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 ®.
Having just taken part in the rescue of Kebri, the juvenile lion from a remote part of Ethiopia (who is now safely at Ensessakotteh, Born Free’s center, just outside Addis Ababa), I think it is safe to say that Born Free knows a thing or two about rescues.
So when we heard that a zoo in Mexico had "rescued" nine juvenile African elephants faced with certain death in Namibia, we thought we understood what was going on.
But a recent statement by the Namibian authorities tells a different story. Apparently these elephants were not going to be killed, had not been orphaned and were sold to the zoo in Mexico as part of a straightforward financial transaction! The Mexican zoo, Africam Safari Zoo, is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and it is my understanding that there is little to prevent some or all of these animals being moved to AZA zoos in the United States, at some time in the future.
So what was this "rescue" really all about?
Well, it’s not because these elephants would otherwise have been killed and surely not because Namibia had no space for them (Namibia has fewer than 3 million people and is bigger than Kenya). And it’s surely not because Namibia needs the money (it is one of the wealthiest countries in Africa based on per capita income).
So is it because the number of African elephant calves born in zoos in the United States does not replace the number of African elephants who die in those same zoos? Is it because without an injection of new blood the captive African elephant population in the United States will evaporate over the next 20 to 30 years? And is it because directly importing wild-caught elephants into the United States is very difficult and Mexico might prove to be an easier staging post?
When is a rescue not a rescue? You decide.