Tuesday, 8 November 2011

HRH Princess Alia Al Hussein's presentation at the WAHO conference held in Doha, Qatar, November 2011

A full copy of the presentation given by HRH Princess Alia Al Hussein:

Although the title of this talk is "equine Human relations in today's world," I hope you will forgive me if i begin with some reflections upon the wider relations between humans and animals in Yesterday's world, by way of "setting the scene", and trying to see not only where we are now but how (how on EARTH!) we got to this…

The relationship between animals and humans in the times of our ancestors was much clearer I think. Hunting was for most a necessity yet performed with appreciation of and respect for the hunted creatures-it was not purely massacre, and it was set within a real framework as was most interaction between our predecessors and the natural world. There were cultural and religious procedures that were STRICTLY OBSERVED, unlike today, where most guidelines are often purely mechanical, performed (if at all correctly) in a perfunctory manner and with no real empathy.

Buddhism not only respects- but avoids in any way jeopardizing the lives of -even the tiniest insects. In Shamanism, creatures are often regarded by individuals as their spiritual guides, or "totems". Nearer at hand, and more familiar to most of us, the three monotheistic religions all have strong guidelines for interacting with the natural world: guidelines based upon mercy and respect. We are told that King Solomon altered the course of his entire army to avoid trampling a colony of ants: Islam and Islamic history, from the Prophet to his Companions and on, has directives and requirements for the treatment of animals and even plants which are stricter than many welfare organizations would dream of, surprising though this may seem. One of the most telling examples is the event where the prophet Muhammad, also at the head of a huge army, posted a soldier to stand guard over a dog with new born puppies by the path. The sentry was to stay with her until all the troops had passed by, in order to ensure that nobody would bother them. Islam also, while fully acknowledging Christ's ability to heal the sick and raise the dead, cites an earlier of his miracles : his modeling of a dove from clay and then breathing life into it…his ability of ,with God's Guidance, giving life- the "greatest gift of all!" - was not restricted to human beings…

The fact is that our predecessors-and not so long ago either- only a generation or two in some parts of the world- were ALL aware of the sacredness of life whatever the species and - especially in the near and far east-they were also fully aware of animals as sentient beings. Yet In spite of St Francis of Assisi and many others who famously interacted with all creatures and had firsthand knowledge not only of the sentiency but sophisticated thought processes of all creatures , it took until 1999 for the modern European Community to officially recognized the sentiency of animals!

So there has clearly been a degeneration in the attitude of humans towards the rest of Creation… and this has accelerated along with every other aspect of worldly life, during the past century. Huge numbers of humans with their associated needs- magnified into DEMANDS thanks to both public and social media- call for equally huge resources to be put at their disposal. Logistics do not necessarily encourage humane attitudes-pressures prevent us from thinking about the essentials, often, and the one thing that most of us are encouraged to do is to "Get ahead", -make more money- bigger names for ourselves- provide for our loved ones-often by giving them more and more intrinsically superficial values and gadgets which take away from our interaction with the natural world; from what is REAL, GROUNDING-and terrifyingly- ENDANGERED!

Horses. We are all here at this WAHO conference because of some form of interest, love-commitment, not only to horses but particularly to the Arabian horse-the "versatile", horse- the Improver-whose genes have contributed to all warmblood breeds and several others as well.

We felt, I believe, fairly safe and cocooned in our "Arabian horse world", as recently as twenty years ago. Yes, there were muffled outcries at the surfacing abusive trends in the training of show horses across the ocean, but while we abhorred it we also felt slightly complacent that THIS would never catch on anywhere else. I, for one, WAS alarmed at how soon that complacency was cracked when the European and Australasian show scene began to follow suit, but I was still naive and SURE that "Once ALL the Arab countries get really involved in the Arabian Show scene this will change-they will NEVER accept these excesses. We will be horrified and vocal and help to wake everyone up, and put our resources behind stopping the abuse. I believed it fully- but sadly, whether through our blind belief in the word of trainers and dealers, or through willfully blinding ourselves to the reality behind reactions of horses in the ring, or ANYWHERE when "Stood up", by most handlers, -WHATEVER the reason, we have not done and are not DOING right by our horses. I -regretfully but openly-include Jordan in this, because while do truly try our best to ensure that our SHOWS do not feature abuse, and make our owners aware of the issues, there are still many owners who do not "GET IT", and while loving their horses still either do not recognize OR turn a blind eye to bad handling and scared horses.

The show scene has become actually a TRIAL for many spectators to attend. Those that do not have horses entered don't come because it is not a pleasure to see a vast majority of frightened animals. Those that care too much to subject their horses TO abuse often feel that they can’t compete with the "professional" scene- and so give up-many are giving up their whole LIVES with horses when not being able to compete against the wind. Yet attempts at strict rule enforcement are often countered by pleas for leniency towards the "professionals, "with comments like "they are only doing their JOB- it’s their livelihood." In truth, it is ACTUALLY those relative few who are ruining the livelihoods of many, along with the sanity and wellbeing of their possibly beautiful but internally damaged charges. Exaggerating? When you walk through a barn full of fabulous deep straw bedding and big looseboxes, wonderful ventilation and (no doubt) the BEST food and medical care-ALL the "pluses", cited commonly by the professional trainers and handlers- you may be impressed… until you see a large strong beautiful mare prick her ears at the sound of one famous handler WAY down the corridor and collapse on the ground in a heap, scrabbling in the lovely deep bedding to get OUT-to go ANYWHERE away from that voice, even out through the back wall of her cement loosebox. Then you are not only unimpressed- if you are like me, you are feeling physically nauseous. Especially when the overseer entrusted by the owner with this huge project shrugs sheepishly and says, " Russian bloodlines", or some equally ridiculous excuse.

So the Show scene is not in great shape-and from the little I have seen, this is true of several other Breed shows to greater or lesser degrees. Much stress, much travel, little consideration for the horses. The more dangerous aspect for the future-aside from the breeders and owners leaving the scene (and who are the ones who ensure continuation of any breed) -is the negative transformation of the Versatile improver, the tough prepotent intelligent BRAVE (and yes, beautiful) Arabian into a cowering or aggressive neurotic flimsy travesty; not only off-putting to non-Arabian horse people, but with questionable potential for any life outside the show ring and a very poor prospect for the long-term viability of the breed.

Some of us decide to give other Horse sports a try-because we love horses and everything about them-the smell of their breath, their feed, their leather tack- just being in some way a part of their world. So we try endurance- polo- dressage- racing. Endurance and polo, though much derided and often cited as abusive by "show people", wanting to accuse other equine sports of abuse (as if two wrongs ever made one right)...both of these sports-and i do mean when performed PROPERLY -are often loved by the horses. Endurance involves exercise, and when training and feeding are performed realistically and there is not the typical modern stress of ego to WIN AT ALL costs (too often the horse's cost) then it can be a great sport. A real partnership and mutual understanding between equine and human; reciprocal respect and affection; sustained physical effort culminating in a wonderful bond- and often deeply fulfilling performances resulting from really knowing each other . Sometimes spectacular unexpected wins, but in their absence STILL enormous satisfaction and contentment after a long days' effort spent in amicable competition with other like- minded friends both human and equine, concluded safely. In such cases, it is a Great sport.

Polo also, for the horses with an aptitude for the game and trained and ridden by good sensitive riders, can be highly enjoyable. Many polo ponies appear to truly LOVE the game. I know of several "old hands", well trained ponies who actually do a little shift of weight or skip to correct the seat of an inexperienced rider, and are themselves great teachers. As with any other horse sport, if the human part of the equation has too little consideration or too much ego, then of course it can be disastrous. Too little SKILL on the rider's part is often less of an issue, because horses, like other speechless creatures, understand our hearts and are willing to put up with much physical discomfort quite contentedly as long as there is love and consideration. As long as the rules are clear. As long as things make sense. It is when things become bizarre- when punishments given for standing in a natural way- or REWARDS are given for achieving a required pose which is UNCOMFORTABLE- praise for something painful- punishment for not doing ANYTHING WRONG. That is when horses can start to lose their minds.

Racing, show jumping, dressage-again, in the modern world, these have problems. We all know about the huge number of non-starters, young horses not up to the promise of their pedigrees or who broke down too early- sent to meat factories. Horses who may need a few months of rest to be great competitors NEXT year, but are put down because it is quicker to claim insurance on them and buy a new one to compete on- and if successful sell on-FAST before it fails and the price goes down. On and on selling and ridiculously huge prices until the creature fails. Then, unless it is a great breeding prospect -off to the meat factory.

For dressage, the old time consuming basic training, of the Classical schools such as the Spanish riding School of Vienna and the Cadre Noir of France, are largely ignored in modern dressage. These techniques and training plans took into consideration the essentials such as the maturity (both physical and MENTAL) of the horses for each stage: the necessity for protecting developing joints and tendons and for preserving sensitive mouths. Riders were not allowed to TOUCH the reins of a horse until they had completed I believe it was two years of training and would not compromise the horses by heavy handedness. No bleeding mouths, no over-flexion, no "blue tongues", to sicken spectators. Those classically trained horses last, they perform their exercises for many years before retiring. The average age of competition horses in Europe a couple of years ago- i am not aware of the more recent statistics-was EIGHT years old. Disposable beings.

And yet, though there are so very many horses that don't make the grade and are sent off to slaughter or are just neglected- do we stop breeding so many? Do we attempt to only produce realistic numbers for which we can do our best to guarantee a reasonable future? Oh no, instead we breed by ever more artificial means- extracting the last possible penny from the parents with no consideration for THEIR part in the lives they beget: stallions are harvested often much too young , totally ignoring the truths behind the Chinese philosophy which equates male energy with the "Life force", itself…. MARES are also often harvested mercilessly for embryo transfer- not just in rare cases where a rare strain or bloodline is attempting to be preserved-which COULD perhaps justify embryo transfer on a small scale- but for other reasons-selfish reasons. How often have we heard, "This is NOT a brood mare-she is a SHOW MARE that produces babies ". She needs to keep her figure to attend shows- or alternatively, it may be pure greed in wanting to have as MANY eggs as possible to sell from a famous expensive mare. So she is pumped with hormones again and again. I think not only the ladies among you, but any gentleman who has a wife daughter or sister will understand how such things affect our well-being… and these poor mares rarely if ever are allowed the fulfilling conclusion of it all- a warm live foal to love, teach, and nurture.

I frankly find equally offensive the fact that the carrier mares-often large gentle souls but not esteemed enough to be bred themselves-are regarded with amusement and derision when they produce the "Jewel", they have been carrying on behalf of the more aristocratic genetic dam. I have seen them laughed at and called ugly while they are still serving their required purpose, nurturing or even still carrying the other's foal- no respect at all. And it is worth remembering that surrogate dams DO contribute to the physical as well as temperamental make-up of the creature they carry. Humans cannot attempt to "Play God", without serious repercussions ... I apologize for depressing you, but if we just close our eyes and ears to the truth, then we really cannot help to make the future brighter for anyone. There IS however good news. There is at last a large, loud, and I think serious outcry about show abuse. (I know because having the questionable benefit of being on the ECAHO Show Commission I am quite regularly being upbraided for being ineffectual and useless) - and I don't blame those who say that -any committee is often a good way of delaying action, and with the best will in the world, action is often HORRIBLY slow. But i DO believe that the present outcry, if sustained, may help us to bring about change-by waking up the owners to reality- to the suffering of their horses- by empowering officials, from judges to DC s to ring stewards to being far more effective-and helping push us into far more practical action and decisions.

As for the trainers, I also believe that many are as desensitized to what they are doing, as are children playing violent video games to real war footage. I know from myself that the more I think about and really become acquainted with the feelings and senses of others, the more I become aware of HOW desensitized I WAS, often not perceiving things which are in fact truly distressing. So instead of just criticizing the trainers I DO think that we need to actually TRY (at least) to get them to understand what the effects are of what they do.

One example- A horse who was having serious episodes of bizarre stress-sudden, hysterical behaviour- apparently flashbacks. With the help of a horse whisperer a story unfolded-and I do realize that many of you will dismiss this as fantasy, but bear with me- I ghoulishly -and in view of the almost self-damaging violence of the episodes expected a tale of beatings, the infamous cattle-prods, etc etc. But instead there was a show arena- identifiable from the description - then some "shaking", (flapping of a bag or plastic thing to just wake up the young creature in the ring-nothing violent nor mean- but disturbing to the youngster. Then a lovely box, security- a solid box not a temporary show one (this fitted with the identification of the Show arena and fitted with the horse's history, as did the whole story, but the "whisperer"-or "listener" if you like- knew none of this). Wonderful sense of peace and security in this box, but then the door opened and someone came in and began shaking and jazzing the horse up-AGAIN-and though it was not cruelly meant nor threatening, there was a sickening sense of "EVEN here there is no PEACE",.. the security shattered… Now how many of us would think that this would be THAT upsetting? A young horse at a show, people interested to see him after classes- visit his box, ' come on, wake up now, look good"… but to HIM it affected his whole sense of order and there was no security anywhere- for years. Now this story may be sheer imagination on the part of the Whisperer, merely coinciding with the known facts horse's real history It may be that this horse WAS horribly abused, but the apparently banal and understated events described made it so much more plausible to me...it is NOT, as the trainers may think-just serious beatings and real pain that does the damage-it can be FAR FAR smaller seemingly harmless patterns. AND IT IS UNNECESSARY. THAT is what we ALL need to underline.

We know that horses are great strong creatures-even a foal can be hugely difficult to manage if it decides to be obstreperous- but this merely underlines the obvious fact: If horses did NOT have a basic willingness to work with humans, if they were INTRINSICALLY vicious uncooperative creatures just waiting for a chance to "Be the boss", "Take control", or harm us, they would not throughout history have been such wonderful companions, so patient and tolerant of our mistakes and harshness (whether intended or otherwise) or so willing to be our workmates and our friends. Horses have individual characters which in a herd will form parts of an intricate whole, each with a role according to his or her natural abilities and each complementing the roles of the others. There are outstandingly sensitive ones- perceived as "flighty"; their natural ability to sense danger, find food and water, and to take fast decisions allows the herd to rely on them as Scouts. These will probably not be best suited to certain pursuits in which loud noise and total obedience-lack of individual initiative-are main components. There are the natural "defenders", often strong males who are commonly perceived as DRIVING the herd, but in fact are "guarding the rear", protecting the rear or any vulnerable spot while THE SCOUT -often a strong minded and quick-witted MARE- leads them out of danger. Such a defender would not be idea for a job where he has to be mindlessly obeying orders however alien to his understanding.

The key is not to assume that horses are lying in wait waiting to "take over"…it is in making things as clear as possible, gaining their trust and in return respecting and trusting THEM. Thus, when we require something which does NOT make sense or is alarming to them, like crossing a busy street. They will accept that we know THIS urban and man-made environment, and trust us not to put them in danger- especially if we in return trust THEM in THEIR natural environment, don't force them to walk past a grove of trees where they may have sensed a predator hiding, or to take a path which they sense is unsafe footing… In any partnership, trusting each other to do what is best for both and to take the lead in their own field of "expertise” is the best way. By the same logic, forcing an unsuitable job on a creature whose individual talents and NATURE are in opposition to it, is a recipe for problems. We should understand that and not set ourselves AND the horse up for failure by insisting what a specific creature must do if it is intrinsically unsuited to it. Otherwise yes there MAY be huge battles, and because we have more technical and physical ways of controlling the horses we may force them into our mould- but at great loss to both sides-including physical danger and worse-loss of HUMANITY.

We need to comprehend that when horses refuse a request or directive it is usually because they physically cannot do it- or find it hard-like obeying a particular order while on the wrong LEG. Or because it is painful-they may have a physical issue of which we are not yet aware- or again they may be just asking us to confirm what it is we want. If they have performed a new task well several times and suddenly seem reluctant to keep doing so, it is probably not stubbornness or stupidity- it is most likely, " Are you SURE you want this AGAIN? We already DID that over and over"… Sometimes they are "testing", us, asking us who WE really are-horses are amazing teachers and-  when permitted- healers….

Back to the good news- there is a HUGE trend towards people wanting to use non damaging and kinder methods in their interaction with horses. However - and I do feel this is important to understand- some of the "Natural Horsemanship" methods- most notably those involving chasing away the horse in a round pen-can be quite as damaging as physical abuse-perhaps more-as they strip the creature of its will - FAST and what is left is an apathetic shell. True there was no outward cruelty and CERTAINLY the intention is good, but it is based upon incomplete or partial truths. True, wild horses keep newcomers outside the group until they have assessed how (if at all) they will fit into the complex herd system. If accepted-both newcomer and herd having had up to three days sometimes, in which to observe and figure things out-then there is usually a smooth blending- no fighting and injury-risking, nor damage to the valuable grass around by churning it up in the process. If NOT accepted, the newcomer has the option of finding other company-it is not hemmed in, being chased away but with nowhere to GO, and only total submission and loss of identity as the alternative. That way is a form of domination- and we all know that broken minds and wills can be far harder to heal than broken bodies. So if you want to try natural methods, do read up on them from several angles, and use your own sense and observation as well. You are probably more in tune and have HEARD more from your own horse than any expert can teach you…trust your hearts.

We all know that horses are not just enchanting, a healthy pastime for teenagers, ego-boosters, work companions or facilitators, entertainers - but as I mentioned earlier, they are ALSO healers. Arab tradition tells us that they bear good fortune, that they ensure Divine assistance to their owners in caring for them, that they are comets combatting negative forces. I believe that they really do filter away negative energies, but they do more than that. I would like to end this talk with a few happy stories-stories of our horses at the Growing Together project run in Jordan for children on the autistic spectrum and others with emotional disorders and some physical special needs.

This project was started only a year ago, using mainly retired horses, some are rescue cases-none had any specific training. The children meet the horses, and within minutes each child has been "chosen", by one of the horses -the bond between them acknowledged by some physical indication on the part of the horse. The program develops at the individual speed required by each child- some are extremely anxious by just being outdoors- some want to sit on the horse from day one-others take weeks to get CLOSE enough to touch one. But there have been some seeming miracles and almost if not all have shown truly amazing progress. From non-speaking at ALL, to calling out to the horse-from agoraphobia to roaming around the hillside confidently-from lack of coordination to playing football with friends, from lack of self-expression to joining in discussions and making choices.

One little boy of seven had poor physical coordination, and had never spoken at all. He was walking down the hill with "his" horse, past an enclosure of wildlife rescued from local zoos. Suddenly Suyen, who runs the program, heard what sounded like, "WOLF". She turned to the child's carer in surprise at hearing the English word. Again they heard, "WOLF", and now the child was pointing at the wolves watching through the fence. The carer was almost in tears; yes the little boy heard English spoken at home, but never had he spoken in ANY language before. Several months later, his physical development continues to grow along with his verbal vocabulary- but he is probably the first child ever to be PRAISED for "Crying "Wolf"!

Another small boy who did speak occasional words (but never linked two to make a phrase) attends with his mother, their school not being able to afford extra carers to accompany the children on these visits. (The sessions are all a free service, but carers attend with the children.) This mother was thrilled when, on days that she would tell her child, "No school today", he would respond with, "Husan (horse)". The fact that he was clearly drawing conclusions-linking lack of school with a reason- a visit to the stables-was a huge step in what she saw as his development. After a few weeks of walking near a mare, he progressed to leading her himself and then came the best moment of all for his mother: he had never expressed emotions before, but suddenly he said in Arabic, "I love horse", and went up the mare and kissed her. He has continued progressing so fast from then that he not only chats away to his family-he is about to join mainstream school this year, God Willing.

On that note, I will conclude this talk with a short film of how the relationship between horses and humans CAN be….. I hope the talk has not been too exhausting or boring, and thank you for your patience.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

An update on (T)Eddie!

It has been five months since we waved (T)Eddie off from New Hope as he made his way to Austria. Below is an update from Stefan who is in charge of our little friend...

Eddie is preparing himself, also like the other bears, for wintertime. He eats a huge amount of food, especially weight full things like grapes, meat and nuts. This year we had big luck with the beech nuts. A mass of them fell down to the ground and the bears had only to pick them up. Because of that, all bears are in a very good condition of their weight.

Eddie seems also ready for hibernation. He got his winter fur and looks now like a furry ball.

The temperatures are sometimes close to zero at night and there is also frost. Eddie prefers it to stay in his cave in the afternoon and during the night. He brings all his toys into it and plays inside because of the bad weather.

He still wants to play with us. I try to find time every evening to run with him, of course with the fence between us. We are running up and down and he gets very tired (also me). After some minutes he goes his own way and searches for food or has a nap.

Between him and the other bears is still no possibility for co-housing . Brumca keeps him at distance if he comes to close to the fence. Maybe next year at mating-season Brumca will be open for something new! Now we are hoping that Eddie goes to hibernation in the wintertime.

Have a look at the pictures to see just how well he is doing!


Thursday, 23 June 2011

Growing Together... Where Miracles Happen

For the last couple of weeks before I left Amman, and certainly since my return to the UK, people have been asking me,

“WHAT is it that you do DO?”

And in my attempt to answer that question I started thinking…..
Nine months ago, like a child, the thought of Growing Together emerged quietly into reality from the depths of dreams and half-formed ideas…Thanks to the Princess Alia Foundation, those feelings and beliefs were given the opportunity to take form and become real, bringing together hope and actuality into a programme of equine therapy for children with specialised needs.

In those nine months, we have had many stories of positive behavioural change, much anecdotal evidence of happier children, amazed teachers and thrilled parents, and day to day experience with children who are interacting and communicating more with the world around them.
There is the fifteen year old boy who no longer sits all day inside four walls afraid to leave his room, the boy who talks to his mother in sentences instead of sounds, the girl who summons what little upper-body muscle tone she has to hold herself upright independently on her horse, the boy who is wheel-chair bound and was able to be placed on a horse and rode, and the boy who spoke his first word ever when he pointed and said, “WOLF!!”

We have other stories too of course, stories of constant frustration with parents who refuse to share their children’s successes because of the social taboo in having an autistic child…stories of teachers who refuse to be pro-active with their students because it’s easier to sit doing nothing than to engage…stories of sponsors who moved the goal-posts and left us shaken….. Shaken, but not stirred… Growing Together will continue to function regardless of the vagaries of sponsors for at least another year.

During these past months, several professionals in the fields of psychology have approached Growing Together with the intention of committing the work to paper for academic review, but as I have told them, how can you measure a qualitative change in quantitative terms? There is no way we can record the changes to the children in a scientific manner because we do not have a control group, and the variables are infinite…But regardless of this obstacle, we have still had graduates observing the programme and commenting upon the positive changes they have observed in children’s behaviour. Their findings will be written up later this year.
For me personally, Growing Together has been a huge blessing and gift from the Universe. It has allowed me to work daily with animals I love, admire and respect, and to share those feelings with children and people that might otherwise never encounter the true gentleness of spirit that resides within every equine…The healing Power of horses has been recognised for centuries among many peoples, and it is truly an honour to be able to introduce the concept of equine therapy through Growing Together.

I have also been blessed with the help and assistance of many exceptional individuals, among them Lt. Col. Faisal Sherif, the Director of the Royal Stables, and his staff. Ghalia Norredin, the ever solid and organized Director of Development and Programmes at PAF. Our amazing “Go-Getter”, Sarra Ghazi Nasser, the CEO of PAF, and photographer extraordinaire, the teachers of all the schools that tolerate my lack of Arabic but still manage to co-ordinate with me, and of course, HRH Princess Alia…I cannot stress strongly enough what a truly genuine and beautiful person we are blessed to have at the head of the foundation…Unlike so many people in positions of influence, Princess Alia actually DOES make a difference and IS the good we want to see in the world.

When the mother of a dear friend asked me that question,

“And, what is it you do?”

I told her the answer was very simple….

“I walk up and down a hill all day leading horses, and God does the rest.”

Suyen Talken-Sinclair
Project Director
Growing Together

Monday, 30 May 2011

Little Teddy-Eddie embarks on a new journey...

Over the past seven months which Teddy-Eddie has been with us at New Hope, we have watched him grow, play, learn to trust and overcome some of his bad memories. We have shared with him many hours of laughter, joy and some heart-ache too.
We have been pushed to the limit of our creativity trying to come up with new ways and toys to keep him busy and we are proud to say in some things we have been successful! The one factor we are united on is that this little bear has stolen all of our hearts and will forever hold those pieces with him.

We have been blessed to have had the knowledge, experience and support of many who have shared in our love for Teddy namely; Stefan Knopfer (Arbesbach Bear Park,Vier-Pfoten International), Sharon Holden (all the way from Australia), Suyen Talken-Sinclair, Annelie De-Klerk and Herbert (Lionsrock SA), and most importantly the staff of New Hope - Dr. Zain Shaheen, Thair and Ismail without whose devotion, time, willingness and care we would not have been able to provide the care needed for this particular little one. There are two very special individuals who must be mentioned...Erik and Josje Dorssers, from Holland who have supported Teddy throughout his stay at New Hope. They have offered him the best possible food, enrichment, care and love and for this we will forever be in their debt.
Since the spring, we started to notice that although Teddy was in very good physical condition, we were not able to provide for his mental health. He was missing the one thing we could not provide...his family. Having been separated at birth from his mother and sibling (who sadly did not survive), Teddy was in desperate need of the physical and mental stimulation of his bear family. Having contacted Vier-Pfoten International and with their generosity and help the decision was taken to move Teddy to Abersbasch Bear Park in Austria with the hope that he may be adopted by a grand old female bear already happily settled at the park. The wheels were set in motion. We built the crate, did the paper work and started the count down to the start of Teddy's next big adventure.

This morning, May 30th 2011, we set off bright and early (5:00am to be precise!!) to New Hope to load Teddy into his crate and bid him a bon voyage.

Paperwork ready and in hand all that was left to do was to say 'Au Revoir' (never goodbye) and watch as Teddy started the first leg of his journey to his new home and God willing a better life.
The day passed slowly for all of us as we watched our phones for news of Teddy. Finally at 3:00pm the news we had been waiting for came; Teddy had arrived safe and sound at Vienna airport and after a quick vet check and some fresh water he set off on the second leg of his great adventure - his car ride to the bear park.
We are happy to report that Teddy arrived at the bear park at 7pm and was greeted by a 'Welcome  Teddy-Eddie poster along with a big basket filled with a little teddy bear, lollipops, fruit and sweets and  after long and stressful day of travel Teddy was released into his new enclosure and quickly set about  exploring his new surroundings.
We wait anxiously for more news on the progress of little Teddy-Eddie and meanwhile we take with us the lessons we learned through our time with Teddy; those of heart break, joy, love and trust...
Picture courtesy of Erik and Josje Dorssers

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Spring at Growing Together

With the coming of Spring, and a profusion of flowers and greenery on site, Growing Together has acquired itself a new logo. Many thanks to Iona Fournie-Tombs, who took my rough concept and made it into a cyber-friendly reality!! As you may realize, the horse in the design bears a striking resemblance to Iago, and it is no little coincidence that the horse also sports a small star!

In my trusty “Insight Guide to Jordan” I recently read that Islamic Traditions attribute their (the horses’) source to the South Wind:

Then God took a handful of wind and fashioned from it a chestnut horse. He said, “I have created you, Arabian Horse; I have moulded you from the wind; I have tied Good Fortune to your mane; you will fly without wings; you will be the noblest among animals……God then blessed the horse with the sign of glory and happiness and marked his forehead with a star…”

Although I can claim total ignorance of all of this when I did the first rough sketches for the logo several months ago, I think it is strangely fitting that it should all have worked out so beautifully.

Another new addition to Growing Together is a wonderful play apparatus, generously donated by Shakir Mohammed Esmayeel of EAM Textiles. The play equipment had been in storage for a year waiting for “the right cause” to come along, and we were lucky enough to have been judged worthy! The children really love the equipment, as can be seen in some of the photographs, and it is a real Godsend when the children have to wait for their turn with the horses.

In fact, some children are SO enamoured that they rather play on the slides than on the horses! But that is fine too, since the real purpose is to have the children enjoy themselves and to interact socially. And with the clement weather and increased rainfall, our lake now holds many dozens of frogs and toads which some of the children take great delight in watching.

For those of our followers who are Arabian Horse enthusiasts in the UK, there is now an article on Growing Together in the Arabian Magazine edited by Sam Mattocks. It is hoped that the international audience of the magazine might include a child-loving philanthropist or two!

Although it has only been a couple of months since my last Blog entry, we have had some amazing developments at Growing Together with the children.

The boy who has had high-anxiety issues for many years will now walk down the track happily beside a horse and, with encouragement from his teacher, holds onto the lead rope as well. Three weeks ago he finally found the courage to actually touch the horse, albeit for only a fraction of a second, but he did repeat the gesture two more times! Too fast to be caught on camera though so we have no photographic evidence …Yet!! Nonetheless, the memory of the smile that flashed onto his face as he realized just what he had done is an image that I will never forget. Sheer unadulterated JOY.

Another young lad, about nine years of age, has lived with the complications caused by his mother having toxoplasmosis during pregnancy. When he came to Growing Together he was distant, gazed vacantly and did not interact in a pro-active manner. At school, his teachers now tell me that he recognizes them, he communicates his likes and dis-likes, he follows instructions, he is more independently mobile and he can now drink independently as well.

The boy featured in the magazine article, A Boy Called, “Horse!!” is now not only speaking but actively making choices at school and inter-acting with his peers on a daily basis; he expresses opinions and makes choices, he plays football.

One of our other boys who also started out anxious of the horses and barely verbal is now impatient to join in with the horses and happily jumps onto their backs without any hesitation. He is now able to communicate with his mother, making connections between her comments and future actions. When she tells him, “No school tomorrow,” he replies with “Horses!” and if she tells him it is “Friday tomorrow” he tells her “Farm!” because that is where they go on Fridays.

Suzanne, one of the few girls who come to Growing Together, is eighteen years old and has very elderly parents. They have cared for her all of their lives within the home, and only recently has Suzanne joined main-stream schooling. Understandably she was very anxious and scared of the unknown outside world, and showed her anxiety by biting and kicking anyone close enough to be a target. Her first session at Growing Together was a huge challenge for her and her teacher, but only three weeks later Suzanne is accepting of the horse which walks beside her and also willing to ride on one, albeit very slowly.

These are just some of the amazing anecdotal testimonies that we are receiving from teachers and parents whose children are involved with the Growing Together programme. We cannot say, of course, that the changes are due to Growing Together, but we can say that they have taken place after the children started coming to Growing Together.

Finally, my special moment happened in the foyer of the Holiday Inn Hotel at the Dead Sea...

My friend and I were waiting to return to Amman when we both spotted a lady on the other side of the room with a large child held on her hip. Due to the size of the child, the woman’s dress had hitched itself up around the child’s foot, exposing quite a decent length of leg. As soon as she was within earshot I called out to her, “Excuse me, your skirt….” And she quickly put the child down and came over to say thank you. As she was walking away her boy turned slightly and I recognized him as one of the children who comes to Growing Together. He is a challenging child, caused in no small part by his hyper-sensitive ears which appear to be an almost constant source of discomfort. The doctors say there is nothing wrong and so do nothing to help him…he is often seen screaming with his hands over his ears, or throwing himself on the ground in a “tantrum”…

“I know your son,” I said, ‘He comes to horse therapy with me.” At which point he turned around and saw me from about ten feet away. Immediately he ran over, threw his arms around my neck and kissed me on the cheek! I don’t know who was the more surprised, me, his mother, her friends, or his teacher when I relayed the story soon after. And then he smiled and walked away into the dining-room, very quietly and composed.

This week he came to the site with a new piece of personal wardrobe…baby blue ear-muffs. Watch out for those photographs sometime soon!

Suyen Talken-Sinclair.
Growing Together

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The price of freedom...

For weeks now the world has been focused on the political events of the Middle East, watching in disbelief as thousands head to the streets in protest. The events which occured in Egypt are still on the minds of many, however one area of events is not being covered sufficiently (if at all) in Egypt and internationally. This is the very real suffering of many people and their animals, namely camels, horses and donkeys which are used in the tourist business in Egypt. An extremely large sector of the Egyptian population rely on these work animals as their sole source of income; one widow, for example, supported her twelve children through her two horses-both of which have died in the past weeks from lack of income to feed them- and two rented camels which were also in dire straits. With the events of late in Egypt, needless to say, the tourist business has ground to a halt. Where does this leave these families whose sole income was from income made through these animals? The picture below says it all (this may be disturbing for some)

Two  local Egyptian organisations, ESMA and then ESAF sent out worldwide appeals for help to assist them in funding food and medical assistance for the work animals, also providing some hope for the families and owners that they will not lose their only source of future income.

Vier Pfoten International and the Princess Alia Foundation, have joined forces and a team flew to Egypt to do just this. While Vier Pfoten have a team on the ground and are focused on the treatment and feeding of the animals, The Princess Alia Foundation has complemented their work by also providing funding to alleviate the direct needs of the people and the families who find themselves at their wits end.

On the 26th of February the Vier-Pfoten team, along with a number of volunteers (mainly student vets from the University of Cairo) set up their base camp and work began... The animals were suffering from severe malnutrition and many of them also had skin disease and open wounds. All the animals were treated and de-wormed and food supplies were issued to the owners through a system of vouchers. Each animal was given the appropriate amount of feed for one week (50 kgs per camel per week and 35 kgs per horse/donkey per week) in addition to this the owners were also given Alfalfa to supplement the basic feed. At the end of the work day of the 1st of March, food supplies for one week were provided to over 400 camels and 500 horses and two veterinary clinics were fully operational and treatment of the animals was well under way.

Vier-Pfoten and The Princess Alia Foundation also supported ESMA and ESAF in their efforts to provide feed to working animals and Vier Pfoten will co-ordinate closely with these two organisations in order to reach an effective and efficient system of distribution and to ensure that everyone receives the necessary assistance.

The pictures below (credited to Mihai Vasili) were taken in Egypt and show the extent of the suffering. We hope that we may all continue to assist in the feeding and treatment of the work animals in Egypt for as long as possible, and ensuring that the future of the families who rely on these animals for their own livelihoods is a bright one...

Any and all donations would be greatly appreciated.
Please contact the Princess Alia Foundation at paf.jordan@gmail.com
Vier-Pfoten International at http://www.vier-pfoten.org/

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Growing Together...

With the first month of the New Year 2011 about to come to a close and the Chinese New year of the Rabbit creeping into view, I thought it was time to bring everyone up to date with the latest developments at Growing Together.

The project has been running for a little over two months, and has been an unqualified success. We now have seven schools involved, with sessions held either before or after the noon-day divide, depending upon the schools’ individual transport schedules. Then, after school hours, we try to see children who can come privately with their parents, family or therapists, on a one to one basis. This allows people with special needs other than autism to become involved, and we have one boy attending who has been blind since birth, as well as others who are hearing impaired. The plan for the future is to extend the Growing Together programme to InSha’Allah includes children from local orphanages and those who are victims of domestic violence and/or abuse.

Our horse therapists continue to amaze and inspire their human counterparts! Iago has proved himself a true diamond in the rough, happily spending many hours with the children with unending good grace and patience. In one instance, working with a young lad who has high anxiety issues, Iago stood like a rock for half an hour while the boy summoned up the courage to move from twenty feet away to just inches from Iago’s side. Iago is a horse that truly gives of himself with the children, and he is definitely one that I constantly rely upon when I need a horse for a child who is nervous and afraid.

Reem, our “queen”, continues to look down her royal nose at us adults but is extremely gentle and caring with the children. While known as a “spirited” ride, when working on the Growing Together site she is the epitome of quiet grace. At one of the last sessions at the end of December, one of our children had his first epileptic siezure while he was walking with Reem down the track.. She immediately stopped and waited motionless beside him, while his carer did what needed to be done in this upsetting situation. The boy thankfully recovered very quickly, and once back on his feet wanted to continue walking with the horse! Of course, this had to be forgone for an immediate visit to his doctor.

Zippo, the tall, dark and handsome one, who won the hearts of ALL the teachers and carers, has been retired from the programme as he obviously thought it was too much like hard work! Every time we went to lead him from the paddock he would gently nip his handler as if to say, “No thank-you, not today,” so I have bowed to his preference and replaced him, although none of the others are as eye-stoppingly stunning!

As the programme expands, we are adding horses to make certain that the old favourites do not end up over-worked and jaded. Istabraq is still with us, as are Areej , Burkan and Chance (who is now happily a part of the herd and no longer an outsider!), but we are now also have a big bay gelding called Jericho and another called Skeeters…for "Mosquito," I am told! Alain continues to make the odd appearance when we need just one horse to familiarise a child with the programme, and he certainly does love to flirt with the Ladies as he is walked over from the Stables.

Due to the increase in numbers I have recently started advertising for volunteers to help with the weekly sessions, and have been very fortunate to have gained a young lady from Canada who is living in Amman, Iona, and a fellow Englishwoman, Jenny. I know that there are others who also hope to join us very soon! Without the help of such good people the project would be much harder to keep running smoothly, as the more horsey people I have helping me, the longer the children can stay on the horses during a session.

Another exciting development is that the local glossy magazine Luxury has generously offered to run a series of articles on the various PAF projects, including of course Growing Together, and I am hoping that we will also soon be featured in some of the Arabian horse press in other parts of the world. It is such a tribute to this old and noble breed that they can literally just “step into the shoes” of 'animal therapists', without any lengthy or specialised training. So often the Arab horse is maligned as being either just a pretty toy at the end of a lead rope or a mad, unmanageable creature that is too untrustworthy to turn your back on. Well, if nothing else, Growing Together continues to prove how inaccurate and prejudiced those perceptions are.

In much the same way, the children we work with are also defying stereotypes, as they continue to come out of their shells and interact with the horses and the natural world around them. One boy, who used to always just sit and stare vacantly at the ceiling, now really interacts with not just his horse but also his teacher. We have many instances of children who start out nervous of the horses but who soon find a link with them and then want to sit aboard one…and often do not want to come off! Some children have never managed to focus on anything and yet find that they can not only hold a rope but can also use that rope to get a certain response from their horse, and do so! For many of the children I work with, it is a new experience to be out in Nature and to be allowed the freedom to enjoy that nature, not having to worry about getting dirty, getting wet, or simply running loose without having a hand held. This freedom is a wonderful gift, and for that the site donated by HRH Princess Alia is priceless and unique.

Finally, the most touching moment, and there are many when you work with special needs children and animals, came with our blind boy, who although fifteen years old now has a mental age of eight due to complications in his incubator soon after birth. His parents came to me through one of the schools that I work with, because they wanted to find him some form of enrichment beyond what he was already doing.

His first session, one to one with just him and his parents, was derailed because all he could focus on was how hungry he was and dear father had forgotten the picnic in his haste to get to us! However his second session was far more successful. To begin with I asked his Dad to explain to his son what he was feeling as (let’s call the boy Ben) Ben stood besides Iago (yup!) and felt him all over. His Dad told me that Ben has a toy horse at home so he knows what one feels like…of course, Iago is slightly bigger….We then set off down the hill with Ben holding onto Iago and his Dad holding onto Ben. As we walked, I asked his Dad to explain to Ben what the sounds and smells were that he would be experiencing as we went, and Ben walked confidently along holding onto Iago’s rope as he managed the rocky track. When we returned to the yard, I asked if Ben would like to get onto Iago, and this he did…Now, imagine what that actually MEANS, a blind boy actually being trusting enough to get up onto a horse for the first time EVER…and then, we took our first step. And then the second. And by the third step Ben threw back his head and laughed…and laughed and laughed. It was the most wonderful moment and both Ben’s father and I just stood spell-bound at the sheer miracle we were witnessing. To remember it brings tears to my eyes; on the day, Ben’s father did well not to cry.

And so we go on. Growing Together, although relatively new, has been able to establish itself as a programme that is having amazing results. It continues to be offered free of charge by PAF to all individuals involved. Without the vision and confidence of the Princess Alia Foundation none of this would be happening. When I first came over to Jordan at the invitation of Her Royal Highness and Sarra Ghazi, their CEO, I was eventually told, “This will be your baby, YOU will have to run with it”…… Well, MaShaAllah, I’m still running………

Suyen Talken-Sinclair.

30 January 2011.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Shaballala's Final Request...

New Hope has been up and running for one year now, and while we have Thank God had some truly wonderful experiences with our "Guests", most of which have either been released into the wild or sanctuary enclosures as close as possible to that ideal , we have also had certain heartbreaking losses. While it is much nicer to read stories with " Happy endings", I do feel that the creatures who did not have that privilege-at least not during their earthly existence-also deserve to be mentioned here, for they were also players in this story and worthy at the very least of our acknowledgement and thanks for the lessons they left with us.

Our first loss was a beautiful little bulldog puppy, one of the batch of ten puppies and kittens mentioned in our blog under "The Terminal". They all arrived dehydrated and chilled right through. In spite of all our efforts she was the one who did not 'make it', drifting away the following morning. We comforted ourselves with the knowledge that she died after a night of love and nurturing, and not in fear and stress in a freezing hangar at the airport. Her group was just one of the hundreds of shipments of animals bred in puppy mills-in this case Eastern European - from probably unhealthy unvaccinated parents, weaned far too young, often themselves not vaccinated either with little inherited immunity and sent in internationally unacceptable ways to pet shops and dealers around the world. They arrive often without correct paperwork, either sick or susceptible to picking up disease, spend some time in an unsuitable pet shop and then are bought either out of pity or by someone who does not know better- spread their diseases like Parvo virus, and cat flu, and often die within days, breaking the heart of a child who was so thrilled to have this pet. PUPPY MILLS and the illegal trade of animals NEED TO BE STOPPED.

We also lost three striped hyena, who had been sent to another wildlife centre to be rehabilitated and released. Sadly, they were clearly not regarded as worthy of the care they deserved, one had to be euthanised due to an injury and two others we brought BACK to New Hope to be treated by us-sadly both were too far gone and also died, but again, amid warmth and respect and truly great efforts from our staff-Dr Hussein sat with one hyena's head in his lap for one whole night giving it strength and support. We are VERY grateful that six of these truly amazing creatures WERE released into the wild-one, a pregnant female, we HOPE delivered her litter safely as the RSCN reported that cubs tracks were seen shortly after in that area; we pray that this means her babies WERE "Born Free!" Our three AFRICAN (spotted) hyenas were returned to Africa, thanks to Vier Pfoten (and GREAT thanks to ARAMEX) and they now also run in a large natural enclosure in Lionsrock sanctuary visited by the occasional babboon brave (or silly) enough to climb inside! Most of us ,even the more experienced wildlife members of our teams, had to acknowledge that the Hyena in particular did much to alter our awareness: this species is normally NOT well regarded by humans- ( portrayals such as in The Lion King do not help) and are thought to be nasty, treacherous, cowardly, and in many places are also endowed with supernaturally negative folklore. From spending time around those in our care, we must speak up for them and say that they are courageous, adaptable, clever (NOT sinister) and POLITE. Yes POLITE! In the zoos here , they were among the most terribly frightened creatures, cowering in terror but snarling in defiance as keepers would show off by going in to take photos- thinking that it is "macho", to have a reputedly dangerous animal cringe at the sound of your voice. It is time we stopped stereotyping ANY species. The Universe is a WHOLE and EVERYTHING has its place. We owe it to the future health of the WORLD not to ignore, underestimate, persecute or neglect OR EVEN MISUNDERSTAND any part of it willfully. I recall one of the visiting sanctuary guests saying she felt, "a little bit ashamed", at having had a neutral or slightly negative idea about Hyenas, having now interacted with them. THAT is someone with SENSE and HEART. Ok, most of us don’t know about MANY MANY creatures and plants and insects but none of us have the right to say "Ugh", or "Yick",...it could well be playing a very specific and necessary role in the cycle of the Universe!!!

When we first established New Hope, we were amused to be greeted daily by a beautiful white and tan wild dog. She evidently roamed the area around there, but would come almost flying across the fields when she saw any of us arrive. She became a kind of mascot, eventually staying almost all the time around the centre, a happy presence and wonderful with new "guests",(particularly the wolves) who she seemed to have a way of reassuring by her presence. One visitor actually referred to her as, “Staff", which in a way she WAS. One day she did not come out of her outdoor kennel. When she did, it was clear that she had either been injured-hit by a car? Hit on the head? -or was suffering from some problem possibly a stroke. She fought for weeks, pottering about and eating and still trying to do her 'rounds'. She did not seem ready to give up, and we did not feel it right to take that decision -then one day she disappeared. We searched in vain for days, but it was not until a couple of weeks later that her body was found at the edge of the sanctuary land near a bush. I like to think she took herself off to die in her own place and time. She contributed a lot to New Hope, and even when her cheerful presence and fluid beauty of movement changed, she was still very much part of things-an example of loyalty and somehow responsibility. Jordan's wild dogs are WONDERFUL pets, brave, clever, loyal, and it is a real shame that because they do not have a ' fashionable', breed name they are less in demand than the poor creatures that flood in from puppy mills because of their BREED NAME and are often even if they survive their handicapped past, totally unsuited to our weather or the domestic situations in which they are landed.

Another sad episode was the batch of Cheetah cubs. They were intercepted by customs officials and sent to us by the RSCN to take care of. They appeared to do well for a couple of days, eating ravenously and chirruping like birds. There were four of them, and had been brought in two apiece in plaited rope sacks. They were cold and terrified (it was still winter) when they arrived but we were fortunate in having (again thanks to Vier Pfoten) a team including a big cat vet here at the same time as the cubs, and their collective concern from day one was that these four were much too young to be weaned. Cheetahs are in great demand as exotic pets for they are relatively easy to handle and 'safe', but they are also highly endangered and they are very FRAGILE internally, for all their speed and elegance. These little ones were no exception, and succumbed one by one to stress and lack of immunity. The last one died during the visit of yet another expert who did all humanly possible, including an operation at HCAW whose director and staff were truly helpful. The little cub had by then been fighting to survive for ten days, and was revived three times, causing real heartbreak and a sense of "what did we do wrong", but the post mortems of all showed the same thing-the cubs had suffered from very long-term stress and lack of immunity and had no chance. More recently, a good friend in Kuwait contacted me in search of help/advice for a cheetah cub which he had rescued and had as a pet. Sadly this one did not survive either in spite of many experts' assistance and cohesive input, and again the verdict was that these creatures must simply NOT be weaned too young, they have delicate systems made for THEIR lifestyles and the minimum chance we as humans should concede to them is a good START, enough time with mother to be strong, develop well and be confident enough to face the world without her-not stuffed into a shop or a zoo or circus too young, scared bewildered and already PHYSICALLY compromised.

Among the most dramatic patients at New Hope were two Bengal tiger cubs who were again confiscated by customs authorities and delivered to us by the RSCN, cramped together in a small wooden crate and reportedly intended (illegally) for a local zoo. They did have papers and were apparently siblings bred in a zoo in Syria. We named them Voovoozella and Shaballala- Vier Pfoten had again kindly agreed to home them at Lionsrock and as the World Cup was much in our minds when they arrived, South African names seemed suitable. Voovoozella's was particularly apt as in spite of their small size (yes-they were TOO YOUNG TO BE WEANED - AGAIN) both had unbelievably resonant deep roars and while the male was more inclined to trust humans after realising that we were not going to intentionally pressure or intrude on them, the young lady had clearly decided that humans were not creatures she wanted anywhere NEAR them-and indeed she would growl if any of us had the great honour of a friendly look from Shaballala, or the temerity to stroke him with a cautious finger through the bars- and having had the human offender back off apologetically she would then go over to her brother and cuff him or tell him off.

The two of them seemed to be doing well enjoyed swimming in their little pool, grew big and played and reassured a third tiger who was rescued from a local zoo in a state of dehydration malnutrition and great stress. They were due to leave for Lionsrock in early February, CITES permits done, and Aramex again kindly assisting. Then Shaballala began to walk strangely, as if he had a back problem. A vet from Germany flew over to see him and took blood tests which showed that he had suffered from some infection but he apparently responded to medication which our selfless vet Zein travelled by car to and from Beirut in one day just to obtain for him as it was not available here. We became very sanguine , but he relapsed and became in a very few days much weaker and unable to move much behind. Vier Pfoten once again rose to the occasion and altered their plans, obtaining permission for him to go to a specialised clinic in Germany. The two nights prior to departure, he had evidently been moving in and out of his night room ,and the MORNING of his departure he was on his feet walking, albeit weakly on his wasted hind legs-we were overjoyed.

Shaballala arrived in Austria and travelled to Germany. Sadly although he arrived safely, the news was not cheerful. The special scans showed tiny breakages in all his limbs, his pelvis, one in his spine. How could he have improved, and walked? Apparently tigers DO -they are floored by the first pain but struggle and appear to improve-then they collapse again with a new breakage...and what is the reason???? Large strong creatures like tigers, and also elephants, NEED ENOUGH MOTHER'S MILK to be viable adults; otherwise their system turns on itself and extracts calcium FROM THEIR BONES, however much we supplement from other food. He was weaned too young, and he didn’t really have a chance. The clinic in Germany were very kind, considerate, and understanding, and they let him go peacefully with our permission last night.

What does one say? How many more animals are we going to snatch and smuggle and breed in unsuitable conditions to satisfy our blind selfishness? Even I not so long ago, would have been thrilled at the thought of a cheetah as a pet, for example-and I say" even I", not because I am especially bright but because I actually HAVE tried to consider "the other", a little more, be it human animal or mineral, of recent years. But these creatures need to live THEIR lives, not just fulfill some silly image or whim of ours- our 'coolness', or 'majesty', at having SUCH a pet! Human beings far from home want to go back-even ones who have emigrated for whatever reason-they can be wealthier, healthier, freer, and mixing with others of the human RACE who speak the same language-but HOME is HOME. What makes us think that these creatures can be content in zoos, bullied in circuses, stared at with no privacy- exercised when it suits US? That is aside from the ghastly abuse of tigers and rhinos and other species for aphrodisiacs and folk remedies -hyenas are in demand for some part of their bodies to be used for WITCHCRAFT for goodness' sake!!!

It is time we realised that we are NOT in any way enhanced as individuals by these practices-we in fact are smaller, poorer, in our foolishness and arrogance. On behalf of brave Shaballala the little tiger who had to give up his dream of freedom in a big open sanctuary with his sister for the hopefully greater freedom of whatever tigers become after they leave their physical bodies, and who wanted to leave a message of hope for his species and ALL hunted persecuted and misunderstood BEINGS the world over- we in PAF do urge everyone to act, DO something-not just sign a petition, wear a T shirt, and forget about it until someone else touches you with a sad tale or photograph. Sign the petitions, wear the T shirts by all means, but we must all do MORE for the future of the creatures, this planet, and our own humanity, because what is being done is wonderful but IT IS SADLY NOT ENOUGH.

For those who love Disney's version of Tigger ... wake up or you may well find that you have no way to show your children the majesty and beauty of a tiger ....because Tigger may really become "The only ONE"!!!!!!