Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Big Cat Rescue Centres


The Born Free Foundation’s lion and leopard sanctuary – Shamwari

Born Free’s two sanctuaries for rescued lions and leopards are set within Shamwari’s award-winning wildlife reserve on the Eastern Cape of South Africa.  This wonderful opportunity came about with the kind permission and generous support of Shamwari’s owner, Adrian Gardiner.

Here the lions and leopards can enjoy three-four acre bush enclosures, with views across the reserve.  Having such a vantage point is important for the mental well-being of captive predators.  The first lions to arrive at Shamwari were Raffi and Anthea, rescued from a Tenerife restaurant where they could only take one and a half paces in each direction.  They arrived in 1997 and died in 2006, aged nearly 18 years, after nine years in their ancestral homeland.

More lions and leopards followed Raffi and Anthea and it became necessary to build first one and then two sanctuaries, each capable of caring for a maximum of 12 cats. 

There is also an education centre at each sanctuary where school-children and visitors are taught about the plight of captive wildlife and the need to conserve wildlife where it belongs – in the wild.

The first, the Julie Ward Centre, was built in 1999, with the funds raised by the friends and family of young naturalist Julie Ward, killed in Kenya in 1988.    This Centre in the southern part of the reserve near the town of Paterson.  Then, when this sanctuary became nearly full to capacity, and it was not possible to extend further on that site, a new sanctuary was built thanks to the generous sponsorship of South African supporter, Mrs Jean Byrd.   The Jean Byrd Centre was opened on 3rd November, 2006.

The Big Cats in Shamwari

Big cat rescue
The Jean Byrd
cat rescue
and Julie Ward Cemtres in Shamwari

Breeding policy

The Born Free Foundation has a no-breeding policy.  There are many captive big cats in need of homes throughout the world, and the Foundation feels it is important not to add to this captive population, and to reserve sanctuary spaces for those animals most in need.


Dolo arrived at Ensessakotteh in 2011 following a rescue mission led by EWCA and BFFE. Photo (c)SisayTaye +BFF
Dolo arrived at Ensessakotteh in 2011 following a rescue mission led by EWCA and BFFE. Photo (c)SisayTaye & BFF

The idea for the development of Ensessakotteh, a Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education Centre took hold in 2006.

In December of that year, a Consultative Meeting on Captive Wild Animals in Ethiopia was held at The Agricultural Research Institute in Addis Ababa.  One of the meeting’s recommendations was that a facility be created to provide care for wild animals that had been confiscated from illegal trade or found orphaned or injured.  At the same time, Born Free Foundation was invited to the Italian Embassy in Addis to meet two orphaned lion cubs (Andrea and Janu) that were being cared for by the Deputy Head of Mission, Marco Tornetta and his wife Chantal. Could Born Free provide a sanctuary home for these lions?

As options were being investigated Marco introduced Born Free to his close friend, His Excellency President Girma Wolde-Giorgis and, being very supportive of wildlife and habitat conservation, the President secured the necessary land upon which to build the Wildlife Rescue Centre.  This would become the new home for Andrea and Janu, along with other rescued wild animals. Born Free Foundation Ethiopia was then established and a Memorandum of Understanding drawn up with EWCA to develop the Centre and support conservation in Ethiopia.

The Centre became known as Ensessakotteh which means Animal Foot Print in Amharic, and it is the first of its kind in the region. 

Ensessakotteh is not a zoo.  It only houses wild animals in need, be they orphaned or confiscated from illegal trade or ownership.  Each animal that enters the Centre is carefully assessed to see whether full rehabilitation and release back to the wild is feasible.  Those that cannot be released are provided with care for life at the Centre.

Ensessakotteh also offers an escape, a peaceful haven for visitors who can enjoy the beautiful surroundings that still retain much of the naturally occurring wild fauna and flora.  Part of their experience will be to learn about the rescued animals and their individual stories.  Visitors will be encouraged, via education programmes, to appreciate how each of us has a role to play in protecting the natural eco-systems we all depend on.

Lilongwe, Malawi

Photo (c) BFF / LWC

Situated in the heart of Malawi's capital city, the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre is a new and exciting 'People and Wildlife' wild animal rescue, rehabilitation and education facility.  The Centre takes in wild animals that have been rescued locally from the illegal pet trade, works to rehabilitate them and return them to the wild, where they belong.  For those animals that cannot be released, and for many wild animals rescued from overseas, the Centre provides lifetime care facilities in large natural enclosures. The Centre also works closely with the local communities, assessing their needs and looking at solutions that result in minimal impact on the environment. In March 2009, the Centre gave a home to a lion from a Romanian zoo, rescued by the Born Free Foundation.  Bella settled in almost immediately and obviously enjoys her life in her Malawian forest enclosure.

Born Free Foundation Tiger Sanctuary – Bannerghatta

Born Free’s tiger sanctuary is set within Bannerghatta Wildlife Park, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.

Here, in three acre jungle enclosures with large pools, the tigers can live out their lives in peace and dignity and a degree of freedom.

Born Free first rehomed six tigers to the wildlife park in 1987.  They were from a defunt circus in Kent.  The last of these tigers, Greenwich, died in 2006.  Greenwich was about 21 years old.

Then, in April 2002, a Born Free sanctuary was opened in a private part of the Park, not open to visitors.  The opening of the sanctuary coincided with the arrival of tigers that had previously been rescued by Born Free and were then living at the Big Cat Sanctuary in Kent.  Transferring them to Bannerghatta enabled the tigers to enjoy larger and more natural conditions.

The Rescued Tigers in India


Roque tiger
Roque the tiger at the rescue centre in Bannerghatta, India
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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