News from Kenya Airways’ partnership with the Born Free Foundation
Earlier this year a momentous new relationship between Kenya Airways and international wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation was unveiled. The two organisations are now working together for wildlife conservation, with fundraising initiatives including the in-flight ‘Change Brings Change’ collections.
“It requires joint efforts from different players to mount a successful war against poaching” said Born Free’s Founder and renowned actress Virginia McKenna OBE, “and we’re delighted that Kenya Airways has chosen to do so with us.”
The money generated through on-board passenger donations will be deployed throughout Africa helping with numerous projects including de-snaring and anti-poaching work as well as community-based approaches to wildlife conservation.
The Born Free Foundation works throughout the world to save animal lives, stop suffering, rescue individuals and protect threatened species including elephants, lions, tigers, gorillas, wolves, polar bears, marine turtles and many others. The charity was founded by Virginia McKenna and her husband Bill Travers in 1984, following their starring roles in the classic wildlife film Born Free, which was based on Joy Adamson’s best-selling book. Today the Foundation is run by their son Will Travers OBE and is working worldwide for wild animal welfare and compassionate conservation. From small beginnings Born Free has grown into a global force for wildlife, described by UK paper The Times as ‘Big enough to make a difference but small enough to care’.
Although the Foundation’s headquarters are in the UK, Kenya is the charity’s ancestral homeland and where it all began. Here, Joy and George Adamson first returned Elsa the lioness to the wild. Elsa is featured on the charity’s logo – the true story of her journey to freedom inspires everything the charity does to remember the individual animal and ‘keep wildlife in the wild’.
The Born Free Kenya office was established in Nairobi in 2002 to co-ordinate support for the numerous projects in the region and protect the country’s unique natural heritage. Wildlife survival relies on good community relations, and Born Free works to tackle poverty and build awareness in order to secure conservation partnerships that strengthen the future for wild animals.
Born Free projects in Kenya include long-term elephant studies in Amboseli and Mount Elgon, support to the Kenya Wildlife Service, including their elephant and giraffe relocation teams and vet unit, lion conflict mitigation, snare removal operations, ‘bushmeat’ (meat from wild animals) awareness, legislative reform and protection of both mountain and marine ecosystems. Community work is a priority, with an overall focus on building awareness and promoting community involvement in conservation.
The lion and the Born Free Foundation are inextricably linked. But sadly the lion is under terrible threat across Africa. Tens of thousands of lions are being killed – an unbelievable 50% lost since 1990. Today as few as 32,000 lions cling to survival, and these animals are under terrible pressure. They are officially listed as ‘vulnerable’ and the species faces a ‘high risk of extinction’ in the wild. Born Free is taking action to save the lion – the symbol of a great continent and its vast savannah grasslands.
Why is the lion in such trouble? Agriculture is a major problem. As more human mouths need to be fed, hunting grounds are lost to farming, lion populations become fragmented and prey species depleted (killed by drought and hunted by human poachers for the illegal bushmeat trade). Hungry lions may kill livestock and farmers often retaliate by killing lions with spears and deadly poisons, even wire snares and steel traps. Lions receive horrific injuries and often endure drawn-out deaths.
Kenya is vitally important to the future of wild lions. The country is one of the species’ last strongholds. But even in Kenya the population has fallen to less than 2000 individuals. And the most serious threat is conflict with humans. A large number of attacks by lions on livestock are at night, when domestic animals are enclosed in traditional ‘bomas’. Lions can easily get into these night-time enclosures, created from just a ring of thorn bushes. Livestock owners may then try to get even by killing lions.
Born Free is determined to help lions and livestock owners (such as the Maasai) co-exist without conflict. Lion-proof bomas are a practical, humane solution and are simple and cost-effective. Based on the traditional design, they incorporate a 2m-high wire fence surrounded by thorn bushes, strong wooden posts, and metal doors made from recycled fuel drums. A boma can be strengthened in this way in a day and the results are immediate, with a 98% success rate. As one village chief told the foundation, “Now I can sleep with my wife at night, not my animals, thanks to Born Free!”
Born Free has cost-shared in the construction of lion-proof bomas with more than 127 households in the Amboseli district of Kenya, an area of high human-predator conflict. They have also extended this approach to Samburu in the north, where they are piloting portable lion-proof bomas among communities that are more mobile. It is difficult to keep up with demand, and interest in this approach has also now extended to West Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, where their team is about to initiate boma strengthening for the first time.
The words of one boma partner, Joel Sembee, tell the story: “I had lost my two sheep (to a lion) and was tempted to go for revenge. Thanks to Born Free for unveiling this project. I hope it can be extended to other community members upon availability of more funds.”
It costs just £1000 to build an entire new lion-proof boma.
Another major Born Free project is their work on de-snaring. Working in areas of key importance to wildlife outside of Kenya’s protected areas, Born Free focus on working with local KWS rangers, Wildlife Club of Kenya volunteers and local landowners to eradicate the scourge of wire snares from areas where wildlife disperse. In many cases their team rescues animals, still trapped, which would otherwise have suffered a prolonged and painful death.