I have many friends who are animal lovers, but my Facebook friend, Janet Brotherton’s concern, particularly for wild life, exceeds the concern of most animal and nature lovers. I dedicate my song today to her.
I have had a long-established friendship with Virginia McKenna since 1989. We have helped each other raise funds for our respective charities on numerous occasions since. Every Christmas when the postman delivers the first Christmas card to our house, before I open it, I know who it will be from Virginia. I was annoyed when hospital admission prevented me attending her husband Bill Travers Memorial Service in 1994 but Virginia kindly sent me a copy of the event. She was Bill’s second wife and they were married in 1957. Virginia is currently a Trustee of ‘Born Free’ and her son Will is its President.
The ‘Born Free Foundation’ is an international wildlife charity that campaigns to ‘Keep Wildlife in the Wild’. It protects wild animals in their natural habitat, campaigns against the keeping of wild animals in captivity and rescues wild animals in need. It also promotes ‘Compassionate Conservation’,]which takes into account the welfare of individual animals in conservation initiatives. ‘Born Frees’ head office is in Horsham, West Sussex and it also has offices in Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa, with representatives covering Sri Lanka and Australia too.
Virginia and Bill always loved animals, but it wasn’t until after 1970 that their concern for the welfare of wild animals really took off. In 1969 Virginia and her husband, Bill Travers who starred in the film ’Born Free’ made the film ‘An Elephant called Slowly’. This featured an elephant calf called ‘Pole Pole’ who was given to ‘London Zoo’ when filming finished. In 1982, McKenna and Travers went to visit ‘Pole Pole’ at ‘London Zoo’. After seeing her, they launched a campaign to get ‘Pole Pole’ moved to somewhere more suitable and with other elephants for company. In 1983, it was agreed to move ‘Pole Pole’ to ‘Whipsnade Zoo’, but following complications during the transfer, ‘Pole Pole’ died.
Her death deeply affected Virginia and Bill, so in 1984 they launched ‘Zoo Check’ with their eldest son Will and renamed ‘Zoo Check’ the ‘Born Free Foundation’ in 1991. ‘Born Free Foundation’ manages and funds projects in more than 20 countries worldwide; across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. It focuses on ‘nine working priorities’ which are: captive wild animal exploitation; trophy and canned hunting; wildlife trade; rescue, care, rehabilitation & release; human-wildlife co-existence and conservation; Integrated Wildlife Protection; transboundary programmes; UK wildlife protection; and education. It also has its own sanctuaries; two big cat rescue centres at’ Shamwari Private Game Reserve’ in South Africa, ‘Ensessa Kotteh Wildlife Rescue, Conservation & Education Centre’, in Ethiopia, and ‘Bannerghatta Tiger Sanctuary’, in India.
I will always have an affinity with Virginia and the wildlife aims of her foundation. The song, film and foundation bearing the same name will always be held in my close affection. Any contributions to the foundation are always appreciated and welcome.
Love and peace Bill xxx