Sunday, 22 October 2017

A Secret Lynx...

A Summer's Day on Lake Päijänne Finland (1902)
Thorsten Waenerberg

Yesterday, I heard a story which made my day. For a moment I was taken out of the everyday work routine and transported to a place where nature thrives and whispers secrets best kept. A place, peaceful, where wildlife can freely roam undisturbed. A very rare and possibly 'once-in-a-lifetime' experience happened upon a quiet and gentle soul.  A moment that would have rocked anyone's world.

A work colleague who knows that I have a passion for big cats, especially lynx, told me about a friend of her Mothers, back home in Finland, who is a retired ferry boat driver. He is now the caretaker of a very small island on Lake Päijänne. He resides and works on the tranquil island, enjoying his own quiet wilderness. He encounters many birds and sometimes, otters...apparently they just come up to him and are completely relaxed in his company. He is a kind man and keen to protect his natural, unspoiled surroundings. It seems that the animals know this.

Around three weeks a go, whilst walking in a forested area, he came to an opening and to his amazement and surprise, right in front of him was a lynx. It just looked at him, making eye contact and didn't stir. The lynx showed no fear or aggression. For a while, the two of them were just in the moment. An extraordinary, privileged moment. Then, it turned and disappeared back in to the trees.

 The caretaker was filled with joy at such an intimate sighting. One of the most elusive and secretive cats on the planet had been sharing the island. It must have been there since the last freeze, which would have been the only way the cat could have crossed the lake. Furthermore, it is very likely that on such a small island, the lynx would have been aware of its human neighbour. Perhaps it wanted to reward him with its presence as a show of respect. Like the otters, trusting that all was safe and well. 

It is likely that the lynx had padded through ancient woodland and across frozen lakes, probably in search of a mate, yet happened upon and actually became trapped on the island, which suggests it had been early Spring-time. Naturally, it adapted well, spending the summer months thriving, due to the abundance of prey and of course, its ability to stay a secret.

Earth Island Institute photo of Eurasian Lynx
(Google images 22/10/17)

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Hope's Garden...

A Poem

Taking time in the garden,
Coffee arouses my spirit,
The sun warms my skin. 
The first real breathe of hope,
A breeze moves through the flowers,
The sweetness of nature.
Cats stretch out in the rays,
My thoughts are none.
But the gentleness of the moment,
In the garden.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

March For Foxes...

When I think of foxes I visualise the ethereal animals happily roaming and playing in the forests, grasslands, meadows and rolling green hills. The bushy-tailed animal that should not have a care in the world. The little red fox appears leaping in the snow on Christmas cards and its friendly visits to the garden fill us with delight. We even named a dance after their
nimble-footed trot.They are a part of the British landscape, adding colour, character and beauty to our green and pleasant land. Bringing benefits such as cleaning the environment and restoring a healthy ecosystem. Foxes are apex predators and are essential. They are caring and intelligent animals, especially when with their young. I have heard of a cub getting caught in a trap for two weeks, until finally, found by the RSPCA. The only reason the cub survived, was because its mother brought food to it everyday and stayed close by for protection. They are our natural heritage and need to be protected and preserved.

So, why is it that sixteen percent of the country still insist that fox hunting is acceptable? They say it's for sport and a tradition which should be respected. Sadly, the minority are also the richest and most affluent in the country. The Tory Government is pro-hunting and thinks that they have the right to use our beautiful land as their playground. The likes of Theresa May, et al, want to repeal the ban on fox hunting purely for entertainment, pleasure and profit. In fact, Mrs. May is immorally using hunting as a tool in politics, to win votes, knowing that eighty-four percent of the country are opposed to this brutality. The wealthy minorities are infusing funds in to the Tory government to ensure that fox hunting stays legal. Furthermore, since 2004, the ban has been in place, yet the so-called elite still hunt regardless.....and get away with it!

Professor Andrew Knight, who is standing for the Animal welfare Party, against Theresa May in the constituency of Maidenhead said, "It is profoundly disturbing that the Prime Minister thinks fox hunting is acceptable - we need to have leaders of our country that have basic compassion for animals and other vulnerable members of our society". That said, consider how many psychopaths and serial killers began their journey by dismembering and mutilating innocent animals, and.....getting an adrenaline rush of euphoria.

I believe that those who enjoy hunting foxes are after that same rush. It is a controlling fetish, which instills empowerment in people lacking intelligence, compassion or any thought for wildlife. Killing a fox can have a detrimental effect on the natural environment, not only do foxes suffer, but horses get injured, hounds are shot - when tired, other wild animals such as deer get caught in the flurry of activity.... sometimes, the hounds run off course and attack someone's pet in private gardens or livestock. Recently, three hunting hounds ran on to a busy road and were hit by speeding cars. Such fatalities are merely shrugged off by the likes of Theresa May and her 'small-brained' allies.

The day of the hunt has seen the fox dens blocked off and a gathering of like-minded folk, sipping champagne and embracing a glorious day in the countryside. They gallop across the green landscapes, filling the lungs with fresh air, enough so, to blow their loud horns. They cut through the peace and quiet of nature and bellow out, triumphantly. The horses and hounds are a scene from a bygone age. Then, a little fox, just biding its time, within its territory, hears the oncoming sound and bolts for its den. A safe haven to hide. However, the den is blocked and all the fox can do is run for its life. The sounds of danger get louder and nearer... it runs across meadows, over hedges, through woods and keeps running. Its little heart pumping with fear.. adrenalin of a different kind. It wants to survive and is terrified. Now, lost and confused, out of familiar range, becomes exhausted and cowers, trembling and so horrifically frightened. The hounds catch up and descend upon the little fox. They pull, tug and rip at it. Biting the face, neck and more often than not, disembowelling whilst the fox is still alive. Excruciating pain and suffering caused by a need to be entertained. Only dinosaurs disembowelled their prey, before the kill. 

As previously mentioned, eighty-four percent of the kind-hearted population are against this inhumane, barbaric and insane practise of hunting with dogs (or any hunting, for that matter). I, myself, joined thousands of protesters on May 29th 2017, to march through Central London from Cavendish Square to Whitehall, becoming the voices for the innocent living beings - the largest public protest of the entire general election. The little red foxes - they desperately need us to speak up for them. They need protecting from a dictatorship which has no qualms about inflicting such cruelty on our beautiful wildlife. Animals are not politics and to exploit them for greed and a thrill is utterly shameful. In 2002, Theresa May got it right when she described her party as the nasty party. 

To that end, lets conserve and cherish our green and pleasant land and all who dwell upon it. Long live the fox!

photos - Dominic Dyer as fox (writer, campaign organiser)  Anneka Svenska (wildlife presenter, conservationist)  Dan Richardson (actor,director)  Bill Oddie (tv presenter)

#makehuntinghistory #keeptheban #protest #london #antifoxhunting #voteforfoxes #foxes #thereisnoexcuseforanimalabuse #badgeredtodeath #greenworldtv #angelsfortheinnocent #greenandpleasantland #wildlife #marchforfoxes


Tuesday, 24 May 2016


A poem ...


Forget for one moment,
The sweet aroma of the wallflower,
Permeating the senses,
Its colour deep and rich,
Grown from the seed of grief and despair.
The wall has risen,
And anxiety has a grasp,
Hanging on by a thread,
Don't let it snap,
The lingering dread,
Sucked in to the void.
Forget for one moment,
music perfusing the wind,
Drifting off to an anachronistic place,
Once visited - once happy,
To a compelling heartbeat,
A distant land - once trodden.
Now is still,
A discerning mind,
Weeps to cherish,
Struggles to clarify,
And forgets for one moment.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Stop The Lion Trophy Hunting...

Last Saturday, 30th April, I joined hundreds of people and marched through central London to Downing Street, where a letter, signed by high profile celebrities such as Stephen Hawking, was handed in to David Cameron to put a ban on the importing of lion trophies in to the U.K. The banners and posters were vibrant and the lion warriors sent out a strong message to London and the world showing immense passion and a caring side which was a far cry from those so called hunters, or should I say killers. Our voices cried out, "Ban trophy hunting... save our lions!" The vibrations resonated and projected  powerful voices for the majestic cats. Moving speeches were made, and  hearts were warmed by the presence of Virginia McKenna, who has inspired many of us with the film she starred in, 'Born Free'. Furthermore, Virginia and her late husband founded the Born Free Foundation.... keeping wild animals in the wild.  
 Trophy hunting is big business in Africa and has contributed to a staggering decline in numbers of wild lions. The iconic cats have faced habitat loss, loss of natural prey which is largely due to poaching and bushmeat demand and increased conflict with people and their livestock. The number of African lions has fallen from more than half a million to less than 20,000 in just a few decades so there is no justification for the continued hunting of wild lions.Trophy hunting is unethical but has long been regarded as an effective conservation practice. I cannot understand why, as it has a negative impact on wild populations and is closely linked with poaching. The most targeted species are elephants, rhinoceroses, leopards, cheetahs and of course, lions. Trophy hunting fuels corruption, encourages unfair wealth distribution and causes the loss of healthy individual animals which are essential for reproduction and social unity. Why do they hunt? It is all about ego and wealth - that is all. They take the head of the animal home and hang it on their wall and the body parts are sold on for immoral profit. Trophy hunting has nothing to do with conservation, survival or bravery. The animals are shot with a rifle, sometimes at close range, causing unthinkable suffering as they avoid the head and in some cases need to shoot three or four times before the animal is down. This is not a sport it is a selfish hobby for those who can afford it. I have seen footage of lions being killed and they feel the pain. They cry out as the hind flips out and the animal attempts to escape its unnatural and horrific death. 
 Trophy hunting belongs to a bygone age, there is no place in the modern world for it. Many well known species are in decline and could become extinct within the next few decades or less. I will never understand the thinking behind the killing of these magnificent animals. The ecological tapestry of Africa is changing and changing fast. But what would Africa be without her animals? They are Africa. They shape the land and enhance our lives. The animals are our natural heritage and must be protected. They are worth far more alive, as millions of tourists flock to Africa purely to see the animals and to cherish the moments spent with them. Ecotourism is the way forward. I, myself, had an unprecedented trip to Africa, fourteen years a go, and I have never forgotten the feelings of wonderment which penetrated my soul. Nothing has ever touched me in the same way - long since. To be free is the greatest gift on earth. 
 Lions are essential carnivores, our earth needs them. They have, in the words of Virginia Mckenna, an untamed spirit. Moreover, they are the absolute essence of Africa. 

Virginia McKenna

"I'm Not Your Trophy"

Lion warrior

Lion's head

Lion Warriors

"We Are not Your Trophies"

Save Our Lions, Ban Canned Hunting

Banners In Piccadilly Circus

The Lion King

Dancing Lion


"I Am Not Your Trophy"

Marching Through Whitehall

Roaring For Cecil

Actor James Cosmo Speaks

Handing In The letter At Downing Street

"I Am Not A Trophy"

Trophy Hunting Is Cold Blooded Murder

Canine Lion warrior

Words and photos by Helen Ratcliff

With special thanks to the organisers...
#BornFree #LionAid #IFAW #FourPAWS & #Oneprotest


Saturday, 2 January 2016

New Year Rising...


As the new year rises, a state of hope and melancholy prevails. A strange combination. New beginnings and transitions often pull emotional strings as there is an attachment to what is familiar. Whether good or bad, it is what we know. Hope comes with not knowing and that is what drives us forwards. We all hope for better things to come... Happiness, health, prosperity and luck. As we all wish for these things, for just a moment we throw our caution to the wind and the universe. As individuals we are all responsible for our own fortuitous encounters or are we? Well, chance suggests a possibility of happening but emphasises an uncertainty and addictedness on other future events for existence or occurrence. Nothing is written in stone until we write it. It takes faith and confidence to trust in a better future. So, with that said, anything is possible. The dawning of the new year gives us all the chance to start a fresh and learn from the mistakes and challenges from the past year. We push forwards as always, and furthurmore, we strive to realise dreams and goals.  The feelings of melancholy drift away as life continues. We make our resolutions, book holidays and detox.  We never stop trying and we re-write our own stories. 

Happy New Year!

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Roaring for Cecil

Yesterday, November 28th, we marched through central London and roared for Cecil. The famous lion was murdered by a trophy hunter earlier this year but left a legacy and opened the lid on canned hunting of lions. The story went global and helped us in our plight to raise awareness around the unethical killing of lions. They are literally bred for the bullet and live in confined spaces, raised from cubs after being separated from their mothers at a very vulnerable age. Then, semi-tame are chosen off a menu by rich trophy hunters and are then released only to be shot. They are also killed for chinese medicine for a very high price. This terrible business is booming in South Africa where the demands are met by lion farmers willing to make easy money. They say it's for conservation .... sadly it is just about cash and fulfilling the egos of the wealthy who think it is okay to kill our natural heritage. Well, it is not okay. 

Lions are apex predators and they are essential to the ecology in Africa. Killing a male can wipe out generations as when a lion is taken, another, perhaps with weaker genes, will move in to a pride and kill the cubs. Over time this can have terrible effects on the overall health and wellbeing of a pride. Females are also used as production machines and whilst removed from their young will be thrown back in to oestrus and in some cases producing cubs two or three times a year. This would not happen naturally, in the wild. The cubs do not develop as they should, either. Hand reared, they are raised only to be killed a couple of years later. Still, it does not end there...Trophy hunters prefer a mature male so will hire someone to seek out one in the wild... due to the handsome mane, showing strong genes. The reason behind this is so they can hang the head on their wall and boast to their friends about the large, aggressive lion they have hunted. It is a lie. The lions are sometimes sedated and are use to humans so, more often than not will face their killer head on. Otherwise, they are lured by bate to an area where they make an easier target, like Cecil. Cecil was first shot with an arrow which caused him considerable suffering for about 40 hours before he was killed with a bullet. He had a family and was the subject of researchers and brought in many tourists as he was the perfect speciman representing these magnificent animals.

This industry is corrupt, untruthful and destroying our wildlife as we know it. The breeders and trophy hunters argue that it's for the sake of conservation and restores balance within the ecosystem. This treatment of lions has nothing to do with preservation. If all was above board then why are the breeders so concerned with the truth being revealed? Under-cover reporters have been threatened and filming is banned within many breeding operations. So... begs the question, "What are they hiding?" Trophy hunters are aggressive and have no compassion for the animals they are killing. Thousands of dollars/pounds are pumped in to this practise.  I have only touched the surface of the industry, it is so corrupt and the governments are seemingly siding with this dishonourable business. It is a disgrace and raising awareness needs to be amplified around the globe. 

This is why we march and are the voices for the voiceless. Governments need to sit up and take notice of the cruel practise that is Canned Hunting. There will be no lions left in the wild if this continues. This will dramatically change the landscape of Africa and have a detrimental effect on all other beings. Lions have a purpose and are not there to be exploited and slaughtered. Lions need to be listed as endangered before it is too late.

I have said this before, but a world without lions in the wild is unthinkable. They touch the core of the human psyche and evoke emotions in all of us. They command respect and are noble, wise, majestic and social cats. That said, why would anyone in their right mind ever want to harm one? 


To be continued ...