Humane Society International

In February this year Humane Society International (HSI) invited me to attend the closing down of a dog meat farm on the outskirts of Seoul in South Korea. This was the 18th farm that HSI has managed to negotiate the closure of and it is their intention to continue to close more farms in the future. Their ultimate mission is to bring an end to this incredibly cruel and exploitative industry. I say negotiate as these closures are business deals. The owners agree to relinquish the dogs (their commodities) on the basis that HSI help them to set up alternative, humane businesses. HSI also make certain that contracts are signed to ensure that owners agree never to farm dogs or other animals again in the future and these agreements are legally binding, which ensures that they are adhered to.

HSI is a leading force for animal protection. Alongside their critical work to end factory farming of animals, they have a very active disaster relief response team and work around the globe to promote the human-animal bond and confront animal cruelty in all its forms including animal testing, trophy hunting and fur farming.  

We love everything HSI stand for and are incredibly proud to have been able to help some of their admirable work. We have already supported the closure of two dog meat farms and this closure of farm number 18 is the third. In total we have contributed to the rescue of almost 400 dogs and we are sure this is only the beginning of a longstanding relationship.   

Dog meat farm number 18…

Team work

This particular farm closure resulted in nearly 200 dogs and puppies being saved from certain death with most of them successfully relocated to the USA & Canada during the week long operation. Some heavily pregnant dogs and new mums with small pups stayed behind in safe boarding in South Korea until the pups are old enough to make the long flight. In the weeks leading up to the closure the dogs were taken care of by HSI/Korea representatives on the ground and much work was done to ensure they were vaccinated and fit enough to travel.

I was incredibly impressed with the professionalism of the entire operation and the level of expertise and compassion of the HSI team was nothing short of astounding. Quite a few of the rescue team came directly from the tragic earthquake Turkey had recently, they were helping rescue dogs and cats on the streets who had become separated from their owners. It was an honour and a pleasure to be a part of this operation and spend time with the inspiring team, which included the president of HSI Jeffrey Flocken.

Removing almost 200 dogs from their cramped, filthy and completely inadequate cages, where they had spent their entire lives, was a task I could not get my head around. Especially on the first day of my arrival at the farm when it was clear to see that most of the dogs display fear-based aggression and were petrified as they didn’t understand what was going on around them.

They had obviously witnessed the horrors of many of their fellow residents being slaughtered over the years and I couldn’t help wondering if they were contemplating what these new group of humans had in store for them now. I just wish we could have reassured them we were there to rescue them and ultimately save their lives.

Many of the dogs were born in the cages they lived in and had never been outside of them so watching the dogs being removed from cages all around them, hour after hour and day after day must have been terrifying. Their cages were all they knew and to them, they were their safe place. Although in real terms they were hell holes. Note that the straw in the cages above was an addition made by HSI during the preparation weeks. before there was no bedding at all. The cages were never cleaned so they were lying on their own impacted faeces and the smell in the air took your breath away. My visit was in winter so it was just above freezing in the mornings and rose to 10 degrees Celsius in the day, you can imagine how bad the smell and conditions must have been in the summer months…

Chickadee is a particular dog I had a huge soft spot for. She looked so very, very sad in her cage. I never witnessed this personally but I believe she had puppies that had to be taken away from her as she was attacking them when they went near her dry food.  The good and subsequent news is that I have since heard she is starting to flourish in rehab in the US and is making good progress.

Rescue & relocation begins…

On the Job

Obviously only experienced HSI dog handlers were hands on with the actual removal of the dogs from the cages and the rest of us played support roles such as feeding and watering the dogs, talking to them and trying to calm them down. There were 25 of us in the rescue team and our operation included removing the dogs from the cages, transferring them to their individual travel crates and loading them onto trucks that transported them to the airport where they were eventually loaded onto three cargo planes along with key HSI staff members.

Mission accomplished

By day four we were all exhausted but equally overjoyed by the fact that we had achieved the goal of getting the dogs onto the cargo planes and on their way to their new lives filled with love, respect and freedom.

On arrival in Canada and the USA they were health checked again before being sent out to one of HSI’s care and rehabilitation centres where the process of mental and physical rehabilitation is already underway.

The puppies who were too young to travel (plus a few adults who were simply too weak) are doing well and I was assured that those left behind will eventually make their way to a new life in the US or Canada as soon as they are strong enough to travel. In the meantime this small group are being cared for at a rehabilitation facility near Seoul.

A couple of the dogs stole my heart 💓

Chickadee was one (featured above), and Huckleberry was the other…

When Huckleberry arrived in the US an animal behavioural specialist (and vets) immediately paid special attention to her. She will no doubt continue to suffer the effects of her traumatic life for a while yet and she is still very anxious and shut down. However, she is now in a loving and caring environment and feels safe. The team will continue to support her until such time as she is ready to be considered for rehoming. 

Happy Ending

Here are a few pics showing you the HSI team at work with the dogs in Canada and the US.

Toughest trip yet…

I can honestly say this was the hardest project trip I have ever done for OAT, emotionally it was very testing and I found myself in tears on more than one occasion. However, seeing the empty cages before we left and now following the recovery of these beautiful forgiving souls makes it all worthwhile. Thank you HSI for the wonderful work you do in the world of animal welfare – we are so very proud to support you. ❤️🙏


  • Currently it is legal to farm dogs for their meat in South Korea.
  • In the 1960’s it is estimated that around 5 million dogs were on dog meat farms across the country. Today it is estimated that 1 million are left.
  • HSI have rescued approx. 2,700 dogs since they started legally operating in country.
  • Almost all dogs are bred and born in a cage on a dog meat farm. The only time they are removed is for slaughter.
  • Dog meat is believed to have medicinal values. One belief is that dog meat actually cools the human body so during the summer months dog meat demand increases.
  • Generally dog meat farmers sell dogs to traders or middle men, with an average (adult) dog being sold for around $150 – $250 (USD) depending on weight.
  • The two main breed of dogs in the meat industry are ‘Tosas’ & ‘Jindo’ crosses, although all breeds of dogs can be found on dog meat farms including Labradors, Golden Retrievers and Huskies.
  • HSI are currently also working on other dog meat campaigns in India, Indonesia, Vietnam & China.
  • With help from supporters, HSI will continue to do their best to rescue as many dogs as possible. Please donate here if you would like to support their work.

Watch the videos below to experience some poignant moments from the rescue mission.

First here’s a short and very touching account of the trip put together by HSI…

Here Dave and Jeff Flocken help load the dogs so they can head off on the next step towards their happy forever homes…


It’s been almost a month since I returned from visiting Animals Asia in beautiful, but extremely hot, Vietnam. This was one of my favourite trips of all time! Jill Robinson (CEO & founder) is quite simply an amazing human being who has achieved so much since she started the organisation 20+ years ago. Together with her equally amazing team, they consistently deliver for animals in need on so many levels and always in the most efficient and respectful manner.

As many of you will know, bringing an end to bear bile farming in Asia is Animals Asia’s number one priority. This is a long process but they are in it for the long game and until the cruelty ends. In China, where bear bile farming is sadly still legal, Animals Asia currently provide sanctuary for 123 bears in their purpose built sanctuary in Chengdu.

In Vietnam however, further successes have been achieved. Animals Asia began operating in Vietnam in 1999 and as a result of years of campaigning, in 2017 the Vietnamese Government finally signed an MoU with Animals Asia to outlaw the practice. During this time period Animals Asia managed to rescue and provide sanctuary to approximately 200 bears who’s owners / farmers decided to stop bile farming and relinquish their bears. This sanctuary is located in the Tam Dao National Park which was my first stop on this recent trip and I was honoured to be accompanied by long standing patrons of Animals Asia, actors Peter Egan and Lesley Nicol (see pics later in the blog).

Tam Dao Bear Sanctuary

I was just as excited to see the rescued bears at Tam Dao on this occasion as I was on my previous visits. The bears are all so content and seem very relaxed and happy to have found what can only be described as bear retirement heaven (see photos below). Considering what these bears have been through in their previous lives, where they were exploited for their bile and kept in confined cages, you would think they would be angry and aggressive towards us, but they are not. As is the case with many rescued animals I have come across over the years, they are so forgiving. We could learn a thing or two from them…

New Bach Ma Bear Sanctuary

Our next stop was a short flight south to the city of Hue in central Vietnam to visit Bach Ma national park, a beautiful protected area covering 220 square kilometres. We were there to witness the start of a very exciting development for Animals Asia, as it is within this national park that they will build their 2nd bear sanctuary. This will ultimately accommodate circa 300 more bears who will need sanctuary over the next few years as the new law banning bear bile farming continues to be enforced. Animals Asia’s pledge in Vietnam is to “leave no bear behind”.

The local Government and community had arranged an amazing ceremony to celebrate the ground breaking occasion. This really touched my hearts as it demonstrated how proud and serious Vietnam is about ending this horrendously exploitative industry.

OAT are providing significant funding over the next three years to help enable the creation of this much needed second sanctuary and we could not be more proud. We love Animals Asia – everything they do and everything they represent in the world of compassion for animals.

It’s worth mentioning, that whilst the majority of bears residing in both sanctuaries were previously farmed for bile, a relatively small percentage ended up in sanctuary following their confiscation from circuses and illegal wildlife traders. Animals Asia are involved in many more aspects of animal welfare in Asia including domestic animals as well as other wildlife species including elephants…

Animals Asia and Elephants

Our next stop on this Vietnamese trip was to the province of Dak Lak located in the southern part of Vietnam in the central highlands. The national park here is called YoK Don at it is the only national park in Vietnam where wild elephants can be found and sadly there are now only +- 50 elephants left. There are many more elephants in Vietnam, but unfortunately they are being held captive in zoos, circuses and in elephant back riding camps.

Yok Don is the birth place of yet another awesome Animals Asia project that OAT is proud to support. It is the result of working collaboratively with the government to try and bring an end to the tourism based business of elephant back riding. Together with the local wildlife and tourism authorities, Animals Asia have devised an alternative, more ethical tourism based programme. In return for agreed compensation, elephant owners release their elephants to Animals Asia and enable them to be transferred to the Yok Don national park. Here the elephants live a much more natural life and are free to roam, graze and browse alongside fellow elephants in the programme. Being under the respectful supervision of mahouts (carers) employed by Animals Asia, makes it possible for small, organised groups of tourists to safely observe the elephants in their natural habitat.

See heartwarming pictures below showing elephants enjoying their new found freedom and a life worth living. Thank you Animals Asa from the bottom of or hearts for making this possible. Another “End Game” in the making here as it is Animals Asia’s and the governments intention to end elephant back riding in Vietnam in the future. We are so honoured to be a part of this project which is simply life changing for Vietnams captive elephant population.

A long blog this time I know, but so much to say about this truly awesome trip and the time I spent with the most inspiring animal welfare organisation – Animals Asia – and their wonderful staff and patrons. If you would like to join us in contributing towards their work, please chat to us or donate via their website.

Click here to donate to Animals Asia

My next trip will be to Zambia later this year but in the meantime, I will leave you now with something to think about……

If ever you are faced with an option to ride an elephant, please spare a moment to consider the life they lead. They have been taken from the wild as young babies, their spirits have been broken to enable them to be controlled and therefore safe to own and manage, and the torture doesn’t end there… When elephants are ridden, again for safety and control purposes, they are constantly kept in line with the use of bull hooks that inflict pain if they fail to conform. In addition to this, their bodies endure extreme stress and pain from years of carrying large wooden saddles designed for human comfort alone and, like all captive elephants, they suffer from long term physical and mental disorders. If like us, you love animals…..please don’t partake in activities that clearly involve their exploitation. Thank you 🙏


This is the last blog on my recent trip to Africa and it covers my time spent in Zimbabwe visiting the Tikki Hywood Foundation (THF).

It was great being back in Zimbabwe and spending time with Lisa Hywood, founder of THF, as well as her right hand woman Ellen. It’s been 4 years since my last visit and their wildlife rescue and rehabilitation work has gone from strength to strength.

For those of you who don’t know, THF is Africa’s leading expert in the rehabilitation of pangolins. In addition to rehabilitating and rewilding large numbers of them in Zimbabwe, they partner with 12 other African countries and provide critical advice on the intricacies of pangolin care and rehabilitation.

Pangolin are a critically endangered species and one of most trafficked wildlife species. The main reason for this trade is the supposed medicinal values of their scales in Chinese medicine, but they are also traded for their meat, which is considered a delicacy. To help combat this, THF very works closely with the Zimbabwean government on implementing new legislation to help protect them.

THF was founded on a small holding property a short distance from the capital city, Harare. It comprises of 60 hectares of pristine miombo woodland and over the 28 years of its existence has become a sanctuary for a variety of wildlife species and a small number of domestic animals too. All the animals which have found sanctuary there have been rescued from either the illegal wildlife trade or have become orphaned for a variety of reasons. Most animals arrive compromised and require intensive care to regain their health. Following expert rehabilitation programmes, some are able to return to their wildlife origins, but sadly some are too affected by their ordeals and remain in lifetime care.

OAT has been supporting THF’s work for a number of years and following my recent visit, we decided to extend another grant for further development of the sanctuary including extra onsite accommodation for the animal carers. See photos below of some of the resident animals I met when I was there, as well as some of their dedicated carers.

That about wraps up feedback from my Africa trip and as I am posting blog, I am en route to Vietnam. I will be spending time with the Animals Asia team based there and I will be attending the ground breaking ceremony for their new and second bear sanctuary. I will also be visiting their elephant project there that enable elephants to be retired from exploitative elephant riding camps and live out their lives in the national parks. Exciting times ahead and more on this when I get back! Bye for now.


Following on from my visit to DRC, I travelled to Malawi to visit a project very close to our hearts – Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (LWT). My sister Sue Olsen first visited their wildlife rescue centre in 2012, along with Virgnia Mckenna of the Born Free Foundation. They had travelled here together with the Born Free rescue team and a lion called Simba, who had been rescued from a French circus. He spent the rest of his life in a beautiful enclosure at LWT’s rescue centre and in the company of lioness Bella, another Born Free rescue who was previously confined to a zoo in Romania. This trip resulted in the creation of Olsen Animal Trust by Sue so we have Born Free and LWT to thank for their outstanding work and inspiration!

OAT now supports LWT’s Wildlife Emergency Rescue Unit (WERU) alongside co-funders the Born Free Foundation, which operates in the cities and national parks of Malawi. We have also contributed to their crucial work combatting the illegal wildlife trade and more recently, alongside IFAW IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) we have enabled the expansion and upgrading of facilities for injured and displaced wildlife at LWT’s rescue and rehabilitation centre.

Wildlife Centre Upgrade and Expansion

One of the key reasons for my visit this year was to see the newly upgraded centre and I was incredibly proud and impressed with what I saw. Brand new veterinary facilities, new and improved wildlife enclosures, new treatment rooms and much improved accommodation for volunteers.

Speaking of volunteers, if you would like to spend a few weeks or even months volunteering at the wildlife centre, you can access further details on their general program and specialised veterinary program via this link. Please note that all profits made from these programmes go directly towards the costs of running the centre so by enrolling, you will be helping LWT with their incredible work!

Residents of the rescue centre and those treated in the field includes a wide variety of species such as primates, hyenas, serval cats, cheetahs, elephants, rhinos, lions, various types of antelope, crocodiles, birds, snakes to name but a few, and over the past few years the critically endangered pangolin has also featured highly. Some animals in their care are those that have been confiscated from illegal traders / owners and others are injured, displaced or orphaned wildlife, which is, mostly at the hands of humans through poaching and snaring.

LWT’s vets always try to treat wildlife in the wild, allowing for immediate release, but when this is not possible, they are bought into the wildlife centre for intensive treatment and rehabilitation. Most are eventually returned to the wild, but when this is not possible, they are provided with lifetime care within purpose-built enclosures.

Here are a few of the current residents and patients at the rehab centre…

If you would like to learn more about the amazing work of WERU the emergency rescue unit, tune into TV channel-Sky Nature. The second series of Malawi Wildlife Rescue has recently started!

Click for link to SKY Series

Massive thank you to the entire LWT team for the work they do for Malawi’s wildlife and for making me so welcome on my visit. We are very proud to support this project and we wish them continued success with their awesome work! 


Hey everyone,

A few weeks ago I returned from my first trip to Africa since before Covid! It was really good to be back out there on the ground visiting some of the projects we support.

This time I went to DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), Malawi and finally Zimbabwe. Located on map below just FYI. I have quite a lot to report on so for ease of reading I have decided to do separate blogs. The first being DRC…


The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is home to many species of beautiful wildlife including chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, okapi, antelope, wild dogs, hyenas, lion (although very scarce) & cheetahs, to name a few. More than half of Africa’s wild chimpanzee population lives in the DRC.

As many of you will know, I have traveled fairly extensively and to some pretty remote parts of the world, but to date, I can honestly say that DRC is the harshest country I have ever visited. Not only because I witnessed some of the most horrendous examples of wildlife exploitation, but also as on entry I needed a fixer to get me through security at the airport – and it was even more difficult getting out! Anyway, thats another story for another day….

JACK – Primate Sanctuary

The first project I visited in DRC was JACK Sanctuary a primate rehabilitation centre founded in 2006 by two amazing people (husband & wife team) Roxanne & Franck Chantereau. They are 100% committed to the project, and to wildlife conservation in general, and until very recently, they specialised in the rescue and rehabilitation of chimpanzees.

OAT was introduced to JACK in 2020.

You may remember from one of my blogs last year that we were approached by Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) to help construct urgent sanctuary facilities to accommodate 33 primates. They had been taken from the wild in DRC by illegal wildlife traders and were in the process of being trafficked to the far east, when the operation was intercepted by the authorities in Zimbabwe. The primates were indigenous to the DRC and if there was any chance of them being returned to the wild, they needed to return to their country of origin. After being confiscated, a number of wildlife organisations in Zimbabwe, including the Tikki Hywood Foundation (another of OAT’s beneficiaries), attended to their urgent physical wellbeing.

OAT agreed to fund the construction of high quality primate enclosures at JACK sanctuary in DRC to accommodate them on their return. Sadly not all of the primates survived the incredibly stressful ordeal, but 29 of the 33 pulled through and eventually made it home and are now undergoing rehabilitation at the JACK sanctuary. It will be a long journey, as they are young and vulnerable and don’t have the safety of their family troops they were taken from. However, over time they will form new troops amongst themselves and the team at JACK have every intention of getting them back in to the wild where they belong, so they will be returned to their natural habitat in due course.

I was very chuffed to be able to meet some of these rescued primates during my visit.

I was also privileged to be able to take part in an actual primate rescue during my visit. Since JACK took in the first primates from Zimbabwe, word has spread and they are now a port of call for all sorts of primate rescues. An example of this occurred whilst I was there. One morning Roxanne received a call from the authorities saying they had confiscated a young male vervet money and wanted JACK to come and collect it. This monkey had been tied to the side of a lorry, next to the diesel tank. This is common practice in DRC. Drivers buy these monkeys on the black market and use them to deter anyone from stealing fuel from their vehicles / trucks whilst they are sleeping or absent. Such a sad existence and witnessing this in action bought tears to my eyes. I took part in the rescue and was able to gain the confidence of the monkey quite quickly during our journey to the sanctuary. They deiced to name the monkey Dave – such a honour.

Two weeks after I returned from my African trip, JACK have been involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of 19 more primates confiscated from traders intercepted in country. OAT have since awarded a further grant to JACK to help increase their capacity for these primates and no doubt many more that will come their way in the future.

As previously mentioned, JACK sanctuary was initially established in 2006 to rehabilitate chimpanzees. They are currently home to 47 chimps and the sanctuary provide them with the best possible environment. All enclosures have water and they are fed twice a day with good quality fruit and vegetables and they also provide them with enrichment to keep them mentally stimulated.


Conserv Congo is the second project I visited in DRC. The organisation was founded by Adams Cassinga (featured above) in 2006. After studying journalism in America as a young man, Adams returned to DRC to follow his passion to protect wildlife in his home country. He is recognised by his Government and works closely with them in their efforts to combat the illegal trade in wildlife, be that for trade in body parts e.g. horn, ivory, skins, as well as live primates and other exotic species for zoos, circuses and pet collectors etc. Adams is based near to Kinshasa (the capital) and his organisation employs over 40 people across the country. His ambition is to triple the size of his team to significantly increase his impact on the trade. Considering the extremely hostile working environment, Conserv Congo’s successes are extremely impressive and they are a well known and respected organisation.

OAT has supported them for a few years now on various wildlife rescue / confiscation missions and in fact Adams was significantly involved in the Zimbabwean rescue mission and works collaboratively with JACK, Tikki Hywood Foundation and other such organisations on a very regular basis. Funds received are mainly to cover the cost of undercover investigators and the cost of rescuing and transporting confiscated wildlife to sanctuaries when traffickers are intercepted.

Adams is an exceptional human being and his work is nothing short of awesome. His life story needs to be told one day and is worthy of a book and / or a movie!

The pictures below say it all – victim to rescue thanks to the collaborative work of Conserve Congo and JACK 🙏


As mentioned in my previous blog, we started supporting a number of new projects over the past 18 months, but sadly we were unable to visit them due to covid. Namely; Humane Society International’s project in Korea rescuing and rehoming dogs from the meat trade, assisting J.A.C.K primate sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the rescue and rehabilitation of primates caught up in the illegal trade of wildlife, and assisting PETA to rescue and provide sanctuary to working equines on the streets of Delhi. These projects continue to thrive and are changing the lives of so many animals in need.

During the same period, we also decided to supported some projects closer to home and, when travel restrictions were eased, we took the opportunity to visit them in person.

A bit of a long blog this time but hopefully you will enjoy the heartwarming photos and stories show. We love everything these projects stand for and feel privileged to be able to help them.

Secret World Wildlife Rescue

Last year we were approached by Secret World Wildlife Rescue, based in Highbridge, Somerset, who rescue and rehabilitate wildlife in the UK. They were looking for funding to expand their rehab facility and specifically to build a new state of the art hospital unit. As soon as travel restrictions were lifted we took a drive to Somerset and the rest, as they say, is history. On witnessing the passion and dedication of founder Pauline Kidner and her team, we agreed to support their expansion plans.  

Here are a selection of patients they have treated over the past year.

If you would like to contribute to Secret World Wildlife Rescue’s vital work please donate via the following link. Every little helps.

Click here to donate

Goodheart Animal Sanctuaries  

In August team OAT attended an open day at Goodheart’s farm animal sanctuary located in Worcestershire. Goodheart Animal Sanctuaries is owned and run by our close friends David Walker and his partner DJ. OAT is supporting the development of their new Pig Barn Project that will provide a cosy and spacious environment to house their pigs during the wetter, colder months. The barn will have spacious enclosures under cover, a hard-standing outdoor area, and a specific area for animals that may need to be brought in or separated from others temporarily due to illness. 

Not that they are suffering at all right now! They have wonderful paddocks with the option to take cover under natural vegetation and shelter in their own arks, but only the best is acceptable at Goodheart, so they will do anything they can to help further improve the quality of life for the pigs, and indeed all the animals in their care. After all, considering the start that most of the pigs had, i.e. neglected on factory farms, designer pets no longer wanted and petting farm animals no longer required, they deserve a second chance in life. If you would also like to contribute to Goodheart’s fundraising effort for the new pig facility, please click on the following link.  

Click here to donate

OAT have also sponsored one of Goodheart’s Hen Houses that enable rescued chickens to have round-the-clock access to both a cosy coop and a predator-safe outdoor area. During the day, the hens can enjoy a large grassland area complete with bushes and shrubs, plenty of interesting perching spaces, and ample space to exercise, scratch, and peck and forage for food. This means they can follow their natural instincts, which is incredibly beneficial for their mental wellbeing. Most of their hens have been rescued from the egg industry where they lived lives of suffering in cramped cages with no access to the outdoors. When they first arrive, many of the hens have severe feather loss, parasites such as mites and lice, and issues with their joints from being kept in cramped conditions. Sadly, these symptoms are common in ex-industry laying hens.  We think this is wrong, and believe that all animals deserve our respect and compassion. 

Welsh Dog Rescue

A few months ago, a friend of mine, Steph Jeavon’s, was riding her off road motorbike through the Welsh countryside (Snowdonia National Park) when she stumbled across 10 collie dogs who were being kept in horrendous conditions. They were living in cramped cages, which quite obviously hadn’t been cleaned out for months as they were steeped in their own faeces.

After a few sleepless nights worrying about these poor dogs, Steph called me and asked if OAT could help. We agreed and immediately began to formulate a plan. In most cases we try to implement or support a sustainable model but on this occasion, we simply had to rescue these dogs in whatever way we could. After a few difficult discussions with the owner of the dogs (sheep farmer) we discovered that he really only needed 4 of the 10 dogs to work his sheep.

Part of the rescue plan meant that we needed to rescue and find homes for 6 dogs including 3 puppies so I contacted DJ of Goodheart Animal Sanctuaries who is also a director of Wiccaways, a dog rescue and rehoming centre in Lincolnshire.

DJ agreed to help straight away and within a few weeks she, Steph and I were on site and we rescued and relocated six of the dogs. See below for before and after pics of the dogs, most of whom, thanks to DJ and her team, are already settled in their new and loving homes.

We love a happy ending and are so pleased for the lucky 6, but we all agreed at OAT that we simply couldn’t walk away from the 4 remaining working dogs. So, we decided to work with the farmer and come up with a plan to improve the living conditions and general welfare for the not so lucky 4. Within a month we managed to design and construct purpose built kennels and we will be forever grateful to friends like Terry McDermott, Steve Crijns and Kevin Bolleurs who gave up a week of their time, travelled to Wales with me and together we built these dogs a deserving home. We are also incredibly grateful to our friend Sam Trollope who designed the new kennels and provided the necessary drawings and specs. See videos and photos below for the finished project. 

That’s it for now! With a bit of luck my next blog will be from fields afar! My plan is to visit Zambia, DRC, Malawi and South Africa in 2022. Its going to be a busy year and I can’t wait!

Merry Christmas everyone! Another beautifully designed OAT Christmas card by our lovely Jocelyn Lawman.

OAT 2020 to 2021 – NEW PROJECTS

Some exceptional animal welfare projects were bought to our attention over the past year but sadly due to Covid restrictions we were unable to visit them in person. We don’t normally extend grants to projects we haven’t seen first hand but these were exceptional circumstances and based on reputation and gut feeling, we decided to support some incredible initiatives.

I am hoping to visit them at some point in the future and will report back live when I do, but for now here are stories and pictures that showcase the amazing work of three such projects. I will continue to showcase the work of other new projects in further blogs to come.


Dog Meat Trade

Humane Society International (HSI) are a leading force for animal protection. Alongside their admirable disaster relief responses, they work around the globe to promote the human-animal bond and confront animal cruelty in all its forms including ending confined meat farming, animal testing, trophy hunting and fur farming.

We recently learnt of HSI’s efforts in South Korea, where they are working toward initiating a government ban on the farming of dog meat for human consumption. By 2030, they hope their efforts will have led to the closure of all dog meat farms in the country, and that the cultural view that all dogs are worthy companion animals will predominate.  South Korea is the only country in the world that commercially farms dogs for human consumption and unbelievably, there are an estimated 2 million dogs (including many breeds) currently kept in cruel conditions on thousands of these farms.

Needless to say when HSI asked for our support in shutting down one of these dog meat farms to enable them to rescue and rehabilitate all 171 dogs, we immediately agreed. I am pleased to say that the mission went to plan and HSI expertly coordinated the closure of the farm and the subsequent transport of the dogs to the USA and Canada where they are now undergoing a comprehensive rehabilitation process in preparation for eventual rehoming.

We love everything HSI stand far and are incredibly proud to have been able to help them in this particular mission. I feel its the start of a longstanding mutually beneficial relationship and again, I cant wait to get out to South Korea to witness first hand the work they are doing to end this horrendously cruel trade in dog meat.  

The pictures and short video below shows the dog meat farm before it was closed and prior to the dogs being rescued and transported. The pictures after the video showcase the rescue mission and very happy dogs at the start of their new lives.

Dog Meat Farm

JACK PRIMATE SANCTUARY- Democratic Republic of Congo

25 primates rescued from illegal wildlife trade

DRC is not a country I had ever intended to travel to but having recently learnt about the amazing work of JACK Sanctuary (Jeunes Animal Confisques au Katanga) who specialise in the rescue and rehabilitation of Chimpanzees and other primates, its high on my list of priority projects to visit!

This project came about when we responded to a public appeal from PASA (Pan African Sanctuary Alliance) to help with the rehabilitation of 25 primates, confiscated by the wildlife authorities in Zimbabwe. The primates were illegally taken from the wild in DRC as part of an illegal trade deal. Fortunately the specialised wildlife trade authorities were made aware of this and were able to intervene when the truck carrying the primates was intercepted in Zimbabwe. It is believed they were en-route to South Africa before being exported overseas for the exotic pet trade, zoos, circuses.

Once confiscated the primates needed urgent care and attention due to the stress they had endured and this was provided by a small animal welfare rescue centre in Zimbabwe with the help of Lisa Hywood – founder of the Tikki Hywood Foundation. The primates remained at this facility until the necessary paperwork was obtained to repatriate them to DRC. Sadly the administrative process took 4 months but the good news is they are now back in DRC and thanks to experienced carers at the JACK sanctuary they are well on their way to being rehabilitated. Once this process is completed, they will be returned to the wilds of DRC where they belong.

JACK specialise in the rehabilitation of chimpanzees, which is very different from primate rehabilitation and in order to receive the 25 primates they needed to build specific enclosures and accommodation. With funding from OAT and others, they managed to build this facility in record time and you will see from the photos below, they did an awesome job! I can’t wait to get out their at see it for myself!

Watch this primate entertaining himself….


Working horses and bullocks on the street

We have supported the work of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) for a number of years now but this particular protect struck our heart strings. In simplistic terms it incentivises the owners of working animals on the streets of Delhi to relinquish their horses and bullocks to PETA in return for the provision of a mechanised rickshaw. This is a much more efficient method for transporting goods and the animals get to retire to Animal Rahat, a purpose built sanctuary supported by PETA.

A win win situation and better still, the Delhi government are right behind the initiative ensuring that the suffering of working animals will continue to diminish.

Hopefully one day the unnecessary suffering of these animals will become a thing of the distant past. I am pleased to say that our close friends of Good Heart Animal Sanctuaries were as excited as we were about this project and decided to co-fund a grant to enable the kickstart of this awesome initiative. Thank you Good Heart!

I’ll sign off now with a heartwarming video showing their new life at the sanctuary and I look forward to updating you on more new supported projects in the coming weeks.



It’s been a while since my last blog as sadly, due to Covid, I have’t been able to spend time in the field over the past year. Needless to say I am itching to get out there again and hopefully I will be able to make at least one or two trips before the end of this year and will be able to start posting live again.

In the meantime, I thought I would update you on some of the key developments with new and existing projects we support – there’s been a lot going on!

I’ll keep the blogs coming over the coming months and hopefully by the time I’m am off on my travels again, I will have bought you up to speed.


Sorry to kick off with a rather sad story but I am devastated to say that Coco, the wonderful resident chimp at the Chimpanzee Conservation Centre (CCC) in Guinea, recently passed away. I met Coco on my first visit to CCC in 2017 and he, and his story, stole my heart.

From around the age of three, Coco worked in the reception area of a hotel in Guinea. I say worked as his owners taught him to entertain guests by smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. He did this for many years until it became too dangerous for the public and he was then transferred to the garden and tied to a tree so he could continue to entertain guests.

One day Coco managed to escape and made a dash for freedom. The authorities were called and he was captured by being shot, a number of times. Fortunately the wounds were not fatal and due to the dedicated and professional care provided by CCC staff who agreed to adopt him, Coco made a full physical recovery. However, the mental damages were irreversible and it was clear from the outset that he would never be able to be fully rehabilitated and returned to the wild, which is what CCC is all about. Instead he was provided with the next best thing, lifetime care at CCC’s facility within the Haut Niger National park.

After years of trying to integrate him into existing chimp groups at the rehab centre, he was finally confined to a cage, on his own, as he simply couldn’t cohabit with the others. Being robbed of communication skills in his earlier life caused aggressive behaviour all round, making integration dangerous and therefore impossible.

When I met Coco and heard his story we formed a very special friendship. I promised him OAT would do all possible to further improve the quality of his life and a few years later this dream became a reality. We sponsored the construction of a very large enclosure with an abundance of space and natural habitat and once again Coco was able to run free, climb trees, nest, and do a lot of what chimps naturally do in the wild. Here is a little video of the day when Coco was released into his OAT enclosure.

I am heart broken, as are the entire OAT and CCC team, but we are taking comfort from the fact that he died in his wonderful new enclosure, which will go on to provide enjoyment and enrichment for fellow chimps in their rehabilitation process.

We have also recently provided further funding to help CCC build another large enclosure of this nature to improve the rehabilitation and re-wilding process for other rescued chimps. Please see link below if you would like to donate towards this new development project;

The majority of the chimps rescued by CCC are those confiscated when traders who capture and sell them into the illegal exotic pet trade, zoo and circus industry, are intercepted by the authorities. In fact, this is how OAT originally came to support CCC when we were approached by Ofir Drori, founder of Eagle Network, to help provide quarantine enclosures at CCC to facilitate the confiscation of 3 chimps (Ali, Dave & Rambo) following the arrest of traders that Eagle Network had orchestrated.

Ali & Dave are doing well in their rehabilitation programme and are well on their way to being returned to the wild in the future. Sadly Rambo passed away last year from a sudden illness.

Thats all for now, its feels good to be communicating with you again and I look forward to sharing more heartwarming stories with you in the coming months and beyond. I’ll sign off with a short video I made as a tribute to the late Coco. 💜

Mahouts Elephant Foundation – Thailand.

I recently took a trip to Thailand, the first time I’ve been back since my backpacking venture many, many years ago.  This time, I had very different things on my mind and very different intentions 😉……..

The purpose of the visit was to spend time with Sarah Blaine, Founder of The Mahouts Elephant Foundation (MEF) that she and her wonderfully inspiring family set up in 2015.  After Sarah, her husband Felix and their two young children Joe & Natasha witnessed the horrors behind the elephant riding business in Thailand, they decided to try and do something about it.

The horrors…



MEF Model

Their idea was based on establishing an alternative business model for Mahouts (elephant owners) whose income is traditionally based on rental paid by riding camps for the use of their elephants.

They started by rescuing two elephants from a riding camp in Chiang Mai after agreeing to compensate the Mahouts for their loss of income whilst they set about creating a new tourism model based on walking with, and observing elephants, in their natural habitat – as opposed to riding them.

A life changing moment for the Blaine’s was when they and a group of close friends personally walked with their first two rescued elephants, and their mahouts, from Chiang Mai to the elephants’ area of origin in the Northern Thai Highlands. A gruelling 7 day, 83 mile journey with all sorts of unexpected challenges en route. Their final destination was where Walking With Elephants (WWF) was established – the first MEF project.  The BBC covered this amazing story which was brilliantly told by Sarah’s young children Joe & Natasha and it was aired on CBBC.  A link to this inspiring 30min film can be found at the end of this blog. It is really worth a watch!

To date, MEF has rescued 7 elephants from the tourism business in Thailand, all of whom are now living a much improved life in the forests and are being given the respect and care they deserve. The mahouts are also happy as they have experienced no loss of income and are pleased to be living side by side with their elephants once again. I am also pleased to tell you that we have recently heard that MEF currently have a few more rescues in the pipeline – we will be sure to keep you posted on their progress via our social media links.

My time with the MEF team and their elephants

I was fortunate enough to be given a personal tour of the MEF projects by Sarah Blaine and her wonderful team on the ground. This included long and fairly exhausting treks deep into the mountainous forests, but all of the hardships were forgotten when we eventually found, observed and walked with the rescued elephants.  It was wonderful to see them happy, and just being elephants.  They are so intelligent, and unlike me, are incredibly fast and graceful considering their size – it was hard keeping up!  They are also unbelievably good climbers!






Elephant Riding – The History

There are well over 100 elephant riding camps in Thailand and its a big business. Elephants are not designed to have large chairs put on their backs and they DO NOT like giving tourists rides whatever you might hear. This cruel practise of capturing, training and commercialising elephants for riding, was born in the late 80’s when logging was banned by the Thai government. For generations elephants have been used in the logging industry to move the fallen trees onto trucks bound for the international market place. Teak is what was mainly being logged until one day there were no teak trees left (surprising that isn’t it?….NOT !) so the government banned it, leaving thousands of Thai families and their elephants with no employment.

Coincidently it was at this stage that tourism started to boom in Thailand so the elephant owners started to offer tourists elephant rides for money. Today it’s a massive industry worth millions of dollars.

The Truth…

On the surface, elephants in riding camps seem ok but if you look closely you will see the physical and mental scarring…. A day in the life of an average riding elephant goes like this:

  1. Tied to a tree all night using a short chain and sometimes with no access to food or water, or social interaction with other elephants. The chains often break the skin around the elephants ankles causing them to bleed.
  2. In the day they are literally on standby waiting for tourists to arrive for rides. They often wait all day in the hot sun with no shade, and sometimes no tourists come so they stay chained all day. When its busy, they are ridden by tourists all day which is exhausting, and when the day ends, it’s back to being chained.
  3. If you look carefully, you will see that almost all of these elephants are showing signs of stress. They will often rock their heads from side to side, which is a sign of stress and boredom. Many animals in captivity display this abnormal stereotypical behaviour, eg. zoo and circus animals, and it is considered an indication of very poor psychological well-being. This behaviour is not seen in wild animals.

The Future

We are proud to be supporting this wonderful project and we wish them every success in the future. For further information on their mission and indeed their tourism offering should you fancy an adventure, please visit their website

Here is the Blaine’s story I mentioned earlier – it will warm your heart…🥰


Sarajevo Street Dogs

Photographs: Maria Slough Photography

I recently travelled to Sarajevo to visit an OAT supported project called Saving Suffering Strays (SSS). The project was introduced to us by two amazing animal warriors here in the UK, photographer Maria Slough and actor Peter Egan. They approached us a while back with a view to OAT investing in the project.  They are both big supporters of SSS and have been for some time. I travelled with Maria to Sarajevo and she introduced me to the SSS team on the ground, as well as some of the wonderful rescue dogs.

The person who runs the project is Milena Malesevic who has dedicated her life to rescuing and rehoming street dogs since 1998. She is supported by a wonderful team of dedicated volunteers based in Bosnia, the UK and Europe.

Dave meets dog watermarked
Milena and me


SSS currently operate from 3 locations, Milena’s home where critically injured or ill dogs are nursed back to health by Milena personally, a dog shelter run by a wonderful couple Melissa & Mersad who take care of healthy dogs whilst SSS search for new homes, and a facility outside of the city which comprises of a large piece of land with kennels which is a forever home to dogs who are not able to be re-homed. Milena's Flat


mersad and melissas kennels

happy bus

Kill Shelters

The dogs being cared for by SSS, is a relatively happy story. However, on the flip side, one of the saddest parts of my trip was visiting what was previously a “kill shelter”. In many eastern European countries, dogs are gathered from the streets and placed in shelters and then, as and when the numbers become too big, they are killed in the most inhumane ways. Officially, this government facility is no longer a kill shelter but it was still incredibly depressing seeing the dogs here……😢

Kkill shelters

The future for SSS

Maria, Peter and Milena are currently looking to consolidate the SSS operation. This will involve consolidating the lifetime care and intensive care facilities into one location.  Milena will then live and work from this location which will make life a lot easier from a logistical and management perspective, and will significantly improve the living conditions for the dogs in her direct care.  If you would like to help them to achieve this proposed development, please take a look at their “buy a brick” campaign.

If you would like to ‘Buy a Brick’ then please click here

In the meantime, and in order to quickly and efficiently help with capacity issues to relieve the pressure on Milena and her wonderful team, OAT committed to relocating 100 of Milena’s rescues from Sarajevo to Just for Dogs in Derby in the UK for rehoming. You may recall our OAT 100 campaign last Christmas.  It has been a huge success and 89 of them are now safely here in the UK and 70 are already in their forever homes with a further 9 reserved for families undergoing home-checks.

OAT image WIDEWhilst I was in Sarajevo, I helped load a number of the OAT 100 dogs on to a happy bus bound for Just for Dogs in the UK. A few days later, I caught up with the bus on its arrival.


New life

Hero 1
HERO – The special one….

One very special dog who stole my heart is Hero. An abandoned dog who was found tied to a tree. He came to Milena’s attention when someone reported that they had seen him tied up and witnessed him being stoned by a group of children. 😡 Milena rescued him and took him for veterinary care immediately.  Sadly one of his eyes was so badly damaged it had to be removed. According to an amazing eye specialist David Williams, who examined Hero on a pro bono basis last week, the other eye has a degenerative retinal disease meaning that he is blind in this eye and there is nothing that can be done to change this. However, he is well adapted to his disability as the blindness will have developed over a period of time.

At the moment Hero is being fostered by Team OAT, being the Olsen Family, their lovely housekeeping couple Rosa and Jose and myself. He is getting lots of love and attention and is settling in nicely. We are now looking for a suitable forever home for Hero so if you, or anyone you know, have the time to dedicate to this very special dog and would like to consider adopting him, please let us know and we will keep you posted on his progress. He will need a large garden to run free and regular lead walks for outside stimulation. We estimate he is 8/9 years old.

home sweet home

Special thanks goes to Maria Slough for allowing us to use some of her wonderful photographs in this blog 💕

Another thank you goes to my friends Andrew and Libby White who joined me on this incredible trip. They have a genuine love and interest in the work of SSS and indeed many other animal welfare and conservation projects.

If you would like to adopt a dog from SSS then please click here

to donate to the project please click here

That’s it for now, next stop Thailand in July to visit an elephant project – Mahouts Elephant Foundation…