Born Free, in partnership with Shamwari Game Reserve, operates two sanctuaries within the award-winning Shamwari Wildlife Reserve in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, for lions and leopards rescued from zoos, circuses and other captive facilities. Our first sanctuary opened in 1996 in the south of the reserve and enabled us to rehome two lions and a leopard rescued from their tiny cages on top of a Tenerife restaurant, where they could only take one and a half paces in each direction. The following year, thanks to the generosity of the family and friends of young naturalist, Julie Ward, tragically killed in Kenya, an Education facility was built in her memory at our sanctuary. This allows local children to learn about their own wildlife and about the suffering wildlife can endure in captivity. There are currently three leopards and five lions being cared for at the ‘Julie Ward Centre’ in four of the large naturalistic enclosures.
The second sanctuary, ‘The Jean Byrd Centre’ is in the north of Shamwari and here, in four large enclosures, three leopards and three lions are cared for. This sanctuary and education centre was completed in 2006, thanks to a wonderful donation from South African supporter Jean Byrd, and other generous sponsors.
The bush enclosures at Shamwari give the lions and leopards the space and privacy they so desperately need. Visitors are permitted but are confined to one viewing platform at each enclosure. The cats now have the choice whether they can be seen or not.