Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild


Bella is a one-eyed lioness rescued from Buhusi  Zoo, a run-down zoo in Romania, and now living at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre in Malawi.  Her rescue in 2009 was a joint operation between the Born Free Foundation and another NGO called Lions Roar.

© Arnaud

In 2007, after Buhusi zoo’s closure, Born Free rehomed three lions from the zoo, Jools and her sons James and Jerry, to our sanctuary at Shamwari Game Reserve in South Africa. At the time we wanted to rehome Bella to Africa too, but our veterinary consultant had strongly advised against transporting Bella while she was suffering from glaucoma.

Finally in October 2008 John Knight, the Born Free Foundation’s veterinary consultant, assisted by other specialists was able to perform the much needed operation, successfully removing her diseased left eye. 

Just two months later and after a cataract operation in her right eye her sight was improved allowing her to negotiate her small enclosure confidently (although still struggling to focus over short distances).

Bella spent the next three months recovering at Brasov (a halfway house) until at last she was passed fit to withstand the lengthy air travel that stood between her and a new home in Malawi.  When the rescue team arrived in Romania in the midst of winter, they were met by sub-zero temperatures and flurries of snow that served to underline the incongruity of keeping a lion captive in such conditions and so far removed from the African climate enjoyed by her wild counterparts.

The next day Bella was darted and driven to Bucharest Airport for the short chartered flight on the Russian Antonov plane that would take her to Kent (there were no direct flights with big enough cargo doors that flew out of Romania).  JCS Livestock Carriers met the team at Manston Airport and drove Bella and the team to Heathrow Airport. Then she was flown from Heathrow to Nairobi, and Nairobi to Malawi, courtesy of Kenya Airways.

On arrival into Lilongwe International Airport, Bella’s crate was driven to the Wildlife Centre and unloaded by the entrance to her new home. A few minutes later the team joined her, and Virginia McKenna and Sue Alves (a supporter of the Centre who lives in Lilongwe) pulled open the crate’s door…

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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