Surely, you all know the starfish story by now: a boy comes across a man standing on the beach amidst endless starfish, picking them up one at a time and tossing them back to their ocean home. The boy asks, "What are you doing? There are so many. You'll never make a difference to all these starfish." The man picks up another and returns it to the water and replies, "I made a difference to that one."
Born Free truly believes that the individual matters. We will do all we can to not only save species, but to rescue individual animals in need: the cheetah captured in Ethiopia for the Middle Eastern pet trade; the lion languishing in a Bulgarian circus; the macaque suffering in a roadside zoo in America.
However, I was astounded a few years ago to find out that current US law allows the importation of primates if they are for scientific research, or "education," or zoo exhibition ... but that they are not allowed to be rescued by a bona fide rescue facility such as the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary.
I was stunned and frustrated, increasingly so, as communications kept coming in, asking for our help. A female spider monkey spent at least 14 years of her life tied up with a rope around her waist outside of an unused holiday resort in Honduras; a yellow baboon named Chiwawa in Tanzania was kept as a pet, isolated from members of her own species; there were three captive baboons in Kuwait; a baboon in a dilapidated Lebanese zoo; hundreds of macaques in an Israeli breeding farm; baboons in a zoo in Uruguay ... the list is too long.
I understand that the law is as it is to prevent unscrupulous primate dealers and breeders from importing animals. And, at the time the law was written, that made sense. But now, we have the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) to accredit sanctuaries and confirm which ones, like ours, are true sanctuaries - seeking to rescue animals in need and provide them a humane home for life.
Born Free is about action and righting wrongs. So, we've set out to help Congress pass the Sanctuary Regulatory Fairness Act to undo this burdensome, outdated, and, quite frankly, absurd federal regulation.
The Sanctuary Regulatory Fairness Act (H.R. 3294/S. 1898) simply requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to include certified animal sanctuaries within the categories for which primates may be imported. Only high-quality sanctuaries that meet standards set out by GFAS can participate under this new rule, to ensure that we're not opening the door to a loophole for pseudo-sanctuaries.
How simple is that? Determine which sanctuaries qualify; approve them against a set of the highest standards in the country; allow sanctuaries in America to rescue primates from wherever the need exists.
My colleague, Kate Dylewsky, is walking the halls of Congress with complete determination to convince senators and representatives that this is the right thing to do for animals. And, she needs your help! Contact your senators and your member of Congress, asking for their help in passing this narrowly-crafted and important bill.
You have the power to contribute in an effort to save the life of a suffering macaque or baboon thousands of miles away.
If we can make a difference to just one ...
Keep Wildlife in the Wild,