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Why 2020 might have redeemed itself for the animal kingdom

News Desk

With the news headlines dominated by depressing statistics and stories of human suffering, as a result of the ongoing global pandemic, there’s no doubt that many will want to consign 2020, the world’s annus horribilis, to the dustbin of history just as fast as they can. However, in doing so they might miss some important good news that has given animal lovers everywhere the opportunity to celebrate.

International wildlife charity, Born Free, has released details of 20 animal welfare and conservation successes to help spread a little festive cheer as 2020 comes to a close:

After many years of campaigning, France announced that it will introduce a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. It has also signalled an end to the keeping of dolphins and orcas in captivity and banned mink farms.

According to the Kenya government, the official estimate for the number of lions living in the country has increased by 25%, from 2,000 in 2010 to 2,489 – fantastic news for a species conservationists fear may be heading for extinction across much of its wild range.

The challenge to the Ivory Act, brought by representatives of the antique industry who argued the act was incompatible with EU trade and human rights law, was defeated in the High Court.

An astonishing six baby orangutans were born in Borneo’s Lamandau Wildlife Reserve during 2020.

Following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, China finally banned the production of and trade in wildlife for human consumption. They also removed pangolin scales from the traditional Chinese pharmacopoeia.

More than 140 elephants have been born in Amboseli National Park this year, including two sets of twins—this brings Kenya’s overall wild elephant population to more than double that of 1989.

Countries came together and agreed to increase collaboration to protect Asian elephants, jaguars, giraffes, and chimpanzees under the terms of the UN Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).

A total of 48 new Ethiopian wolf pups were born this year. With only an estimated 500 individuals left in the world, this is great news for Africa’s most threatened carnivore and the world’s rarest canid (a member of the dog family).

When Bloemfontein Zoo in South Africa closed and the animals were left to starve, Born Free, working with Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary and Bloemfontein SPCA, rescued and relocated two leopards. Mowgli, a melanistic leopard approximately 18 months old, and Zeiss a spotted leopard around six years old were given a lifetime home at Born Free’s big cat sanctuary in Shamwari Private Game Reserve.

Dr Olivier Nsengimana, Founder & Executive Director of the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association (RWCA), won the 2020 McKenna-Travers Award in recognition of his incredible work to protect and increase the population of grey crowned cranes from 487 in 2017 to 748 in 2019. He also established a permanent facility for disabled or injured cranes, meaning that, except for those in the care of the RWCA, there are no captive cranes left in Rwanda.

Born Free directly supported or led efforts to conserve14 highly threatened species across three continents in 2020 including 200-300 lions; 500 Ethiopian wolves; 2,000 elephants; 600-700 tigers; 660 giraffes; 320 chimpanzees; 160 gorillas; and 100 rhinos.

Born Free continued to protect foxes and other British wildlife across the UK. As well as rescuing, raising and releasing five abandoned fox cubs back into the wild this year, through its British wildlife grant scheme, Born Free provided wildlife rescuers with funds to purchase vital equipment so hundreds of sick, injured, and abandoned foxes and other species could be cared for and then released back into the wild.

This year Born Free has helped to protect 18,000 head of livestock and secured the livelihoods and safety of over 1,300 people thanks to the 62 new predator-proof bomas installed in southern Kenya and over the border in Tanzania. Bomas are simple, cost-effective fenced corrals that protect livestock from predation at night thus reducing retaliatory killings and human-wildlife conflict.

Supported by Born Free, the Bulindi Chimpanzee & Community Project distributed over 1 million native trees, coffee, and cocoa seedlings to more than 2,000 farmers in the degraded forests of Bulindi, Hoima District, Uganda. This is part of a process to restore critical habitat for the resident population of chimpanzees while helping achieve long-term coexistence between rural living people and their great ape neighbours.

The Born Free-supported Orphan Bear Rescue Centre, Russia, rescued, rehabilitated, and returned 17 bear cubs to the wild in 2020.

Wildlife started to reclaim the world during the lockdown. Dolphins were spotted in the canals of Italy, West African giraffe in Niger are ranging more widely and even moving closer to the capital city Niamey than ever before, and a jaguar was spotted in a protected area in Chaco/Yungas in Argentina – 70km southwest of where jaguars are usually found!

Finally, Born Free and 19 of the world’s leading conservation organizations presented the Wildlife Conservation 20 Declaration at the recent G20 meeting in Saudi Arabia. The Declaration is one of the most ambitions blueprints for investment in nature, restoration of biodiversity, and protection of ecosystems and ecosystem services ever described. If the G20 committed just 0.5% of its combined GDP to these objectives, it would raise the $500 billion needed each year to transform our future and give all life on earth, including ourselves, a fighting chance.

For more information on all Born Free initiatives visit www.bornfree.org.uk.

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