Born Free USA



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 named Elsa and successfully returned her to the wild.
Virginia and Bill went on to make several wildlife films together, including in 1969 An Elephant Called Slowly with an elephant calf called Pole Pole. Although Virginia and Bill did everything they could to prevent this, when filming ended, 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, at age 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.
In 2002, Born Free USA was launched in the United States to bring Born Free’s vision to the American public. In 2007, Born Free merged with Animal Protection Institute (API) and took over the management of their primate sanctuary in south Texas. Since then Born Free has operated what is now the largest Primate Sanctuary in the United States. The 186-acre sanctuary provides a safe, permanent home to nearly 475 monkeys, many rescued from abuse in roadside zoos or as “pets” in private homes or retired from research.

Mission Statement

Born Free USA, a 501(c)(3) organization, believes that every individual animal matters. Inspired by the Academy Award®-winning film Born Free, the organization works locally, nationally, and internationally to protect threatened wildlife and end wild animal cruelty and suffering in all its forms. Not only does our conservation work occur in communities, classrooms, courtrooms, and the halls of Congress, we also operate the largest primate sanctuary in the United States.

Program Details

Born Free's main areas of focus include, animals in captivity, trapping, fur trade, wildlife trade, and endangered species protection.
Every year, millions of exotic animals are captured from the wild or bred in captivity for commercial profit or human amusement, only to languish in conditions that fail to meet their instinctive behavioral and physical needs. These animals include those held in captivity in facilities such as roadside zoos, circuses, and aquaria; those kept in private possession, as “pets”; and animals used in interactive displays, such as for photo ops and rides. Born Free USA works with lawmakers and alongside other animal protection organizations to advocate for laws to put an end to wild animal captivity and to improve conditions for captive wildlife. We also care for many rescued pets and former zoo residents at our primate sanctuary.
Indiscriminate body-crushing traps are used to capture or kill furbearing animals who are deemed a “nuisance” or who are valued only for the fur on their backs. Born Free works against the cruel practice of trapping through investigations, advocacy, public education, and documenting and providing care for victims of traps.
Millions of animals are killed across the globe to supply fur for the fashion industry. Some animals are caught from the wild by cruel traps, while others are raised in cramped cages on fur farms. Born Free advocate for stricter laws regarding fur farms and trapping, encourages bans on the sale of fur, helps direct the public towards fur free brands through our Fur Free Retailer program, works globally against the fur industry through our work in the Fur Free Alliance, and repurposes fur to benefit wildlife through our Fur for the Animals program.
Overexploitation of wildlife through international trade is of great concern to Born Free USA. Live animals, their body parts, and/or products made from them are shipped and sold across the world – for major profits. Global commercialization of wild animals and plants causes extreme animal cruelty and serious population declines. Due in large part to the wildlife trade, species like elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, pangolins, and countless reptiles, amphibians, and fish face an uncertain future. Born Free USA seeks to end the wildlife trade by advocating for strong legislation that protects wild animals, developing solutions to wildlife trade issues at CITES, and encouraging corporations to change their policies to stop the promotion and sale of wildlife products. Born Free USA makes it a priority to educate people about wildlife trade issues through media opportunities; trainings, tailored enforcement support, and other outreach in the West and Central Africa regions; and by presenting our work at international conferences.
Born Free carries out a wide range of work that protects endangered species, but our biggest tool to protecting animals in the United States is the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA is responsible for preventing the extinction of 99 percent of listed species, including such iconic American species as the bald eagle, the gray wolf, and the grizzly bear. The ESA also enjoys the support of some 90 percent of American voters. Despite the ESA’s effectiveness and popularity, it is under constant assault by lawmakers who seek to weaken and undermine it. Born Free USA defends the Endangered Species Act by advocating against legislation and policies that seek to weaken it and by educating the public about the importance and effectiveness of this crucial law. Born Free USA is a member of the Endangered Species Coalition, a network of conservation, scientific, education, sporting/outdoor, political, and community groups – as well as over 150,000 individual activists – dedicated to protecting wildlife and wild places.
In addition to these areas of focus Born Free also advocates for advises on peaceful coexistence with wildlife. This includes advising local governments, educating citizens, supporting those who work on the front lines of wildlife conservation, preventing wildlife culls, and assisting communities with non-lethal wildlife management plans.
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8737 Colesville Rd Ste715
Silver Spring, MD 20910
United States
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