carved ivory concealed in armchairs.
Ofir knew there was a problem when the investigator didn’t check in at the appointed time — the investigator was kidnapped and his life was literally on the line. The dealers were lured to a pre-designed location in their Mercedes Benz and were arrested — the investigator, miraculously, was unharmed. Now, the five dealers are behind bars.
This story ends with a sigh of relief. But wildlife law enforcement agents are not always so lucky.
Mr. Muga Joel Got, a ranger with the Kenya Wildlife Service, repeatedly risked his life, engaging in five dangerous encounters with wildlife criminals in 2009 alone. Ranger Got was killed on Christmas Day 2009 by ivory poachers north of Meru National Park. He was the 43rd ranger killed in the line of duty.
Mr. Simon Kpenindoma was a courageous wildlife ranger in Bui National Park, Ghana. Upon hearing shots from poachers inside the park, Simon and three other rangers gave chase. Simon was unarmed, and he knew the poachers were armed. He was shot point-blank by a poacher named Moro Baah. He died of his wounds shortly thereafter.
Mr. Soumen Biswas had been gathering valuable information on the illegal wildlife trade in India since 1994. He was brutally murdered in his office at the North-Eastern Society for Preservation of Nature and Wildlife in 1997.
Sadly, these are just a few examples of the courageous wildlife champions who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
We need to make sure that Ofir’s team, and the Kenya Wildlife Service, and all the wildlife protectors around the world, are fully equipped to face the challenges on the ground. The elephants and rhinoceroses and tigers need them; so, too, do their families. Let’s have a good thought that each of them returns home safely tonight.