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 tragic death of young Sarah McClay of the South Lakes Wild Animals Park in the UK has been weighing on my mind recently. Not long ago, the zoo worker was mauled and killed by a Sumatran tiger. This is only one story of many that we have heard around the world of workers or visitors being maimed or killed by animals in zoos.
Zoo officials have stated that this tragic incident is not the zoo's or the tiger's fault. The park owner, David Gill has asked that we allow him and his staff to "carry on" and that it would do no good to close the zoo. But how can we let them "carry on?"
How can we let zoos carry on when a female intern was attacked and killed by a lion at Cat Haven in California, or when an employee's neck was bitten through by a Leopard at a zoo in Chemnitz, Germany, or when a two-year-old boy was torn apart by African Wild Dogs at the Pittsburg Zoo? How can we allow zoos to "carry on" when visitors, employees, and the animals themselves are being maimed and killed?
But what must change to stop these horrible accidents? In Sarah McClay's instance, it was not a failure in the safety system set up by the zoo; the set of locking doors and rooms that kept the wild animals separate from their handlers at all times was working. Nor was it the tiger, who acted upon natural instincts to attack.
The failure was ours.
The mistake we made is underestimating the danger of keeping wild animals captive. There are clearly vast risks associated with keeping a large cat in captivity. Although zoos insist they put many safety measures and precautions in place, accidents and deaths still occur. Zoos are immensely underestimating, or worse, ignoring these risks.
How many more times will this happen? How many more times will we have to hear that another person was injured or killed by wild animals in zoos? This must stop. We must rid ourselves of captive lions, tigers, leopards, wild dogs, bears, and other dangerous wild animals.
My thoughts are with Sarah McClay's family.