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Born Free Foundation

In 1966, Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers starred in the classic wildlife film Born Free. The film told the true story of conservationists Joy and George Adamson who rescued a lioness cub called Elsa and successfully returned her to the wild. Virginia and Bill went on to make a number of wildlife films together, including in 1969 An Elephant Called Slowly with an elephant calf called Pole Pole. When filming was over, Pole Pole was gifted to London Zoo by the Kenyan government. Virginia and Bill launched a campaign to give Pole Pole a better life but in 1983, aged 16, Pole Pole died. Determined that her death would not be in vain, in 1984, Virginia, Bill and their eldest son Will launched Zoo Check – the charity that has evolved into Born Free.

www.bornfree.org.uk Fundraise for us

01403 240170

Registered charity no. 1070906

Member since June 2019

Latest News

Beyond Zoos - Panel Discussion at Royal Geographical Society

Beyond Zoos - Panel Discussion at Royal Geographical Society

A public discussion with expert speakers, exploring whether we can deliver greater support for conservation, biodiversity, ecosystem protection, animal welfare, public education and effective research by looking ‘beyond zoos’.

Date: Wednesday 29 November

Time: Cash bar available from 6:30pm, discussion starts at 7:15pm, event finishes at 9:15pm

Venue: Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London SW7 2AR

Tickets: £22 / £12 students


Across the world, millions of wild animals are held in thousands of zoos. The justifications given for this global form of wild animal exploitation include conservation, education, and research.

Since 1984, Born Free has challenged those justifications, believing that when it comes to compassionate conservation, empowerment through education, and effective, non-invasive research, we can and must do better.

At a time of crisis for wildlife and biodiversity, when resources – financial and human – are stretched, it’s time not only to examine the claims made by zoos but to look beyond the current paradigm in search of better outcomes. There are important questions to be asked.

Do zoos truly serve an important conservation purpose by maintaining ‘insurance populations’ of threatened species that contribute to field conservation efforts, and do they make financial and other contributions to conservation programmes?

Do zoos provide opportunities to educate the public, encourage an appreciation of nature and wildlife, and inspire current and future generations of conservationists?

Do zoos provide the animals they keep with purposeful, safe, high-welfare conditions in which to live out their lives?

And does the research that zoos conduct make a significant contribution to resolving the conservation and biodiversity crisis, or is it substantially directed towards resolving the physical, social and psychological challenges faced by animals because of their confinement?

Born Free has a decades-long and principled position when it comes to zoos, encapsulated by our vision to ‘Keep Wildlife in the Wild’. However, Beyond Zoos is not simply a platform for repeating well-worn arguments both for and against the mass exploitation of wild animals in zoos. It is far more than that.

Beyond Zoos will bring together a talented and unexpected panel of global experts and thought-leaders not only to review the past, and our current situation, but look forward - to explore whether there are more effective ways to engage with people around the world to deliver a truly nature-friendly future.

With that in mind, Born Free will host a discussion at the Royal Geographical Society, London, on 29 November 2023 and will be inviting you and the rest of our audience to look Beyond Zoos.

Our discussions will examine the challenges that exist, identify the barriers that may currently prevent alternatives from becoming a reality, and explore effective solutions.

You can be part of this important discussion. Book your ticket now and let’s go beyond!


Image Copyright: George Logan