Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Bella at Lilongwe 2009

December 2009

Dr Catherine Wood, Veterinary Manager, Lilongwe Wildlife Centre:

Bella continues to do very well.  Her carers, Yesaya Symon and Wyson White say they often see Bella sleeping on her back, paws in the air, looking happy and relaxed.  Sometimes she will lie there, wriggling and squirming on the ground, looking very dog-like.  They also report her having “mad moments” – excitedly jumping around, scratching the ground, pushing against the fence, like a playful lion cub, then she stops suddenly and becomes regal and calm again.

She has a good relationship with her carers.  I have seen her lying on her platform, watching them intently, as they clean her night rooms.

She will also jog around after them, as they check the fences and go about their work.  She looks a bit disgruntled with them though, at the smaller amounts of meat we present her with at feed times - we have had to reduce her meat allowance as she was getting a bit chubby.

With regard to her eyesight, Bella will have difficulty focusing on things close to her as her lens was removed to cure her cataract.  However, we don’t notice her stumbling – perhaps she has got to know her environment very well now, but sometimes she seems mildly startled when she brushes against leaves that may she didn’t see were there.  It doesn’t seem to bother her though.

With regard to the weakness in her spine / back legs, I understand she had difficulty getting on to the platform in her outside enclosure, even though it is very low to the ground, and I don’t see her using it.  However, she will occasionally nap on the platform in her house, and doesn’t seem to have a problem getting off and on it.

October 2009

Photo BFF/Alison Hood

Alison Hood, the Born Free Foundation’s Campaign Director, was very pleased to see how well Bella was looking when she visited last October.  Alison reports:

Bella was looking very content and regal when we saw her.  It was quite hot so she spent a lot of time in the shelter of her large indoor area where she seemed to welcome us as visitors!  She has a platform in there which offers her a good view of her outdoor area and anyone approaching.  Only staff are allowed near the area of the enclosure that has the night room, she however has a sightline down to the visitors’ viewing point so can keep her eye on all activities.

While she has been bothered by flies biting the edges of her ears, much to our surprise she seems to enjoy citronella being sprayed on her to deter the insects.

September 2009

In past weeks Bella has been spending most of her time at the upper end of the enclosure, lying down in the leaves.

She gets interested when someone approaches especially when this is accompanied by the crispy sounds of dry leaves. Since she needs the fly repellent on her ears regularly, this trick has worked for me and she will come to the fence when she hears me approaching, the dry leaves crunching underfoot.

She is comfortable with the spray that contains citronella, and the squirting noises it makes, which makes the application quite comfortable for the carers / vet.

I was given a report also that she was actually sprayed with the fly repellent spray when she came into her night enclosure. This is maybe a sign that she is now more confident in the night enclosure, that she knows she can enter and not get trapped in there.

She has started using one of the molina tree stumps as a scratching post. This is also located in her favourite corner at the top of the enclosure.

This morning Bella was in an exceptionally playful mood; when I approached her, she started rolling on the ground, pawing the air and grunting (semi roar). She seemed happy and carried on for close to 20 mins with breaks when she came and rubbed against the fence and then resumed.

Dr Richard Kimera Ssuna BVM (MUK) MSc(Lon.)
Veterinary Advisor, Lilongwe Wildlife Centre

Photo (c) Dr Richard Ssuna, Lilongwe Wildlife Centre

18.7.09 - Bella was trying to hunt me yesterday, trying to creep slowly towards me.  I think she thought I had not seen her, but when I called her from about eight metres away, she then stood normally.  I was alone up at her sanctuary and it was actually quite scary!    I think she was hungry, as it was just before feed time.

She is now using her house which is good (only for feeding though). Flies are returning, so we need to find some effective fly repellents. Dr Richard Ssuma, Veterinary Advisor

8.7.09 - I was with her today and we gave her a bone, she loved it, very excited she was.   She seemed well and she got up onto the platform with no problems.  (She had found difficulty getting on her sleeping platform on her arrival.)  Lee Stewart, Operations Manager

27.5.09 - Now Bella has settled in we can see we are able to offer her more meat to maintain her condition, so her diet has been increased to 9kg of beef and 10kg of chicken per week, which Bella very much enjoys!  Michelle Burt, Veterinary Manager



Bella is still doing well.  She had been bothered by the flies, but we have managed to get some spray repellent onto her when she comes over to the fence to say hello or for feeding and this seems to be working.

 Michelle Burt, RVT

25th April 2009

Bella is settling in really well.  She is friendly with our team, and will sometimes come up to the fence to say hello if we call to her.   If she is lying down comfortably she won’t make the effort though!

We had heard Bella was uncomfortable around large parties of school children in Romania and we initially thought that Bella was retreating to the centre of her enclosure to escape any large school parties here. However, we have noticed the centre of her enclosure is one of three or four favourite sites she chooses for lie up and we don’t think this is related to school groups at all.  Visitors are only allowed along one side of her enclosure, so she is always able to put a distance between herself and people if she wishes to.  She has a healthy appetite and is currently receiving and eating 6kg beef and 8kg whole chickens weekly, as well as daily liquid multivitamins and cod liver oil.   She was initially offered goat meat, as this is readily available in Lilongwe, but she didn’t seem to like this, so chicken and beef are only on the menu now.

Bella has not been observed using the pool that we went to such trouble to build for her!   Unlike tigers, lions in the wild and in captivity rarely soak themselves in pools.  However, enjoyment of water has been observed with some individual lions and we thought we would like to give her the opportunity.  We continue to drain it and refill it once weekly, just in case she would like to use it in future to cool off in or to drink from.

She has not been seen using the spacious, airy indoor quarters either, built to offer her an alternative to huddling under a small shelter in the rainy season.  One sided is meshed, and there is a large doorway in the other, so it is light and open in there, and should not make her feel trapped.  However, so far Bella has rejected these deluxe surroundings.  We initially saw her footprints on the floor, so we know she has been exploring, but there have been no other signs of her interest.

Bella was seen once this week using the platform, where she was sleeping on her back enjoying the sun.

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

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