Christmas Cheer & Plans for the New Year

Gala Events

OAT have been getting into the Christmas spirit over the past month or so. We attended Animals Asia’s annual gala dinner at Plaisterers Hall in the City and Born Free’s “Beyond the Bars”  event at The Royal Horticultural Halls in Victoria. We were joined by lots of our close friends and supporters and everyone gave generously to the causes for which we are really grateful.  Highlight for me was meeting one of Born Free’s most treasured Patron’s and committed animal warrior – the gorgeous Joanna Lumley 😍 and I know Sue & Polly were thrilled to see their heroine Jill Robinson, Founder of Animals Asia.

Jill & Joanna

Trips on the horizon!

PAMS FoundationTanzania

In December The Olsen’s are off to Tanzania where they will take time during their holiday to visit one of the projects we are supporting through PAMS. We met with the founders of PAMS early last year, Wayne Lotter and Krissie Clark and learnt about the amazing conservation work they do in Tanzania. We agreed to support an elephant and rhino protection project they were seeking funding for. Tragically earlier this year Wayne was murdered and the whole conservation world is still mourning and in shock at this loss. This was a sure sign that he was being hugely successful in his anti-trafficking work. However, his death will not be in vain, his legacy and work will continue through his very able and committed partner Krissie and the rest of the PAMS  organisation.  No doubt Sue will share some pictures and updates on the elephant and rhino project in due course.

Chimpanzee Conservation Centre (CCC) – Guinea

In January I will be heading back to Guinea to see what’s been happening at the Chimp sanctuary since I was last there in April 2017. As you may remember, after my last visit OAT decided to extend a significant grant to CCC to enable them to improve and extend their facility.  We are also delighted  to say they we were able to encourage other like minded individuals and organisations to support their work as well. A big thank you to David Shepherd Wildlife Trust and Good Heart Sanctuaries for coming on board and to Tusk Trust for continuing their valuable support.

Some of the improvements already being enjoyed are:

– New large enclosure for Coco – my favourite chimp 😉 – almost complete (OAT)
– Improved night enclosure for babies (GHS)
– Extended awareness programme for local communities (DSWT)
– New site being researched for the next release troop (TUSK)
– New technology including vital radios for base to field communication (OAT)

CCC pics

Lots more improvements still to come 😀

I am also very excited to tell you that Luke Gamble of World Veterinary Service (WVS) will be coming along to Guinea with me in January.   Luke has agreed to help with a much needed upgrade of CCC’s veterinary clinic at the sanctuary will provide on going support, supplies and advice. Being a very experienced vet himself Im sure CCC will benefit hugely. Thank you Luke 👍


Luke Gamble

New Rescue

Sierra is a typical example of the chimps that CCC deal with. She was recently rescued at a port by Guinean authorities in Conakry and was about to be shipped out of Guinea when her trader was arrested and Sierra was confiscated.  She is in good hands but as always, additional chimps means that additional care and facilities are required. If you would like to help facilitate Sierra’s rehabilitation programme please let us know or donate directly via our website –

Choose Chimpanzee Consevation Centre from the dropdown project list on the donation form and your full contribution will go straight to helping Sierra. Please don’t forget to fill in your address and tick yes to Gift Aid if you are a tax paying resident of the UK.


Christmas Countdown

We hope you are full of festive cheer and are already enjoying our OAT advent calendar! If you haven’t seen it yet you can access it by clicking here and following OAT on Instagram. Each day we share a new animal picture and you can open the calendar (by swiping right) to reveal an interesting fact inside.

As this is the time for giving please share this, and our other social media pages with your friends and family! Many thanks.

Here are the links:

Until we “speak” again in the new year…




UK Ivory Ban

Last Saturday I attended a ‘Silent Protest’ in Parliament Square, London, urging the government to ban the UK domestic trade in ivory.  Approx 300 people participated and it was a great success. The event was organised by Action for Elephants UK. There were a few prominent speakers on the day including Will Travers, President of the Born Free Foundation.

On the 6 October the government announced a proposal to ban ivory trade in the UK following endless pressure to do so from conservationists worldwide, including Prince William. Its been a long time coming and in fact only days before the protest, the UK Government made their announcement.  So, NOW is the time we should all put further pressure on the UK Government to follow through with their promise and make sure they Close the Deal once and for all!!

Protestors were asked to stand in a diamond shape, facing outwards holding fake elephant tusks and rhino horns dripping in Blood.

 Standing up against the trade

The power of silence

Standing in silence for 30 mins was strangely powerful. It certainly attracted a lot of attention from the general public and tourists passing by and hopefully the Government across the road at Westminster! The media and many tourists were taking photos which will hopefully result in the message being widely spread.

Below are copies of the letters which were hand delivered to Theresa May at 10 Downing Street. I thought I would share these with you as they highlight why it is so vital that countries outside of Africa, like the UK, ban their domestic trade in ivory if we are to save elephants and rhinos from extinction.   Below the letter are the signatures of NGO’s, MP’s and conservationists (including OAT) who officially backed this proposal.

Statement and letters from Action for Elephants UK:

Breaking news: UK government announces proposal for full ban on UK ivory trade

On 6 October the government announced a proposal for a full ban on ivory trade in the UK. To acknowledge this welcome news, we wrote a second letter to Theresa May, which we delivered to Downing St on 7 October  along with the open letter below that called for this action.

The letters were delivered to No. 10 Downing Street by a group of conservationists – Will Travers (president of Born Free Foundation), Duncan McNair (CEO, Save the Asian Elephants), Rachael Hewish (IFAW), John Stephenson (CEO, Stop Ivory), Rory Young (founder, Chingeta Wildlife), and Joanne Ibbitson (Action for Elephants UK) – and has been signed by over 150 NGOs, conservationists, MPs, and other prominent individuals.

Letter to Theresa May acknowledging proposal for a full ban

7 October 2017

Dear Prime Minister,

We were thrilled to hear the news of the government’s proposal for a full ban on ivory trade in the UK. We’re adding this cover letter to acknowledge this momentous step and to thank you and your government for the commitment to ending the trade and to move forward with the consultation.

The attached letter has been signed by around 200 NGOs, conservationists, MPs and others, and shows the strength of feeling behind the call for a ban. While every signatory will be welcoming DEFRA’s announcement, we know that there is still the consultation process ahead and that strong representations will be made by the antiques trade to try and water down the ban and maximise the exemptions. We hope the government will not weaken in its resolve and that the ‘ban will prohibit the sale of ivory items of all ages’, as stated by DEFRA.

Once implemented, this ban will put the UK at the forefront of global efforts to end the trade in ivory that has fuelled the catastrophic decline of elephants, and will enable it to stand proud on the international stage and as the host of the 2018 conference on the illegal wildlife trade.

We look forward with much hope and expectation that your government will follow through with a comprehensive ban on ivory sales in the UK as quickly as possible.


Maria Mossman
Action for Elephants UK


Open letter written before the announcement

7 October 2017

Dear Prime Minister,

Today marked the fourth annual Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, with people in over 100 cities across the world uniting in the call to save these endangered iconic species and to ban all trade in their tusks and horns. Unless we put a stop to such trade across the globe, the poaching of these animals will continue until they disappear altogether from the wild.

Here in London we marked the day with a silent protest at Parliament Square, to remember the hundreds of thousands of elephants and rhinos killed by poachers, and to call on the government to introduce a ban on the domestic trade in ivory without delay.

We, along with many members of the public, were bitterly disappointed to see the promise of an ivory ban dropped from your new manifesto for the first time in three elections. We hope you will now bring forward the legislation needed to implement a ban as a matter of urgency.

An ivory trade ban has huge public support, with 95% of respondents polled in a YouGov survey (April 2017) saying they had no interest in buying antique ivory. Among MPs, 96% are in favour of an ivory ban (YouGov poll June 2017). Clearly it’s an enormously popular proposal. The only dissenting voice is the antiques trade.

Ivory makes up only a tiny proportion of the antiques market in the UK. The current laws that attempt to regulate the legal trade are quite simply not fit for purpose. We’ve seen that ivory can be artificially aged, and without proper testing (which is prohibitively costly) anyone can claim an item they sell is antique. Evidence suggests that products manufactured from ‘new’ ivory are relatively easily passed off as antiques and widely traded within and from the UK. Any legal ivory trade provides a cover for illegal trade, with loopholes and weak enforcement of laws allowing ivory of more recent date to find its way to market stalls and antiques shops all over the country.

The argument used by the antiques trade that an ivory ban would harm Britain’s cultural heritage is unfounded. Advocates for a ban do not call for the destruction or confiscation of any ivory items in existing collections or personal possession. We support exemptions in certain categories, such as allowing museums to obtain and display items of historical and cultural interest, and family heirlooms of personal value would not be affected either. However, the commercial trade must be ended if we are to truly play our part in the cessation of this terrible trade.

The harm of the UK’s ivory trade extends far beyond these borders. As the world’s largest exporter of legal ivory, the UK is responsible for stimulating consumer demand globally, and especially in Hong Kong and China, two of the largest markets for legal and illegal ivory. Both countries have committed to closing their domestic ivory markets, and the US has also brought in a ban. The UK should show solidarity not only with these countries but with African countries calling for a global ban, and should honour the agreement it made at CITES CoP17 to close down all domestic ivory markets.

The UK will be hosting the Illegal Wildlife Trade conference in 2018, and if a domestic ivory ban is in place by then it will greatly enhance the UK’s credibility and stature as a global leader in fighting this trade.

When we wrote to you last year we highlighted the loss of around 144,000 elephants killed over the previous 7 years, and the alarming declines in African elephant populations revealed in the Great Elephant Census. The sheer scale of such slaughter is difficult to comprehend. Elephant poaching in recent decades represents the most brutal and sustained wildlife massacre of our time. The wholesale and indiscriminate killing has shattered social structures and family bonds, erasing generations of accumulated knowledge and survival skills. If poaching continues at current rates, elephants will disappear completely across the African continent, possibly within our lifetimes.

Prime Minister, we call on you to send a message to the world that the UK will not stand by while tens of thousands of elephants are slaughtered every year. We urge your government to take immediate steps to implement a ban on all commercial ivory trade in the UK, starting with the requisite consultation.

We’re at a critical crossroads for elephants’ survival. Future generations deserve to share the world with these magnificent creatures. Prime Minister, this is your chance to take a firm stand that will be saluted at home and the world over, and to ensure the UK plays its part in protecting wild elephants for generations to come.

Thank you for your attention and consideration.


Maria Mossman
Action for Elephants UK

And the undersigned:

Dr Jane Goodall DBE
Founder the Jane Goodall Institute
& UN Messenger of Peace

Lord Hague of Richmond

Duncan McNair
CEO, Save The Asian Elephants

Charlie Mayhew MBE
Chief Executive Tusk Trust

Virginia McKenna OBE
Founder, Born Free Foundation

Ingrid Newkirk
Founder, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

Dr Mark Pilgrim
CEO, Chester Zoo

Mary Rice
Executive Director, Environmental Investigation Agency

John Sauven
Executive Director, Greenpeace UK

Dame Daphne Sheldrick
Founder & Chair, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

John Stephenson
CEO, Stop Ivory

Will Travers OBE
President, Born Free Foundation

Rory Young
Co-founder, Chengeta Wildlife

Felix Olusola Abayomi
Founder/CEO, Wildlife of Africa Conservation Initiative, Nigeria

Rosemary Alles
Co-founder, Global March for Elephants and Rhinos

Damian Aspinall
Chairman, The Aspinall Foundation

Bill Bailey
Actor and author

Jonathan Bartley
Joint Leader, UK Green Party

Claire Bass
Executive Director, Humane Society International UK

Sport Beattie
Founder and CEO, Game Rangers International

Reinhard Behrend
Founder and Director, Rainforest Rescue

Prof David Bellamy
Conservation Foundation

Karen Botha
CEO, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Scott Blais
Co-founder, Global Sanctuary for Elephants

Richard Bonham
Director of Operations, Big Life Foundation

Rob Brandford
Director, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust iworry Campaign

Anne Brummer
CEO Save Me Trust

Gordon Buchanan
Wildlife Photographer and Conservationist

Gaston Buh Wung
GIS Coordinator, WWF Cameroon

Nicky Campbell OBE
Broadcaster and journalist

Jilly Cooper

Brian Cox

Jan Creamer
President, Animal Defenders International (ADI)

Dr Mahinda Deegalle
Buddhist scholar, Reader in Study of Religions, Philosophies and Ethics at Bath Spa University

Lee Durrell
Honorary Director, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

David Drew, MP (Lab)

Dr Keith Dutlow, BVSc MRCVS & Dr Lisa Marabini, BVSc MRCVS
Directors, AWARE Trust, Zimbabwe

Peter Egan
Actor and Animal Activist

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Journalist, broadcaster

Daniela Freyer
Co-Founder, Pro Wildlife

Toni Frohoff, Ph.D.
Elephant Scientist, In Defense of Animals

Ricky Gervais
Writer and producer

Inga Gibson
The Aloha Coalition

Raabia Hawa
Founder and CEO, Walk with Rangers & Ulinzi Africa Foundation

Mark Hiley
Co-founder, National Park Rescue

Iris Ho
Wildlife Program Manager
Humane Society International

Dr Lynn Johnson
Founder, Breaking The Brand & Founder, Nature Needs More

Stanley Johnson
Author and Co-Chairman, Environmentalists for Europe

Dr Trevor Jones
Director, Southern Tanzania Elephant Program

Dr Paula Kahumbu
CEO Wildlife Direct

Max and Josh Kauderer
Founders, Elephant Highway

Laurene K. Knowles
Founder, President Elemotion Foundation

Rob Laidlaw
Executive Director, Zoocheck Inc.

Phyllis C. Lee
Professor of Psychology
Behaviour and Evolution Research Group, University of Stirling

Joanna Lumley

Barbara Mackraz
Founder & Director, Olive Seed Foundation

Philip Mansbridge
Regional Director – United Kingdom
IFAW – International Fund for Animal Welfare

Dr Brian May CBE
Save Me Trust

Dr Niall McCann
Co-founder, National Park Rescue

Chris Mercer
Director, Campaign Against Canned Hunting

Christine Mulholland
Founder, Generation Awakening

Dr. Katarzyna Nowak
Research Associate Zoology & Entomology
University of the Free State, Qwaqwa, South Africa

Sue Olsen
Founder, Olsen Animal Trust

Paul Oxton
Founder/Director – South Africa
WHWF – Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

Asgar Pathan
Executive Director-Care for the Wild Kenya

Donalea Patman
Founder, For the Love of Wildlife

Joaquin Phoenix

Hannah Pollock & Jamie Unwin
Founders of Stand Up for Nature

Ruth Powys Ganesh
CEO, Elephant Family

Ian Redmond OBE
Independent Wildlife Biologist
Co-Founder of the Elefriends campaign (1989) and Ambassador
for the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species

Dan Richardson
Actor and conservationist

Linda Rimington
Co-Founder, Save the Asian Elephants

Professor Alice Roberts
Biological anthropologist, author and broadcaster

John Roberts
Director of Elephants, Golden Triangle Elephant Foundation

Caroline Ruane
CEO, Naturewatch Foundation

Priya Sawhney
Communications Director
Direct Action Everywhere

William Shatner

Susan Sheward MBE
Founder, Orangutan Appeal UK

The Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith
Bishop of St Albans

Elizabeth Steinbart
Founder and Director of Elephantopia

The Earl of Stockton
Co-founder, Save the Asian Elephants

Anneka Svenska
Wildlife Broadcaster & Conservationist

Yvette Taylor
Executive Director – Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization

Janet Thomas
Director, Animal Aid Abroad

Thomas Töpfer
Chairman, Rettet die Elefanten Afrikas e.V.

Horace Trubridge
General Secretary, Musicians’ Union

Vera Weber
President and CEO, Fondation Franz Weber

Peter H Wrege
Director, Elephant Listening Project
Cornell University

Ruth Powys Ganesh
CEO, The Elephant Family

The Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith
Bishop of St Albans

Janet Thomas
Director, Animal Aid Abroad

Peter H Wrege
Director, Elephant Listening Project
Cornell University

Members of Parliament

Heidi Allen (Con)
South Cambridgeshire

Sir David Amess (Con)
Southend West

Ian Austin (Lab)
Dudley North

Hilary Benn (Lab)
Leeds Central

Richard Benyon (Con)

Clive Betts (Lab)
Sheffield South East

Roberta Blackman-Woods (Lab)
City of Durham

Alan Brown (SNP)
Kilmarnock and Loudoun

Nick Brown (Lab)
Newcastle upon Tyne East

Lisa Cameron (SNP)
East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow

Alan Campbell (Lab)

Ronnie Campbell (Lab)
Blyth Valley

Alex Chalk (Con)

Sarah Champion (Lab)

Bambos Charalambous (Lab)
Enfield Southgate

Ann Clwyd (Lab)
Cynon Valley

Vernon Coaker (Lab)

Julie Cooper (Lab)

Rosie Cooper (Lab)
West Lancashire

Sir David Crausby (Lab)
Bolton North East

Mary Creagh (Lab)

Edward Davey (LibDem)
Kingston and Surbiton

Geraint Davies (Lab Co-op)
Swansea West

Anneliese Dodds (Lab Co-op)
Oxford East

David Drew (Lab)

Rosie Duffield (Lab)
Canterbury, Whitstable and the Villages

Clive Efford (Lab)

Julie Elliott (Lab)
Sunderland Central

Jim Fitzpatrick (Lab)
Poplar and Limehouse

Caroline Flint (Lab)
Don Valley

Hugh Gaffney (Lab)
Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

Ruth George (Lab)
High Peak

Patricia Gibson (SNP)
North Ayrshire & Arran

Mary Glindon (Lab)
North Tyneside

Zac Goldsmith (Con)
Richmond Park and Kingston North

Bill Grant (Con)
Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock

Kate Green (Lab)
Stretford and Urmston

Andrew Gwynne (Lab)
Denton and Reddish

Helen Hayes (Lab)
Dulwich and West Norwood

Sue Hayman (Lab)

Sharon Hodgson (Lab)
Washington and Sunderland West

Kelvin Hopkins (Lab)
Luton North

Alister Jack (Con)
Dumfries and Galloway

Dan Jarvis (Lab)
Barnsley Central

Andrea Jenkyns (Con)
Morley and Outwood

Darren Jones (Lab)
Bristol North West

Gerald Jones (Lab)
Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney

Graham Jones (Lab)

Sir Greg Knight (Con)
East Yorkshire

Peter Kyle (Lab)
Hove and Portslade

Ben Lake (Plaid Cymru)

Pauline Latham (Con)
Mid Derbyshire

Karen Lee (Lab)

Caroline Lucas (Joint Leader UK Green Party)

Justin Madders (Lab)
Ellesmere Port and Neston

Kerry McCarthy (Lab)
Bristol East

Stuart McDonald (SNP)
Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East

John McDonnell (Lab)
Hayes and Harlington

Catherine McKinnell (Lab)
Newcastle upon Tyne North

John Mann (Lab)

Gordon Marsden (Lab)
Blackpool South

Sandy Martin (Lab)

Rachael Maskell (Lab Co-op)
York Central

Carol Monaghan (SNP)
Glasgow North West

Madeleine Moon (Lab)

Grahame Morris (Lab)

Lisa Nandy (Lab)

Albert Owen (Lab)
Ynys Mon

Owen Paterson (Con)
North Shropshire

Mike Penning (Con)
Hemel Hempstead

Matthew Pennycook (Lab)
Greenwich and Woolwich

Luke Pollard (Lab Co-op)
Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

Angela Rayner (Lab)

Ellie Reeves (Lab)
Lewisham West and Penge

Gavin Robinson (DUP)
Belfast East

Andrew Rosindell (Con)

Jim Shannon (DUP)

Tommy Sheppard (SNP)
Edinburgh East

Tulip Siddiq (Lab)
Hampstead and Kilburn

Angela Smith (Lab)
Penistone and Stocksbridge

Jeff Smith (Lab)
Manchester Withington

Laura Smith (Lab)
Crewe and Nantwich

Alex Sobel (Lab)
Leeds North West

John Spellar (Lab)

Jo Stevens (Lab)
Cardiff Central

David Tredinnick (Con)

Keith Vaz (Lab)
Leicester East

Catherine West (Lab)
Hornsey and Woodgreen

Chris Williamson (Lab)
Derby North

House of Lords

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

Baroness Young of Old Scone


Stuart Agnew (UKIP)
Eastern Counties

Catherine Bearder (LibDem)
South East England

Richard Corbett (Lab)
Yorkshire and the Humber

Jacqueline Foster (Con)
North West England

Ashley Fox (Con)
South West England and Gibraltar

Julie Girling (Con)
South West England

John Howarth (Lab)
South East England
Jean Lambert (Green)

Linda McAvan (Lab)
Yorkshire and The Humber

Emma McClarkin (Con)
East Midlands

David Martin (Lab)

Clare Moody (Lab)
South West and Gibraltar

Keith Taylor (Green)
South East England


Supporting The Wilderness Foundation in South Africa & Vietnam

Umfolozi Game Reserve, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa

I have just returned from South Africa where I completed the well known Wilderness Trail together with 11 Vietnamese high school students. OAT recently agreed to support a rhino horn demand reduction programme, operated by the Wilderness Foundation which was set up in 1967 by Dr Ian Player, world renowned conservationist.

The objective of this particular project is to educate the youth of Vietnam and to enable them to become effective ambassadors for wild rhino in their home country who are the biggest buyers of rhino horn.  Thousands of children are invited to enter an essay competition explaining their knowledge of the situation and why they would like to become a rhino hero. The top 11 senior students are selected and their journey begins with a visit to South Africa to view rhino and other wildlife in their natural habitat, as well as orphaned rhino whose families have been killed by poachers.

Arrive, pack & ready

In addition to the 5 day trail, they also attend a workshop where they are assisted to come up with their own plans on how they can educate and influence people in their own countries on their return.  They are given further support to deliver presentations and spread the word by personnel within The Wilderness Foundation’s office on the ground in Ho Chi Minn city.


Having witnessed first hand the children’s reaction to what they saw and experienced on the wilderness trail,  I have no doubt they will become committed ambassadors and influencers in this and future generations which is exactly what is needed!

It was an amazing experience for everyone taking part. We followed the Black Imfolozi river carrying all our own food and equipment and every night we slept under the stars. We took it in turns to keep watch and keep the fire alight to discourage wildlife coming into camp – very exciting for children who had no previous experience of the African wilderness.

Sleeping, water, warm

We were privileged to see lots of beautiful wildlife including two herds of four white rhino (up close), lion, buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, hyena, hippo and many species of antelope as well as some spectacular bird life and also tracks of a black rhino.

walking, rhinos

In contrast – seeing two rescued baby rhino orphans on the last day of the trip, was very hard hitting and emotional, especially for the children, but this is the harsh reality that needed to be faced. It very quickly became clear to all that these are the real victims of the horrendous trade in rhino horn.

Here’s a short clip from the orphanage visit…



There is nothing like reconnecting with nature to put your life into perspective and this experience (including all my blisters) has been a fantastic one.

great project, proudly sponsored

We are very proud to be supporting this project and if you would like to learn more about it first hand, take a look at their website

Hamba Kahle (Go well in Zulu)

For further Information on this and other projects supported by OAT please refer to our website





The Long Road Home…

This time it’s me (Sue) on the road and not Dave our OATOKE!  OATESS maybe?? 😗

Lion Rescue Trip

I have just returned from my third lion rescue trip with the Born Free Foundation. I must say I thought that it would become easier to deal with the roller coaster of emotions that such a journey evokes. I was very wrong, it has been just as emotional each time.

Its disheartening to think that these animals have been imprisoned for their entire life for human entertainment, but also heart-warming to know that there are amazing people and organisations that care about them. They not only care but make it their mission to give the luckier ones the dignity they deserve and provide them with a more suitable home.  Rescues also raise awareness for the plight of all wild animals in captivity and hopefully one day they will be considered as the sentient beings they are, and the exploitation will stop.

In the meantime, organisations like The Born Free Foundation, with the help of their supporters, including OAT and friends of OAT,  will continue their vital rescue work.

This most recent journey involved two lions rescued from a zoo and private ownership in Spain and France. Nelson (17) was from a French Zoo and Ciam (2) was confiscated from his owner who had kept him caged up in his back garden! Nelson and Ciam spent the last 3 years and 18 months respectively at a rehabilitation facility in Belgium Natuurhulpcentrum where they have been taken good care of whilst awaiting the go ahead to travel to Born Free’s big cat sanctuary located within Shamwari Private Game Reserve in South Africa.

The following pictures will tell the story……

Nelson & Ciam Crates

Lions loaded

I was delighted that on this occasion that my close friend Alicia Hosking who had expressed an interest in helping, came along on the trip. She not only gave her time but also contributed personally to the rescue costs and I am proud to say we are now jointly covering the costs of lifetime care for both Ciam & Nelson.

Rally for Conservation

You may remember that another close friend, David Simpson, accompanied me on a previous rescue of lions Black & Jora a few years ago. Inspired by this trip the Simpson family recently embarked upon a fund raising event, together with OAT. The purpose being to assist with the Ciam & Nelson rescue and contribute to general animal welfare and conservation work undertaken at Shamwari. It was a huge success and thanks to our very generous guests we were able to donate a significant sum of money.

Rally & Max & Jeff

Cars & bids

Funds raised and then the journey begins…

On the way

Nelson’s last health check before the final leg of the journey….

And finally…they are back in Africa where they belong!Ciam at Shamwari

Nelson at Shamwari

Open spaces for them to explore and new smells and noises to get used to, some of which may stir some distant ancestral memories.  All of this in the comfort and safety of their purpose built enclosures at the Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa.  Sadly, Ciam and Nelson cannot be returned to the wild as humans have robbed them of their natural survival instincts.  However, they will be very well taken care of by the Born Free team at Shamwari and fly the ambassadorial flag for other wild animals in captivity 🦁 🐒 🐘

UPDATE – Chimpanzee Conservation Centre in Guinea

This is rather a long blog, but there is some great video footage!

I have just returned from a very exhausting but amazing trip to North West Africa where I spent time with the people and rescued chimps of the Chimpanzee Conservation Centre (CCC). It took me 3 days to get to the bush camp where the chimps are located (London-Paris-Nouakchott which is in the Sahara desert and then Conakry). Once I arrived in Conakry, the capital city of Guinea I then had a 2-day drive on very bad dirt roads, which in itself was exhausting due to the intense heat, around 40 degrees Celsius………..Phew! 😲

The numerous military & police road blocks en route also slowed the journey down considerably, not to mention the various international aid organisations present on the ground dealing with the after effects of matters such as Ebola.

The Chimpanzee Conservation Centre (CCC) camp is located deep inside the Haut Niger National Park in a protected forest.

Here is a map showing location of Guinea on the African continent…


CCC currently has 53 rescued chimps who are all going through a rehabilitation programme which in some cases lasts for 10 years. 15 chimps were released in 2012 and are all doing very well living back in the wild. This was the last troop to be released but another troop is almost ready to be released and will hopefully go within the next 12 months but only after a suitable location within the national park and protected forest has been found.

Almost all of the rescued baby chimps are victims of ‘trafficking’ and have been confiscated by government authorities at road blocks and border crossings. Poachers go into the bush and hunt for chimps as a baby chimp is valued at approx. $30,000 on the black market. The poacher, the person who actually steals the baby from the wild will get approx. $2,000 per chimp. The poachers usually kill the whole chimp family (troop) as its far to dangerous to try and steal a baby from its mother (I’ve learnt first hand how strong they are!). The dead bodies of the family are sold in local markets for bush meat. The baby chimps are extremely traumatised as they have seen their mother and whole families shot and killed right in front of them. There is a high demand for baby chimps in the Middle East and China, where, if they survive the long journey in cramped cages, often without food and water for hours or even days, they will live out the rest of their lives in horrible zoos or as pets.

Chimps are our closet relation sharing 99% of our genes. They are highly intelligent and suffer high levels of stress just like humans. They also laugh and mimic each other which was weird for me to witness but very interesting and funny at times. It’s strange how much they resemble us humans or us them. When you look a chimp in the eye and it looks back at you its no different than looking in to the eye of a human being, what beautiful animals they are. If the truth be told, they are quite nasty to each other and are HUGE drama queens making a big song and dance (literally) about the smallest of issues but thats the way they are and the way they communicate. This was a reaction to my visiting this release troops enclosure, from a distance!

Below is a photo of me with Chris Colin, the Director of the CCC who is a qualified Vet and has worked with CCC for 18 years. Chris has been the Director of CCC for the last 2 years. Estelle Raballand was the Director before her and personally funded CCC for the year of 1999. Chris and her team are dedicated and very hard working animal lovers and carry out their work in extremely difficult conditions. They certainly sacrifice a lot doing what they all love to do.

c01 Chris & chimps

I spent 5 days with Chris and her team that include permanent staff and volunteers and I shadowed the work included in the daily routine.

c03 The team & thank you

C05 volunteers

I spent time with various groups of chimps in their different enclosures, the babies the youngsters and the old ones. I felt desperately sorry for the older ones as sadly they will never return to the wild, just too much damage at the hands of humans, but at least they are receiving good lifetime care.

One of the most privileged experiences was walking with the pre release troop.  Here are some videos I took whilst out walking with one of the troops with their cheeky dominant male Tango and the cute little ‘Missie’. All of the chimps in these videos have been rescued from some sort of horrible captive situation and are all undergoing rehabilitation due to high levels of stress, most of them will have witnessed their families being killed. The reason the CCC team walk with them everyday is to teach them what their mothers would have taught them, how to find food in the bush, how to find shelter from the HOT sun and also how to walk in a group (troop). It is vitally important they understand how to act and find their place in the troop before being released. The human interaction element is key to them learning how to become a well balanced troop and find their position within the hierarchy of their newly formed chimpanzee family.

In case you are wondering from the video, the ‘head touching’ is a greeting that chimps use when they are saying Hello and when they are looking for reassurance from a bigger and more dominant male, in this case it was Me. I was trained on basic chimp communication and how to read their body language and how to respond correctly. There are many many things to learn and I only learnt the basics to keep me safe. You will notice Tango getting jealous of me playing with the other chimps at times. Tango adopted me as his own, and as a chimp is 7 times stronger than an average man,

who am I to argue 😀.


During my visit I was able to see the work that has started on our OAT funded quarantine enclosures to be used for an imminent rescue. It’s by no means all the help they need, but it’s a start and we intend to make it OAT’s mission to do what we can and make a significant impact. I know they don’t look like much right now but these enclosures will enable the imminent rescue of 4 chimps current been illegally held in horrendous conditions. They will be confiscated and relocated to the CCC where they will receive the care they deserve and begin their journey back to freedom.

c02 OAT encolsures

I will never forget this amazing trip and was truly humbled by the dedicated team at CCC as well as those who work with on the law enforcement side of things, but thats another story for another time. The living conditions at the camp are basic to say the least, no proper toilets and no running water so its down to the river every night for a wash or you wash out of a bucket. I did both, although washing in the river when there are crocs and hippos swimming nearby isn’t as relaxing or romantic as you might think, especially when its been 40 degrees celsius during the day. After a hard and HOT days work they can’t even have a decent shower and a glass of cold water. The camp has no running water and no electricity or solar system so it’s candles and warm water day after day and night after night.

I congratulate them all for helping to save our closest relation and I wish them continued success. CCC are looking to upgrade and expand their current rehab facility and are desperately looking for new funders. I was the first donor to visit this rescue facility in 14 years………OMG. The day I was leaving I asked them what they needed and they only asked for items relating to the chimps and nothing for themselves………..its all about the chimps for this amazing bunch of dedicated animal warriors. I have HUGE amounts of respect for them!!!!!!

That’s it for now but will be in touch again soon suggesting ways in which you can help us to help them and get involved!

In the meantime, here are a few interesting facts about chimpanzees that I picked up along the way:

  • There are 4 species of chimps living across 21 countries in Africa, they all live in or near to equatorial regions  (Western chimps / Eastern chimps / Common chimps / Niger – Cameroon chimps).
  • A troop always has one dominant male.
  • Males stay in one territory whereas females will move on after giving birth and find another troop to allow genetic mixing.
  • Females reach their sexual maturity at approx. 8 years old.
  • Mothers give birth to single babies, twins are extremely rare.
  • Like humans chimps have a very low rate of reproduction.
  • Babies are weaned at approx. 4 years of age.
  • 30% of chimps in the wild die before reaching the age of 5yrs.
  • 3 main reasons for cause of death of chimps (poaching-trafficking / disease / habitat loss).
  • Chimps have been seen using herbs in the wild to heal themselves – how amazing is that! 😮
  • There are currently 16 x chimp sanctuaries in Africa but due to various reasons only 2 have release programmes. It is extremely difficult to rehabilitate a chimp and can take up to 10 years.
  • 85% of chimps trafficked out of Africa are from Guinea.




Two first’s for OAT – Chimpanzees and West Africa

OAT recently agreed to support the Chimpanzee Conservation Centre (CCC) located within Haut Niger National Park in Guinea, West Africa. This is the first time we have supported a West African based project, but when we were made aware of CCC’s work and their urgent need to increase capacity,  we felt compelled to help. We have never travelled to this part of the world before either, so it’s a whole new area of exploration for OAT in general.


Dave, aka OATOKE, will be spending the next 10 days at CCC in Guinea getting to know the organisation, but due to the extreme remoteness of its location, he will probably not be able to update us on his findings until he returns. I thought therefore, that I would give you some background on the project in the meantime and why we feel so strongly about supporting it.

Chimpanzees, who are indigenous to west Africa, are regularly and illegally stolen from the wild. This is fuelled by the demand from foreign countries who are prepared to pay substantial amounts to own a pet chimp, and zoos and circuses who make huge profits from visitors paying to see these these poor creatures behind bars and being forced to perform in the name of entertainment. Buyers are willing to pay incredibly high prices for chimpanzees making it a very lucrative business.  Sadly, baby chimps aren’t the only victims of this dreadful trade and their parents / families who are shot during the capture,  often end up fuelling the illegal trade in bush meat.

Many organisations, some of whom we also support, are continuously fighting to combat illegal wildlife trade and when they are successful in their missions, chimpanzees are often confiscated and in need of rehabilitation. This is where CCC in Guinea come in to play, as they rehabilitate and where possible, return them to the wild. This process can sometimes take up to 10 years due to the extent of trauma experienced.  Those who are successfully rehabilitated are released, but sadly, for some of them this is just not possible. These chimps are then provided with life time care at the centre. CCC recently applied for funding to extend their facilities at the centre to enable them to rehabilitate more Chimpanzees in need and we agreed to help.

If we do manage to hear from our OATOKE On the ground, we will blog again, but in the meantime, here is some good news that we received from CCC a few days before he left.

It is an interesting story and will give you an insight into the extent of the work involved when dealing with the illegal trade in wildlife.

Sue  Olsen


Team OAT in Zambia

OAT recently returned from a weeks trip to Zambia where we visited various projects we support within the  Game Rangers International (GRI) group.

GRI – Zambia Primate Programme

06 Final Jeffrey Cosmas & Dave

The photo above shows me with Cosmas of the GRI – Zambia Primate Project (ZPP) with a young vervet monkey we rescued 18 months ago.  Like many monkeys, he had been illegally taken from the wild and kept as a pet which means he had probably been tied up most of his life.

07 ZPP & OAT copy

We caught up with Jeffrey again last week when we visited the GRI-ZPP release site within the Kafue National Park. This is where the primates go during the final stage of their rehabilitation. Troops are formed who are then monitored and cared for by Cosmas and his team until they are ready to be released.  We were so happy see vervet monkeys living wild and free considering the difficult start they had in life. I was especially happy to meet Jeffrey again who looked really happy, but I was very disappointed he didn’t remember me……….bloody ungrateful monkey ha ha ha 😂

The team photo above is me with ZPP staff, David, a friend and fellow animal lover, and Polly Mason, who has recently become a full time member of the OAT team.

GRI – Elephant Orphanage Project

03 Lilayi

08 Release camp

OAT have recently become a significant partner in this amazing project.  We visited the nursery facility on the outskirts of Lusaka where very young elephants spend the first part of their rehabilitation process, and thereafter, we went to the elephant release site facility in the Kafue National Park.

Jackie the Hippo

10 Jackie 3 shot

One of the key purposes of our trip was to discuss hippo Jackie and the next stage of her rehabilitation and release programme. Jackie was found abandoned a year ago, with her umbilical cord still attached and was rescued by Game Rangers International (GRI) –  Wildlife Veterinary Project (WVP).  OAT agreed to sponsor Jackie’s rehabilitation and release programme and we are now one year into the process.

Jackie is doing really well thanks to her dedicated team of carers and GRI’s wildlife vet Annekim Geerdes (pictured above) who works alongside a government vet to ensure Jackie’s health and wellbeing. We will keep you posted on her progress.

GRI – Kafue Conservation Project

We also spent time with GRI’s community outreach programme as well as their special anti-poaching unit. The woman’s initiative group we support were very grateful for their mosquito nets, and Stuart the pilot is really looking forward to getting the new anti-poaching plane up in the air. The aircraft is sponsored by OAT and the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.

That’s it for Zambia, next stop Guinea and the Chimpanzee Sanctuary!  Will be communicating again soon!



Highs, Lows and Bears in Vietnam

I have just returned from a 3 day workshop in Vietnam hosted by Animals Asia, an organisation we are incredibly proud to be supporting. 😊

The Vietnamese government approached Animals Asia sometime ago asking for their help and guidance regarding the current elephant populations in Vietnam, both wild and captive. The aim of the workshop was to develop a comprehensive plan to improve the welfare of the captive elephant population and to address the current critically low, wild elephant population, estimated to be below 100. 🐘🐘


Another aim of the workshop was to support the government in its development of The Elephant Conservation Centre rescue facility. This is being designed for the rehabilitation of elephants rescued from tourist led activities such as elephant back riding.

The rescue centre is still in the infancy stage, but here are 2 young bull elephants currently being cared for.


On one of the days, delegates were invited to visit the largest tourist elephant riding camp in the area and I went along.  Witnessing what goes on behind the scenes was heart wrenching to say the least. To think that these poor elephants are taken from their mothers at a very young age, beaten into submission to enable them to be ridden, and to top it all, are chained up when not being ridden, is just unbelievable really. They suffer physically and mentally their entire life, but, as long as tourists insist on riding them, this cruel process will continue.  Please spread the word and tell everyone you know NOT to participate in this activity or indeed any activity that involves the exploitation of animals for their enjoyment. Its just not fair.


I also visited a zoo which Animals Asia are working with to improve the dismal day to day lives of these poor captive animals.  I can’t bring myself to share my photos of this with you, but like me, take some comfort in the a fact that Animals Asia are doing everything they can to improve captive welfare. Of course if we had our way, there would be no captive animals, but thank goodness Animals Asia are doing what they can for these animals whilst there is no alternative.

I ended the trip on a much more positive note when I went to see how building works were coming along on the new bear enclosure at Animals Asia’s bear sanctuary in Tam Dao National Park. OAT are co-funding the development of this enclosure that will increase capacity for more bears rescued from the horrendous Bear Bile industry.



Next stop Zambia 🇿🇲 in February and then Guinea 🇬🇳 in March. More on this later…………..

Tis the season…

As Christmas creeps up on us I wanted to wish you all a very merry one and a happy New Year!

2017 looks set to bring a lot more adventure on our mission to help animals! I’m off to Vietnam in January with a packed schedule including revisiting Animals Asia’s Bear Sanctuary and a proposed Vietnamese Elephant Conservation Centre. Feb/March I’m heading back to Africa. I look forward to sharing it all with you along the way.


Sleepless in…Zambia

Here is our animal welfare hero of the month – Cosmas, getting a taste of fatherhood with his latest rescue Chikondi, a tiny baby primate.

After a few sleepless nights, Cosmas decided the only way for both of them to get any sleep, was to have Chikondi sleep next to him. Serious dedication! 🐒🍼😆


Cosmas, project manager of Zambia Primate Project, rescues and rehabilitates many primates in Zambia and successfully releases them back in to the wild. However, when they are this tiny, they need constant care and attention so he regularly hands them  over to Anna & Steve Tolan of Chipembele. Chikondi is now in the loving care of Anna and Steve and enjoying the comfort of other rescued baby primates, Shadi and Pumpkin.  How cute are these photo’s?