Will Travers OBE, headline speaker at the Endangered Species Conference; image credit: Climate Change North East

Alongside curating Where Did All the Animals Go? Exhibition of North East School Children's Drawings Working with Artist, Jane Lee McCracken, 20 June - 22 July at Thought FoundationJane organised and hosted the Endangered Species Conference, 22 July 2019, also held at Thought Foundation.

It was an honour to have the following esteemed speakers deliver inspirational presentations about vulnerable wildlife and the environment at the conference:

Headline Speaker: Will Travers OBE President and Co-Founder Born Free
Dr Melvin Gumal Director WCS Malaysia
Professor Russell Hill Durham University
PC Peter Baker Northumbria Police Wildlife Crime Unit
Elyse Feenan environmental activist and Christine Egan-Fowler Artist Teacher both of Royal Grammar School Newcastle  

In chronological order read about their presentations here:


Following Jane's long-standing partnership with Born Free Foundation for her Drawing for Endangered Species Workshops and subsequent support from Laura Gosset Head of Education, David Bolton Education Officer at Born Free, Jane was delighted Will Travers OBE, President and Co-Founder Born Free agreed to be Headline Speaker at the Endangered Species conference.  

Will Travers unique charisma and compassion shone through during his powerful and illuminating presentation at the conference. An inspirational orator, Will captivated the audience who were riveted by his compelling words about the conservation work of Born Free and the harrowing facts as to the suffering of wildlife in captivity and in the wild. But also to his words of hope for a better future for wildlife as awareness spreads across the globe. 

Born Free was founded by Will's parent's actors Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna and Will in 1984 and has grown from a compassionate family foundation to a global wildlife charity with the following ethos:

"we oppose the exploitation of wild animals in captivity and campaign to keep them where they belong - in the wild." Born Free

Virgina McKenna, Bill Travers and family; image courtesy of Will Travers 

Bill and Virginia played Kenya wildlife conservationists Joy and George Adamson, in the 1966 film Born Free, where Will accompanied his parents on set. During filming several lions played the part of world-famous lioness Elsa; the lions were subsequently kept in captivity and not returned to the wild. 

 Bill Travers during filming of Born Free; image courtesy of Will Travers

Their experiences in Africa during filming led Bill, Virginia and Will to found Born Free, spending many years tirelessly campaigning to keep wildlife in the wild. 

Will's presentation covered many crucial conservation topics including the following:

  • In captivity, the trauma experienced by wildlife such as dolphins which suffer tremendously from being kept in chlorinated water that stings their eyes and causes painful skin irritation

  • Illegal wildlife trade which is driving many species such as elephants, rhinoceros, tigers and pangolins to the brink of extinction 

  • Trophy hunting which leads to practices such as captive breeding & canned hunting of lions and little revenue for countries involved in trophy hunting


Will Travers was clear, humans have to learn to co-exist harmoniously with wildlife and learn to become compassionate as to their needs or we stand to lose an essential commodity that none of us can survive without.


Image courtesy of Will Travers

Will delivers talks regularly about conservation. By signing up for newsletters via Born Free or following Will on Twitter for updates about conservation work future talk dates will also be available. You can also support Born Free through their animal adoption scheme here:

A huge thank you to Will, and all at Born Free including, Laura Gosset Head of Education, David Bolton Education Officer, for their tireless support of Where Did All the Animals Go? project.


Dr. Gumal speaking at the conference on a live-link from Malaysia

Since 2014 Jane has worked with the remarkable Dr. Melvin Gumal, esteemed conservationist, WCS Malaysia Director and winner of Whitley Award for Conservation of Ape Habitat, to create a number of artworks, which highlight the beauty and plight of Malaysian wildlife. Dr. Gumal kindly agreed to a late-night (Malaysia time) appearance at the conference via a live-link from Malaysia!

Dr. Gumal is extremely engaging and his passion for both Malaysian wildlife and wildlife across the globe is infectious. It was a privilege to experience his brilliant presentation which focused on the conservation of Sarawak's orangutans as well as the Malayan tiger. 


Dr. Gumal introduced the origins of the orangutan species ponginae which once ranged from India to the islands of Borneo. Orangutans are related to Gigantopithecus, the largest known primate.

Dr. Gumal sitting next to a replica of a Gigantopithecus to demonstrate their colossal size; image courtesy of Dr.Gumal

Orangutans range has dramatically shrunk and they now exist only in Borneo, Sarawak, and Sumatra. Their conservation status is critically endangered. Conservation of orangutans in Sarawak involves four overlapping components including research, enforcement support, conservation education, and communications and events. 

WCS Malaysia orangutan conservation in Sarawak is focused upon attempting to secure areas in green inhabited by orangutans, highlighted in the map above, as protected areas to join up with the current protected areas in purple. Many orangutans live outside the protected areas.

WCS Malaysia is conducting surveys in the Sedilu-Sebuyau-Lesong area to find out how many orangutans live there, which is no easy task as the area is often flooded and inhabited by crocodiles. Together with SFC, FDS, MACC and SAG (government agencies), 75 SFC and FDS staff have been trained in laws and legal procedures for arrests, SMART patrolling and chain-of-custody for court which has led to successful arrests and prosecutions of poachers.

Another successful conservation approach is training villagers living in longhouses in these areas to protect orangutans. So far 88 villagers representing 13 villages have joined patrols. Surveys have been conducted and show that villagers are concerned about orangutans and that they agree there are benefits in having protected areas. The following activities are also organised with villagers to engage them in the protection of orangutans:

WCS Malaysia also organise public events like Run for the Wild which engage the wider public in orangutan conservation. The belated Chief Minister of Sarawak Tan Sri Haji Adenan Bin Haji Satem appeared on YouTube voicing his concern for orangutans and his will to protect them:

The current Chief Minister also supports conservation which points to positive news for orangutans in Sarawak.


Dr. Gumal explained what tigers need, via the following schematics, in terms of range, reproduction and prey as well as threats to tigers: 

Dr. Gumal explained that tiger numbers have dropped globally, not just in Malaysia:

WCS Malaysia tiger conservation activities in their remaining forest habitats include monthly patrols, snare removals, operations with Government agencies, monitoring of access and biodiversity hotspots using camera traps, and enforcement training workshops. Patrols are conducted by foot, vehicle, boat, and motorcycle. 

Conservationists and Government in Malaysia would also like to have a 2000 strong task force of armed personnel to protect tigers from poachers. The hashtag #LoveYou2000 inspired by the quote 'Love you 3000' from the film Iron Man is being used across social media to emphasis this need. However much more is needed to be done aside from enforcement, including education and gaining public support. 'Little Tiger' a story written by Malaysians and Singaporeans, is helping to achieve more public support for tigers: 

A campaign has been run to sign a petition which has been presented to the Malaysian Government to show Malaysians support for the need of 2000 personnel to protect Malayan tigers.

Looking to the future, Dr. Gumal demonstrated from the above images which shows little change to habitat, that over the last 57 years orangutans have survived in Sarawak. He stated that orangutans have a chance because both the Government and communities support conservation efforts.

However, tigers require much more intensive engagement with effective patrolling, habitat protection, habitat connectivity, and elimination of poaching. The following video about tiger poaching from contains graphic images of a tiger being rescued from a snare. As Dr. Gumal pointed out in his presenation the rescued tiger sheds tears.

Dr. Gumal also demonstrated a very significant point:

"We use tigers in Malaysia for a whole bunch of our corporate logos and tigers are on our national coat of arms."

"Unfortunately, if we are not careful this is what will happen in the future":

"When I show this (image) to various corporate people they get quite upset that the tigers are disappearing and it is for this reason that there is genuine support to try and make sure these animals survive. And we need to make sure it continues to be so. Because this is a future we do want, tigers breeding, tigers coming back, and this large icon continues to be that which Malaysians will hold proud."

Dr. Gumal also thanked the following organisations for their help in the preservation of Malayan tigers and orangutans.

"These donors have helped ensure our work with orangutans and tigers continues and that they continue to exist so that the greater world is able to have them as part of their icons."


Dr. Gumal's hope for the wildlife of Malaysia is that young people will be inspired to become biologists and further protect wildlife and that those of us at the conference would keep orangutans and tigers in our hearts, talk about them with others and support the work of WCS Malaysia

With heartfelt thanks to Dr. Gumal for his imperative talk that put Malaysian wildlife firmly in the hearts of many who attended and whose presence at the conference made it an extremely special day.


Professor Hill speaking at the Endangered Species Conference 2019

With many UK species now facing an uncertain future, it was imperative to invite the venerable Professor Russell Hill of Durham University to the conference to enlighten us about his crucial work on a new online device for monitoring British wildlife, MammalWeb. Professor Hill also shared his fascinating study into leopards in South Africa. 


Studies were conducted by Professor Hill and Durham University into the threats facing South African leopard populations and why some populations are dwindling, by monitoring individual leopards who were fitted with radio collars. Some of the leopards in the study were snared or shot illegally with farmers often killing leopards threatening their livestock. 

Data was also collected from camera traps and the collated data has been used to help change attitudes towards leopards by introducing co-existence solutions such as guardian dogs, to protect livestock from leopard attacks and thus protect leopards from being killed by farmers.



Camera traps are also aiding in a scheme to calculate the populations and distribution of British species. Establishing accurate population statistics is essential to the conservation of vulnerable species. Most population statistics are often guestimates and scientists simply don't know populations of many species, for example, the population of rabbits in the UK is estimated at between 2 million and 36 million. Population accuracy also helps establish whether a species is under threat.

Professor Hill explained that Citizen Scientists, who are volunteers that collect/and or process data, are key to gaining reliable information about the distribution of wildlife throughout the UK. This is achieved through the capturing sightings visually by a camera.

However, it is often challenging monitoring species as many are nocturnal and/or shy which is why camera traps are proving an effective tool. By encouraging people to become wildlife spotters or camera trappers and establishing Mammalweb, Citizen Scientists can upload their images to Mammalweb which monitors distribution and calculates population through photo recognition of individual animals.


Professor Hill stated that conservation needs anthropology it is essential towards the understanding of people's needs in order to encourage co-existence. Conservation also needs a network of Citizen Scientists to connect people and encourage them to become more engaged in the conservation of wildlife. In light of recent findings that 60% UK wildlife has disappeared since 1970, the fore-mentioned is more urgent than ever.

A huge thank you to Professor Hill for a brilliant presentation and for giving his time to talk at the conference. If you would like to become a spotter or camera trapper to help conserve British wildlife find out more here:


PC Baker speaking at the Endangered Species Conference 2019

Conference attendees were fortunate to enjoy an illuminating presentation from a real wildlife hero! PC Peter Baker of Northumbria Police Wildlife Crime Unit not only informed attendees of the various types of wildlife crime in the UK, he also spoke of his own experiences in his quest to achieve justice for individual animals cruelly treated, through the prosecution of perpetrators of animal cruelty.

PC Baker has made many successful prosecutions against criminals who seek to abuse animals, during his career as a police officer. PC Baker has kindly collated his talk into the slide presentation at the end of this article, which clearly defines wildlife crimes:


PC Baker's hope is that more people learn to understand the importance of reporting wildlife crime and become compassionate citizens towards animals.  
"People tend to ignore wildlife crime thinking the police won’t do anything but people who commit wildlife crime are often involved in other types of crime so we must report crimes against wildlife.” PC Peter Baker, Northumbria Police Wildlife Crime Unit  


If you become aware of an incident involving the harming of wildlife or witness a crime against wildlife you should report it to Northumbria Police in the same way as any other incident. If the matter is urgent i.e. you or other members of the public are in danger the offenders are in the area / continuing to commit offences.

Call 999

For less urgent matters where you want to report an incident involving wildlife or a wildlife crime, you should call 101 or report the matter online using one of the links on the Northumbria Police website.

If you want general advice on wildlife-related matters or simply want to get a message to a Northumbria Police Wildlife Crime Officer contact the

Wildlife Co-ordinator Don Churchill

Tel: 0191 4373615  E-Mail:

Address: The Wildlife Co-ordinator, Northumbria Police, Communications & Operations Department, Force Resilience Unit (FRU) Etal Lane Police Station, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE5 4AW


Image courtesy of Northumbria Police


PC Baker's efforts in the fight against wildlife crime and animal cruelty has recently received a much-deserved Special Recognition award from the RSPCA for their PawPrints Awards which you can read about here:

Enormous thank you to PC Baker for a magnificent presentation and for his work protecting vulnerable animals and wildlife across the North East.


Elyse Feenan speaking at the Endangered Species Conference 2019

It was a privilege to welcome awe-inspiring environmental activist, Elyse Feenan of the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle to speak at the conference. Elyse attended Jane's Drawing for Endangered Species workshop in 2018, working with Christine Egan-Fowler, Artist Teacher at RGS.

Following the workshop, Elyse created her own recycling project at RGS after which she approached Christine project co-instigator and partner, to ask if she could deliver a presentation of her findings at the Endangered Species Conference.

With art, education, young people and wildlife at the beating heart of the project it was an honour experience Elyse's eloquent and mature presentation at the conference. Many people who attended reported that their recycling habits have dramatically changed since hearing Elyse's talk.

Elyse was also accompanied by Christine and together they conducted an audience 'ideas swap' asking attendees how they could improve their recycling regime. 

Elyse has kindly allowed the publication of her project paper here:

THE NORTH EAST GOES GREEN Elyse Feenan Royal Grammar School

This article was originally written as a guideline for our students, their families and teachers. However I believe it is important to educate others so we can get more people involved in recycling and saving the planet, therefore we would appreciate it if you gave two minutes of your time to read this newsletter on how you can make a difference. This academic year, at School Council, we have been discussing ways to improve our school by becoming more environmentally friendly. This includes how often we recycle, the way we travel to school, and how much food is wasted at lunchtimes. In some cases, waste is inevitable, but we hope that this short article will help you realise that by changing small things in your routine you could be seriously changing the environment for the better.


Our planet is ever changing, full of wonder, and the one place we all call home. When humans built their first settlements, about 10,000 years ago, the world around them was mostly green and full of wildlife. However, as the human population has grown, we have found that more and more waste is being produced. Unfortunately due to this our planet is starting to deteriorate. Shockingly in 2016, the world generated 2.01 billion tonnes of waste and a significant amount ended up in our oceans, destroying sea life and their habitats. What we do now in the next 10 to 20 years will determine the future of our life on Earth, but how can we make a difference?


As a school, we have found we haven’t been recycling as well or as often as we should be. We’ve talked to pupils about this problem, and discovered there has been some confusion about what goes in which bin. Did you know that if you put an item that is not recyclable in a recycle bin, it contaminates all of the recycled waste, which then has to be treated as general waste? For example if you had a bin full of paper and cardboard then you put an apple in there, the whole bin would then have to be treated as general waste, which could end up in a land fill. There is a financial cost too:

General waste bins cost £13:00 to empty

Recycle bins cost £9:00 to empty

This means we save £4:00 every time we recycle. Plastic water bottles are the most common plastic thrown away. To avoid this altogether we suggest people bring a reusable water bottle into school or work to avoid plastic being wasted.

I have found that recycling is also interlinked with saving endangered species. Did you know it takes a minimum of 400 years for plastic to naturally decompose? In that time it floats on the surface of our seas harming sea life. If we recycle plastic we can save these animals from dying by swallowing our old bottle tops and straws.


Do you know our school generates 1320 kilograms of food waste PER WEEK? That is same as 17 full bathtubs.  Imagine every school and working institution in the North East created the same amount of waste each week. I guarantee the numbers would shock you. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 20 percent of what goes into landfills is food.  Therefore we would advise: If you know you won’t eat it, don’t take it.


Recently the school council did a travel survey on how people get to school. Have you ever considered a greener way of travelling to school or work? If so, what’s stopping you? Pollution levels are rising in Newcastle and around the globe. 319 people were surveyed. Our school is in Jesmond and the results of our survey showed that 112 people lived in Newcastle/Jesmond/Gosforth area. 53 of those still took the car to school. If you live so close to school or work, do you really need to take the car? Think of the money you could save if you walked or took public transport instead. 168 people of 319 surveyed said they would like to start travelling in a greener way, is there any way you could start doing this?

We hope that these facts and ideas have made you more aware of how you can help the environment at school, work and at home. Get your family, friends and neighbours involved. I’m sure everyone can think of at least one way they can personally help this campaign or change their habits to become greener. These may seem like only marginal gains, but even a small change can make a big difference! 


Elyse believes that if we can all take simple action to change the way we recycle, together we can make a big difference. She urged attendees to discuss her findings with family and friends and help them understand why change is good for our environment.

With gratitude to Elyse for her outstanding contribution both to her school and to the conference and to Christine for her tireless help with the project. 

Elyse is an inspiration and impressed many with her compassionate interest in the environment, including Jane and Born Free, who have since offered Elyse the opportunity of founding her own Environmental Club.