Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Jean Byrd Centre Big Cats


Shada ♀

Date of birth: estimated 1997

Species: lion (Panthera leo)

Shada lived with two other lions, Nalla and Djunka, in a cramped trailer of Cirque Katia Ullman which toured the Dordogne and Gironde regions of France.  Nervous of strangers she would cower at the back of the trailer, but as there was only room for one and a half paces in each direction, there was nowhere to hide.  French pressure group, One Voice, found they were being held illegally.  They were able to get the French government to confiscate the lions and appealed to Born Free to rehome the lions at Shamwari.

The three lions were living in one ‘beast wagon’, divided into three 2m x 2m sections.  When Born Free investigated in July 2006, we were horrified to discover the lions had not been out of their wagon since their arrival – nine years ago for Djunka and Nalla, three years ago for Shada.  Shada had been de-clawed to make her safer to handle.

The lions were rescued and transferred to Shamwari on 3rd November, 2006.  Blood tests revealed the older lioness, Nalla, was suffering from kidney disease and although she initially responded to treatment, sadly, she had to be euthanased just six months after her arrival.  A bigger shock had come a month earlier when the male, Djunka, was killed by the bite of a snake, probably a Cape cobra. 

Both Djunka and Nalla were 17 -quite elderly for lions, but we all felt terribly sad they had only a few months in their new homes, which they so much seemed to enjoy.  They experienced grass underfoot, could walk and run, hide in the undergrowth or bask in the sunshine, which is a small comfort.  Shada now lives alone.  She doesn’t seem lonely though, and has changed from being almost terrified of people to being affectionate and friendly with the team who care for her.

Leda and her daughter Rhea

Species – Leopards (Panthera pardus) 

Dates of Birth

Leda – 1990

Rhea – 28th January, 1998

Leda and her daughters Roxanni and Rhea used to live in a municipal zoo in Limassol, Cyprus.  The zoo was run down and unable to meet the minimum legal requirements; it was left to operate illegally.  The Born Free Foundation had been receiving complaints about the zoo for many years and when the late Bill Travers, Born Free’s founder, visited in 1990, he found appalling conditions.  Bill and Virginia McKenna began a campaign to get the zoo closed down, and was later joined in this by Animal Responsibility Cyprus (ARC).

Over the years many of the animals Bill had seen had died or been transferred until eventually the three leopards were the only big cats remaining in the zoo.  The new Mayor of Cyprus at last gave permission for the Born Free Foundation to give the leopards a new home.

By then Leda was 19 years old, which is very elderly for a captive leopard.  Her mate had died the previous year in 2008.  However, although Roxanni seemed to have some health problems, these were given treatment and they were pronounced fit enough to travel.  They arrived safely at Shamwari on May 2009.

Leda had been born in Tel Aviv zoo and was transferred to Limassol when she was four years old; her daughters had been born in Limassol zoo, so all three leopards had only known the zoo’s barren confines for many years.  The only trees in their enclosure were painted on the walls.  There was no sky above them, just a roof.  Stepping out on to the grass, into the open and having the freedom to move more than a few steps in each direction was probably unnerving for them.

They settled in well though and seemed to go from strength to strength.  Then, in January 2011, Roxanni went off her food.  Blood tests showed she was very anaemic, which is associated with kidney failure.  She seemed to respond well to treatment, and had been released from her hospital camp back into her main enclosure, and was eating well – but then suddenly died 9th February 2011.   The post mortem results show Roxanni did indeed have chronic kidney failure, the most common disease in ageing cats, domestic or wild.   We are glad she had nearly two years to experience the magic of Shamwari before she died.  Her mother and sister continue to thrive.

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

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