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 ®.
I am deeply concerned about the human rights violations in Africa generally and the Central African Republic specifically. Born Free USA has so many wonderful and determined colleagues living throughout Africa who are trying to do exceptional wildlife conservation work in areas that are rife with human suffering and violent conflict.
The cost to humans has been great. But wildlife is also on the frontlines of these militaristic struggles, caught in the crossfire, with deadly results.
On May 20, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon brought this issue to the attention of the UN Security Council. In his report, he described poaching, mostly of elephants, as one of the “cross-border criminal activities in the subregion” that represents a “growing security concern.”
Between November-December 2012, more than 300 elephants in Bouba Ndjida National Park were killed by poachers, and in just one week in March 2013, poachers murdered 86 elephants in Chad. The elephants’ deaths translate into massive profits via the increasingly lucrative ivory trade, and militant groups, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are likely reaping the financial benefits. Since the nature and aggressiveness of poaching has changed dramatically, some African countries have chosen to utilize not only law enforcement agencies, but also the national army, in combating this brutal practice. But their capacity is already stretched to the limit.
And so we watch in horror at the brutal events unfolding in Africa and discover an undeniable truth: the human-related and animal-related aspects of the crisis are directly connected. Poaching in the CAR is likely linked to terrorist activities. Security and safety in the region are practically gone and badly-needed humanitarian and law enforcement operations are compromised.
In all my years traveling to and across Africa I have noticed how peaceful the people are; how committed they are to protecting their natural wildlife heritage. But with militant forces destroying the peace, destroying safety and security, and destroying entire elephant families, I fear for the future of some regions of Africa. Fear for the people; fear for the elephants. And no one should live in fear.