October 4 – World Animal Day, FIAPO (Jaipur Conference), Christian the lion, Minding Animals Conference 3, United Nations, Bengal Tigers etc
October 2, 2014
OCT 4th World Animal Day: According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, half the world’s wild animals have been lost in the last 40 years from habitat destruction,hunting and deforestation. On this World Animal Day let’s work together and combine our efforts to reverse these terrible statistics – their survival is at stake.
SYDNEY: People are meeting beside Sydney Town Hall at 11am on Saturday 4th October. Organisers seem to be a coalition of Lobby For Lions, Animal Works and felinefoundation.org – see their sites for information. The March is for Elephants, Rhinos and Lions primarily…but let’s salute all animals!
MELBOURNE: fortheloveofwildlife is staging a fund raiser, primarily for a documentary exposing the cruelty of farming lions for the canned hunting industry in South Africa. Apart from the entertainment, the evening will feature Ian Michler, a well-known wildlife journalist from South Africa.
Please consider signing this petition to ban lion trophy imports into Australia – this is a very effective way of discouraging hunting.
FIAPO: The Federation for Indian Animal Protection Organisations staged a very informative and effective conference in Jaipur. A federation can combine all our voices and efforts and be very influential. People were eloquent advocates on behalf of a wide variety of animals and issues. In attendance were esteemed elders, generous patrons, dynamic individuals and groups, and many concerned and enthusiastic young people.
There are strong laws to protect animals in India – it is the implementation that is problematic.
My Opening Address, illustrated with photographs, seemed to be quite well received – they love Christian’s story! As the auditorium was full of animal lovers, this was not surprising. The audience clapped when Christian jumped up on us – and some shed a few tears – it was beautiful!
This is the link to the original and my favourite Youtube clip – as it includes Whitney Houston’s emotive back track I’ll Always Love You.
At the conference there were many dedicated and hard working people (including some interesting foreigners that came to India on holiday and stayed). Many run animal shelters where dogs, donkeys, camels, snakes, birds etc are rescued and cared for. Sessions ranged widely from dealing with the packs of dogs and rabies in communities, bears that have been rescued from a life of “performing” with gypsies, to the huge tracts of land required for elephants that have been “rescued” from miserable lives performing or working.
Listening to many of the speakers made me think deeply about animal rights, and how we use animals selfishly for our own purposes. We farm them cruelly for our food, work them hard, and use them for our “entertainment”.
We can visit animals in the wild and observe them appropriately…we can walk in our national parks full of birds…swim under water in our oceans….visit reputable wildlife sanctuaries, “open air” zoos, and conservancies where vast tracts of land are protected.
Incidentally, behavioural ecologist Justin O’Riain who is currently visiting Australia, has said electrified fencing can reduce the vexed issue of animal/human contact – from the baboons in the suburbs of Cape Town, to deterring lions and elephants from local villages.
We can stay home and watch the most beautifully filmed and educational nature documentaries. We can donate to causes we believe in. Most satisfyingly, on a daily basis we can look after the dogs and cats in our lives – preferably rescued from shelters.”Companion pets” so aptly describes the roles they play in our lives…
Fellow Working for Animals committee member Jeannette and I visited the Camel Rescue Shelter established on the outskirts of Jaipur. Camels and a donkey were recuperating, and a cow was on a drip watched by the anxious owner. It was a reminder of just how tough village life remains for most Indians. While India seems to get easier to visit, and the middle class expands, one can’t forget that for the majority of Indians life remains extremely hard. Many live on the street, or in slums, and life remains precarious. The weather is extreme –hot and cold, monsoonal rains caused flooding in Kashmir (blamed on climate change, deforestation and unsuitable over development), and temperatures I would find unbearable (45!). Overall I love the vitality of Indians and many have a great sense of humour. The new PM Modi seems energetic but it is too early to judge him.
MAC3: I’ve now been asked to show the 2009 documentary A Lion Called Christian at another important conference – the Minding Animals Conference 3 in New Delhi 13th January – 18th January 2015. Minding Animals furthers the development of animal studies internationally and helps to establish legal and moral protections.
After three days of the conference I looked forward to a walk around the attractive City Palace, and dinner at the luxurious Rambagh Palace.
BENGAL TIGERS: I was deeply shocked to find out there were only 1500 Bengal Tigers left in the wild in India. Indians were equally shocked that only 20,000 wild lions remain in Africa. I was asked by people at the conference how to protect tigers – and a starting point was this petition on my last blog (sent to me by Francois) which most Indians were not aware of. 96,300 acres of forest are to be cut down in the state of Maharashtra for bamboo and teak – but it includes vital tiger habitat. Please sign the petition and circulate.
UNITED NATIONS: By abolishing our carbon tax Australia should have been embarrassed at the United Nations summit on Climate Change. 300,000 marched in New York and Obama is certainly talking about climate change with much more urgency. On the other hand our government is in denial and we are now on the wrong side of history.
We have no designated Minister for Science and funding for science and innovation is at a 30 year low.
Our PM sidestepped Climate Change to give a banal speech at the United Nations about joining the Coalition against the Islamic State. Our indecent haste to rush to war has “added to” making Australians more of a target to extreme Muslims. Our politicians (and some Murdoch journalists) are still in denial about the repercussions from the 2003 Iraq invasion and are no doubt in danger of making the same mistakes all over again – such as having no exit policy. War has conveniently taken the attention off the government’s inept handling of the budget and I still can’t think of one major initiative that gives me any confidence in the government. Often I’m shocked at their behaviour: like the recent decision to send our asylum seekers to Cambodia for resettlement. Cambodia is one of the worlds poorest nations with an appalling human rights record.
I liked the break in India from our newspapers…the conservatives in the Murdoch press here are still blaming “ the Left”, the ALP budget deficit, or imaginary “bias” at the ABC.
EBOLA: Isn’t this an emergency the world is inexplicitly slow to respond to?
HONG KONG: The world is admiring the bravery of your citizens as you demonstrate for your democratic rights and we wish you well.
READING: I adored reading Gore Vidal’s Palimpsest memoir and Alice Walker’s unsettling and often funny In Love & Trouble. I find them fascinating individuals but I also enjoyed the more cerebral and interwoven stories in Belomor by Nicolas Rothwell. I’m listening to music by our composer Peter Sculthorpe, who died recently. His collaboration with William Barton on the didgeridoo is hauntingly beautiful.
Looking forward to celebrating WORLD ANIMAL DAY with you all around the world.
Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), Tigers, Lions, CACH, Dolphins, Gaza, World, Palau
September 6, 2014
FEDERATION OF INDIAN ANIMAL PROTECTION ORGANISATIONS: I am about to leave for India to speak at the INDIA for ANIMALS conference in Jaipur on September 12th. The conference is organised by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO). I will be talking about Christian the Lion of course, but I will be wearing my Working for Animals hat. I am on the committee of WFA which runs two animal shelters in Darjeeling and Kalimpong, and are co-sponsors of the conference.
WFA is also supporting the elephant training camps to be held in Kerala (October 11-13) and Assam (October 15-17) with Australian vet Dr.Ian MacLean, encouraging a more humane treatment of elephants. There seems to be a growing movement against tourists riding them etc…
I always love visiting India and I will report back! Life in India can be challenging in many respects for humans and animals, but both seem to be intimately woven together in the rich tapestry of India.
TIGERS: Habitats for wild animals are being destroyed by the competition for resources and growing populations all over the world. There may be as few as 1500 Bengal tigers left in the wild in India. Unfortunately the government of the Maharashtra State has just given permission to clear 96,300 acres of critical tiger habitat – threatening their existence. You can sign the petition here.
LIONS: I was asked to appear on the Sunrise program on Channel 7 which was acknowledging the 25th Anniversary of George Adamson’s death. It turned into a bit of a Christian love fest and everyone at the channel was very into protecting animals and I had the chance to talk about the evils of Canned Hunting. You can watch the interview here.
I presume many of my fellow lion addicts have seen the marvellous images on the fatherofthelions.org website. I was especially interested in some of the photographs donated by Virginia McKenna. Photographs include images from the filming of Born Free, Joy and George Adamson, and photographs of the well established camp at Kora, Kenya.
Andrew sent this short clip of a most enthusiastic leap by a lion into someone’s arms!
Francois sent this link to photographs of “Awkwardly Sitting Cats”. As cats are usually so elegant I do not entirely approve, but I have found them amusing and this cat does look very comfortable observing the world go by.
CACH: I do encourage you to read this comprehensive and reasonable article (sent to me by the indefatigable MoonieBlues) An Analysis of the lion breeding industry in South Africa by Anton Crone here. The article has helped me understand the complexities of the situation and the vested interests we (and the lions) are up against.
As part of the Campaign Against Canned Hunting Australians may consider emailing our Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt to encourage him to initiate a ban on the importation of hunting trophies. His email is email@example.com.
You could all consider approaching the relevant politicians in your own countries, as banning the importation of hunting trophies and animal body parts from Africa is one of the most effective measures to inhibit the farming, hunting and killing of wild animals.
I will also be mentioning in my email to the Minister the 3 million cubic metres of dredge spoils which were to be dumped – against all scientific and environmental advice – into the Great Barrier Reef. There is now a growing movement against this (assisted by an informative Four Corners program on the ABC), and there is now talk of “on land” dumping of these spoils that contain high levels of acid sulphate.
I will also refer to the Renewable Energy Target, which despite an election promise, the government is itching to abolish. A well-known climate-change denier and advocate for the fossil fuel industry was asked to do a review! There is considerable public support for renewable energy but the government is sabotaging investment – and jobs – in the renewable energy industry. With the scandalously retrograde axing of the carbon tax, carbon emissions from the country’s main electricity grid have risen by the largest amount in nearly eight years.
DOLPHINS: The incorrigible Japanese are beginning their annual slaughter and capture of dolphins, porpoises and small whales (see here) at the now notorious “cove” in Taiji, Japan. Up to 20,000 cetaceans are killed each year in Japanese waters, and the Japanese are submitting a “revised program” to hunt minke whales in the Antarctic Ocean in 2015.
GAZA: While we concentrate on the appalling statistics of injuries and death in the thoroughly trashed Gaza (2143 dead Gazans and 70 Israelis), do see this article (which comes with a warning about “Graphic Pictures”) about the destruction at the Gaza Zoo. In hostilities it is often overlooked how animals are also collateral damage. I don’t know how either side could claim “victory”. There is undoubtedly a world backlash against the Israelis for their disproportionate heavy-handedness leading to the deaths of civilians and children. Criticism cannot just be dismissed as “anti-Semitism”. It is estimated it will cost $8.4 billion to rebuild Gaza. The only power plant was destroyed, 17,000 homes were razed and 106,000 residents are displaced, and an estimated 500,000 children are unable to go to school.
Now Israel intends to “confiscate” a further 400 hectares of the West Bank!
While I am not a supporter of Hamas, their chilling rhetoric is matched by what the ultra-right Jewish settlers on illegal West Bank settlements say about the Palestinians. They, equally, want to eliminate the Palestinians – and not just drive them from their own land.
WORLD: I did want to end this blog on a more positive note, but what with the alarmingly inadequate global response to Ebola, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, and horrific beheadings etc in the Middle East, it is difficult. Australia has rushed to support the USA against the Islamic State even before being asked, seemingly oblivious to the lessons of our last disastrous (and unnecessary) 2003 incursion into Iraq as part of the “coalition of the willing”. We are giving “humanitarian aid” to the Kurds at this stage which somehow includes weapons. The situation is so complex and potentially catastrophic in Iraq and Syria it is not surprising that Obama does not have a clear strategy. Australia inadvertently appears to have taken sides with the Shiites against the majority of Muslims who are Sunnis. Our mostly moderate Muslim Australians are tired of being scapegoats. Our PM refers to “Team Australia” and has shown little insight into why some young Australians do feel disenchanted and marginalised here and have become radicalised, even taking the truly drastic step of fighting for the Islamic State.
Our PM obviously thinks his foreign affairs activities will be a diversion from the most unfair and worst received budget many Australians can remember. One has to question his judgement however at taking sides unnecessarily which includes Japan against China and Ukraine against Russia. He has just visited India to sell them our uranium!
PALAU: There was an interesting story on Foreign Correspondent on this beautiful Pacific island. It is both a good and bad story. The bad is that it is being over-fished – Bluefin tuna down to 4% of previous numbers, and Yellowfin and Bigeye tuna are also threatened. The good story is that the government wants to ban commercial fishing (with foreign companies taking 94% of the profits out of the country), and wants to develop an “eco –tourism” industry. They have created a shark sanctuary and many tourists are coming to swim with sharks! While I won’t be one of them, I applaud this initiative as the way of the future. No more hunting or man-handling of wildlife, or unsustainable practices – just the joy of observing nature on equal terms, and supporting positive contributions to protect our unique, irreplaceable and beautiful fellow creatures.
WORLD ANIMAL DAY OCTOBER 4th: This day is a “special opportunity for anyone who loves animals..to acknowledge the diverse roles that animals play in our lives…” I am aware of activities in Sydney and Melbourne and will blog with more details soon. I do know that Alison Lee Rubie of Lobby for Lions is hosting a Sydney March for Elephants, Rhinos and Lions on the 4th October, meeting at 11am beside Sydney Town Hall. A March will be followed by a picnic in The Domain.
MAIL: Thanks to Jane, Deb, MoonieBlues, Aidan and Tania, Andrew, Francois and all who have commented or emailed about recent blogs!
August 20, 2014
Today is the 25th anniversary of George Adamson’s death. The Kenyan Wildlife Service are going to acknowledge this with a service at George’s camp Kampi Ya Simba at Kora, Kenya, on the weekend of the 30th August..
Through their observations, books, journals, photographs etc, Joy and George Adamson assembled the largest documentation about lion behaviour in the world. The book and film Born Free of course reached many millions of people and Elsa the lioness altered people’s perceptions of animals. While some argued their methodology was “unscientific”, this huge archive may prove to be invaluable with only 20,000 wild lions left in Africa.
While Joy Adamson loved animals, she had a volatile and rather frenetic personality. George on the other hand, was very calm and considered. He managed to create a neutral space where the two apex predators managed to co-exist with each other with respect and understanding. These days he would be called a “lion whisperer”. Looking back now I wonder if he had too much confidence in all of us – the other people around, visitors, lions etc.
George’s assistant Stanley was killed by the lion Boy and was shot by George. When we were first there Boy would walk in and out of our tent at will. At that stage Boy did not like “our” lion Christian and we were always uneasy about him. He had had a troubled life and we did not know him. He was however, Christian’s introduction to the lion world. Boy could have killed him as Christian was a potential rival as a younger male. But after many months of rejecting him, Boy came to accept and love him and they became inseparable. Christian had waited very patiently for this, but it had been heartbreaking to watch.
On the 20th August 1989 a guest at Kora was driving to collect another visitor arriving by light plane when she was held up by Somali “bandits” on the road. George Adamson heard gunfire, jumped in his vehicle, and then drove straight at these people. He died in the proverbial “hail of bullets”.
George was 83. He was actually getting too old to remain living in such isolation – although he had described it as the happiest period in his life. I love this photograph in the hut where George worked, ate and socialised. Note the large photograph of Christian and George’s assistant Tony Fitzjohn on the wall. George did not play favourites but he deeply loved Elsa, Boy and Christian – and they loved him back just as deeply.
George Adamson was buried at Kora, beside his brother Terence. The lion Boy, who George had known since he starred in Born Free, is buried nearby.
I also love this photograph – two friends just sitting together. This must be one of the last photographs of Christian (early 1973?) as he is very big. In a recent blog I mentioned what I interpreted was Christian’s “cry for Africa”. “MoonieBlues” consequently sent me this fantastic “cry for Africa” from one of Kevin Richardson’s lions roaring as Kevin is recording a promo for World Lion Day!
CACH: Months ago I rang and then emailed the South African High Commission in Canberra to ask them their position on Canned Hunting. I have to say their response, when I finally received it, appalled me. I was sent the “position paper on lion hunting” from the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA)!!!
My opinion is that the South African Government are allowing the shocking farming and hunting of lions to go more or less unchecked, most probably for the income it generates. PHASA claims 9,000 overseas hunters visit South Africa every year making it the top lion hunting destination in Africa! Not a claim to boast of. Tourism is one of the Governments “six core pillars of growth” and PHASA disparages “photographic eco-tourism” as “not commercially viable”. Let’s show them how wrong they are. I’m sure in time they will notice a boycott by tourists who are opposed to the killing of Africa’s iconic wildlife, and who want their contribution to be one of protection not exploitation.
A conveniently ambiguous distinction is drawn between “canned hunting” (shooting drugged lions in a confined space) and the “responsible” (whatever that means) hunting of “captive-bred” lions on private lands. Canned hunting is actually illegal, while shooting captive-bred lions and trophy hunting is not. PHASA states that private enterprise owns 3 times more land dedicated to wildlife (and 4/5ths of game) than all state owned parks and reserves. PHASA states that it will monitor the aptly named South African Predators Association (SAPA) – but who would actually police the activities on private land?
I just do not believe that hunting contributes to conservation, helps local communities with training and jobs etc, and builds a “sustainable” future for lions and other wildlife. PHASA even claims that trophy hunting was a major contributor to saving the white rhino!
Australian rugby union player Clyde Rathbone recently visited a lion park out of Bloemfontein in South Africa where young lions were handled, and Clyde realised that he and the others had been drawn into “complicity in the exploitation of African wildlife”. Read his thoughtful blog here. His behaviour contrasts with another rugby team visiting South Africa. The Crusaders from New Zealand were photographed with a zebra they had shot!
The more I learn the more horrified I become. I am determined to be part of the Campaign Against Canned Hunting and I will keep you informed and I ask you to keep me informed.
I suggest you contact the various South African High Commissions and let them know your feelings about the farming and hunting of lions. I also ring travel agencies that advertise tours to South Africa and I ask if visits to wildlife sanctuaries include cub petting and walking with lions.
George Adamson and his brother Terence were both born in India. I am looking forward to shortly visiting there again – this time to give the Keynote Address on September 12th at the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) INDIA FOR ANIMALS conference in Jaipur.
August 12, 2014
Christian was born on the 12th August 1969 in Ilfracombe Zoo, Devon, UK. As most of you are aware, we don’t know what happened to Christian. He was last seen by George Adamson in 1973 setting off in the direction of Meru National Park, Kenya. We like to assume he created his own pride and lived happily for quite a few more years. Free. Lions live approximately 10-12 years in the wild, although up to 18 years in captivity.
These photographs are stills taken from my Super 8 footage on our visit to Christian in 1972. I never saw Christian (or George Adamson) again.
I don’t advise kissing lions – unless you know them very very well! George Adamson loved lions above all other animals, especially their capacity for love and trustworthiness. However, he did say “why should we expect lions to be more trustworthy (and predictable) than humans?”.
Miraculously, we did not have one incident with Christian. He could be mischievous, naughty and boisterous – but he was never anything but loving with us. He seemed to know our circumstances were unique, and that he could trust us implicitly.
Of course I appear a hypocrite now, protesting about wildlife sanctuaries that farm lions and encourage cub petting and walking with lions. Our circumstances and our relationship with Christian were different however, although we now accept we should never have been allowed to buy him and that we were participating and perpetuating the trade in wild animals.
Part of Christian’s rehabilitation by George Adamson in Kenya was to minimise his contact with humans as in the future they would be a threat to him and vice-versa. This is probably why Christian was initially cautious as he walked down the hill towards us when we had our first reunion with him in 1971.
World Lion Day was celebrated everywhere. Thanks for your responses – and apologies to any organisations and websites I didn’t mention last blog – like Great Cats of The World. They re-blogged, and linked to similar blogs and Facebook pages. View here.
Last night I attended a lecture by Professor Peter Singer of Animal Liberation fame. He was asked when did he become aware that animals have feelings – are sentient beings. He replied it was just obvious growing up with the family cat Buddy. I think most of us have had similar realisations. Of course his lecture about the major issues we face – like poverty, farming of animals, climate change etc was hugely instructive. Apart from becoming vegans, he did emphasise that if we want to contribute, we can donate to the many causes close to our hearts.
TONY THE TIGER URGENT ACTION: We have been asked to urgently circulate and sign these petitions by August 17th for Tony the Tiger, still in his cage at the truckstop in Louisiana, USA
Petition 1 – Sign HERE.
Petition 2 – Sign HERE. After signing this petition, an email will be sent to you & you must click the link in the email to verify your signature and make it count!
Tony’s continuing imprisonment despite the efforts of so many people makes me feel very frustrated as a blogger and an animal rights advocate. However, I am told that when I ask if you would consider signing petitions I think are important, there is a discernible spike in signatures and that makes me very very appreciative of you all. As a group – we can make a difference!
But this is Christian’s day. HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I find it extraordinary the spell he still casts over me – and many of you. Now more than ever we need to make the world and all who share it more united, compassionate, loving, thoughtful, and caring……
August 10, 2014
Let’s celebrate lions today, mindful that there are approximately only 20,000 lions left in the wild in Africa. This is an appalling statistic – there are 80-90% fewer lions now than in Christian’s time. Let’s resolve to do something about it!
The Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH) is gaining momentum in opposing the shocking farming of lions for cub petting, walking with lions and ultimately being shot by “hunters”. Canned hunting does NOT assist in the conservation and protection of lions, and hunting does NOT assist in conservation. We must discourage people from visiting or volunteering at wildlife sanctuaries that encourage cub petting and walking with lions…..and to me hunting is incomprehensible.
Donalea Patman is Melbourne based and is a tireless supporter of lions and wildlife. See her website fortheloveofwildlife here.
I met Alison Lee Rubie at the first Global March for Lions which she helped organise. See her Lobby For Lions website. I look forward to reading about her next trip to Africa later in the year. She has made me aware of the reputable wildlife sanctuaries in Africa – and see the Volunteers Beware Facebook page here.
The Born Free Foundation is very effective and “takes action worldwide to save lives, stop suffering and protect species in the wild”. It was founded in 1984 by the late Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna who starred as George and Joy Adamson in the film Born Free. Virginia remains very actively involved. Of course it was Bill Travers and Virginia who accidentally discovered Christian in London, and led us to George Adamson in Africa for Christian’s rehabilitation.
The Elsa Conservation Trust is one of the earliest organisations working on behalf of animals and lions especially. It is based at Elsamere beside Lake Naivasha in Kenya and we visited Joy Adamson there. It is now a wildlife retreat and education centre.
Panthera is the largest wild cat conservation organisation in the world and is solely committed to the 38 species of wild cats.
The George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust works very effectively on behalf of animals in George Adamson’s name. GAWPT has also overseen the rehabilitation of George’s camp at Kora which was abandoned after his death in 1989. GAWPT is very mindful of the need to work with local communities.
I have blogged previously about Aidan Basnett and his Adamson Facebook page – he spent time in Africa when much younger and remains a very enthusiastic fan of the Adamsons. He is now organising tours to Kenya – see details of his tempting 2015 tour here.
It was AnimalWorks www.animalworks.com.au who asked me to join in the Global March for Lions, and they want to make conservation “everybody’s passion by spreading the word about the natural world and what we can do about it”.
Lion Aid www.lionaid.org are concerned with all things related to lions, and an interesting report on their site about poaching, states that it is not more guns that are needed, but “sustainable employment for all people, so they are not tempted into poaching”.
My thanks to all these organisations that often or exclusively prioritise lions. Of course there are many other organisations all over the world with committed and deeply concerned people working for animals and wildlife.
But today I’m especially thinking of all those magnificent and majestic lions – some living freely, and far too many in captivity.
In an interview I was asked – unexpectedly – what did I think was the significance of Christian’s story coming back via the internet so many years later? I said “I think it is a cry for help” and I think many of us have heard that cry and are determined to do something about it.