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 ®.
“The difference between an activist and a non-activist is understanding you have the ability to make a change.” This quote is from my friend, Ofir Drori, one of the last lines in the postscript of his new book, “The Last Great Ape: A Journey through Africa and a Fight for the Heart of the Continent.” This simple quote encapsulates Ofir’s dogma and the underlying purpose of his book: Everyone can and should generate beneficial change, no matter how large or small.
As Ofir describes in his book, in 2002 he began an organization called the Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA). With a small team, Ofir set up sting operations and arrested bushmeat and wildlife dealers in Cameroon. His organization fought and continues to fight the corrupt system and enforce wildlife laws. It was through his organization that Cameroon witnessed its first conviction for wildlife crimes, and the cycle of pay-offs and negligence was broken.
Ofir’s bravery in the face of threats and his tenacity despite setbacks are traits that should be noted by large nongovernmental organizations and individual activists alike. I can’t help but feel admiration for a man who so wholeheartedly throws himself into a project. Not only has he given himself wholly to saving apes, but Ofir has, in creating LAPA, given us a new model. He has shown us that change can be achieved by personal efforts in the field.
The purpose of Ofir’s initial trips to Africa, however, was not that of activism, but rather that of personal growth and experiencing other cultures. Realization came in 1999 when Ofir met Father Albert, who told him that, instead of digging “barren holes,” he should dig where a tree might grow. This philosophy of leaving behind a beneficial change continues with Ofir throughout the rest of his journeys.
Through his book, Ofir is sharing with us this philosophy of change. He is telling us that it is easy to find a cause to fight for, whether or not it is in Africa or involves wildlife. Ofir gives us many examples throughout his writing, such as his conversation with a boy soldier in Liberia who was forced to kill and eat human flesh. This boy is just one example of the many who need help.
We need more people, like Ofir, who are willing to actively fight for the things they believe in. Who will be the next to incite change? Will it be you?