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VIRGINIA MCKENNA OBE / FOUNDER, BORN FREE FOUNDATION



Narrator of The Elephant in the Room, Virginia McKenna is a BAFTA award winning actress who starred in some of the most iconic movies of her era, including the Oscar winning and critically acclaimed Born Free (1966). She and late husband Bill Travers played conservationists Joy and George Adamson in the film, which told the story of their successful reintroduction of Elsa the orphaned lion cub to the wild. She also starred in the film An Elephant Called Slowly (1970). The elephant in the film, Pole Pole, was later moved to London Zoo despite Virginia and Bill’s vehement protestations, where she would be put down only 14 years later. Determined not to let her death be in vain, Virginia and Bill set up Zoo Check, later renamed the Born Free Foundation, to support the conservation of animals in the wild and fight against the deprivation and suffering of captive wild animals.


Thirty years on, Virginia continues to campaign against the keeping of elephants in captivity. She recently visited Twiggy, an elephant in Belgrade zoo in Serbia, who has been kept alone for 17 years. She was deeply distressed by what she found when she saw her for the first time.


  1. "I honestly thought that the days of keeping intelligent, social, family-oriented species like elephants in solitary confinement were long gone. That no more elephants would suffer what Pole Pole had to endure. How wrong I was. It was heart-breaking, reaching out to Twiggy as I had done to Pole Pole all those years ago and realising that for her, the nightmare was still a reality.”


Her encounter features in The Elephant in the Room.

Above: Bill Travers & Virginia McKenna in ‘An Elephant Called Slowly’ (1970).