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Ban Cruel Traps

Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Born Free's History

Born Free USA is a national animal advocacy nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, contributions to which are tax-deductible. Our mission is to end the suffering of wild animals in captivity, rescue individual animals in need, protect wildlife — including highly endangered species — in their natural habitats, and encourage compassionate conservation globally.

Every year, millions of animals suffer in fur farms and circus cages. In our campaigns against such cruelties, we use powerful tools including legislation, public education, litigation, and grassroots networking. We also work actively with media to spread the word about challenges facing animals.

Our primary campaign areas currently include animals used in entertainment, captive exotic animals, trapping & fur, and the international wildlife trade.

The Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, located in Dilley, Texas, offers more than 600 primates, many of whom were rescued from abusive situations in laboratories, roadside zoos, and private possession, life in as natural an environment as possible with minimal human interference.

API's History

Co-founded in 1968 by Belton Mouras and Ken Guerrero, the Animal Protection Institute (API) was one of just a handful of national humane organizations in existence. The early years were lean for API and the organization made good use of free media such as radio PSAs to get the word out about its mission to protect animals. These PSAs contributed greatly to name recognition, generated an enormous amount of requests for additional information, and aided in fundraising efforts.

By 1971, API was producing what became the annual Forum conference in cities across the country that featured keynote speakers instrumental to the growth of the animal welfare movement as well as promoting and publicizing the works of fellow animal organizations.

API was a forerunner in protesting the clubbing of the harp seals in Canada. Through constant petitions, API helped bring the Canadian government to an awareness of the tremendous international outcry against this barbarity. It was obvious that API was winning when in 1977 two staff members were briefly arrested for getting near enough to the seal hunt to photograph the skinning of live seals, a practice previously disputed.

Other well-known campaigns included our work on a federal anti-trapping bill as well as our work with Velma B. ("Wild Horse Annie") Johnston. Velma had been championing the rights of wild horses for nearly twenty years when API named her as its Advisor for Mustangs and Burros. API gladly helped finance her fight, and the early Mainstreams (as Animal Issues was then called) are filled with inspiring stories of her ongoing struggle. Velma passed away in 1977 (just when she had accepted nomination to API's Board of Directors). API continued to fight for the kind of cause she believed in, although its focus moved to other issues.

That front-line visibility diminished somewhat in the 1980s as API moved more discreetly into the background, choosing to focus on educating people through campaigns and publications. API did not rest on its past victories. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, The price of animal freedom is eternal vigilance. Some battles have to be fought over and over again, even after they've been won. And so API returned to the front lines, taking a leading role in the struggle for animal rights.

On January 1, 2000, the Texas Snow Monkey Sanctuary merged into the API family, to be renamed the API Primate Sanctuary in June 2003 and now called the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary. Located about 90 miles south of San Antonio, Texas, the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary provides a truly free-range environment with minimal human interference for more than 500 rescued macaques, vervets, and baboons.

Forty years of fighting animal abuse and exploitation have given us tools that work. Whether we use the courts, the legislatures, the ballot box ... engage our nationwide team of grassroots activists at the community level ... work closely with individual advocates ... form coalitions with other national or state animal advocacy groups ... or use our position as a major media resource to focus national attention on the abuse of animals anywhere and everywhere ... we continue to get the job done.

Born Free USA's History

The Born Free Foundation was initiated in England in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, the stars of the legendary film Born Free, along with their son Will. Having been deeply influenced by their time spent in Kenya, Bill and Virginia were inspired to act after the tragic and untimely death of Pole Pole, an elephant featured in the film An Elephant Called Slowly, who was sent to the London Zoo from the Government of Kenya after the making of the film.

In the subsequent two decades, Born Free has become an international force in wildlife conservation and animal protection, campaigning to save elephants, big cats, wolves, dolphins, bears, primates, and numerous other species. Born Free upholds a dynamic presence in international animal rescues, saving animals from miserable conditions, rehabilitating them, and either providing for their lifetime care in a sanctuary or, whenever possible, rehoming them to the wild.

A companion organization was established in the United States in 2002, Born Free USA, to carry on the work of the organization, involving the American public in our compassionate conservation campaigns. Born Free USA launched with a national office in Washington, DC.

Born Free is committed to spreading its brand of compassionate conservation across America and, indeed, across the globe. Our shared institutional mission is to alleviate animal suffering, protect threatened and endangered species in the wild, and encourage everyone to treat wildlife everywhere with respect and compassion.

The combination of Animal Protection Institute and Born Free USA would not have been possible without the dedicated pro bono legal assistance of the attorneys at Bingham McCutchen.