Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Julie Ward Centre

Leopard cubs

The Leopard Triplets

Names: Sami ♂ Alam ♂

Date of birth: estimated  15th March 2001

Species: leopard (Panthera pardus)

These leopards were found motherless, by soldiers in the Sudan in North Africa.  When the soldiers realised they couldn’t care for the un-weaned cubs, they packaged them up in a box and sent them to the offices of Lundin Oil.  The cubs were in a very poor condition but staff at Lundin Oil nursed them back to health.  Virginia Lundin contacted Born Free, asking if we could find a home for the cubs.  With Shamwari we offered to take in the triplets at the Julie Ward Centre.  Virginia worked hard at fund-raising for the costs and their care and the young leopards arrived at Shamwari on 3rd July 2001.

It would be unusual if you don’t catch sight Alam and Sami.  These leopards were hand-reared and still very much enjoy human company.   This is a legacy many hand-reared animals are left with. On some lion-breeding farms, or in circuses, for example, cubs are deliberately removed from their mother at a few days old, to make them safe to handle by tourists and by their trainers.  Many are then discarded when they grow older and more dangerous.

Unfortunately it is not possible to return the cubs to the wild in the reserve here.  Shamwari would not be given permission and as the cubs are too human-friendly they could become a danger.  We recognise captivity is second-best for these wild-born animals – but at Shamwari they are offered an excellent home.

The young leopards were all neutered to stop sexual aggression and territorial behaviour developing, and they remain affectionate playmates.


Achee ♀

Date of birth: estimated 2001

Species: lion (Panthera leo)                

Achee (‘Ah-kee’) was the pet lion of the Cypriot Consul in Romania.  Rescued as a cub from a photographer in the mountains, she was very much loved.  However, the lean meat diet given to the fussy Achee was lacking in necessary vitamins and minerals.  No-one was aware that Achee was developing nutritional osteodystrophy.

As Achee grew it was obvious her enclosure in the Consul car park was no longer safe for a fully grown lion and Born Free was asked to help rehome her.  She arrived at Shamwari on 9th September 2004.  Her condition has improved dramatically and she is now a strong, powerful and playful lioness.

We know some guests have been disturbed by the unsteady gait and head-wobbling Achee sometimes display, and have questioned if it is kind keeping them alive.  Our day-to-day observations lead us to believe she has a good quality of life and does not appear to be suffering.



Date of birth: estimated 2001

Species: lion (Panthera leo)

Sinbad was rescued from a closed zoo in Romania.  He had been used by a beach photographer on the beaches of Constantia, to attract tourists into having their photo taken with a cuddly cub.  When he grew too dangerous for this work he was sold to a local hotel owner who took pity on him, but then Sinbad had to be passed on to a municipal park in the town of Bacau in north east Romania.  A small enclosure was made for him to live in. 

For two years of his time in the zoo he had a female companion but she died and for the next two years he lived alone.  He appeared to be kindly treated by the park staff, and was playful and human friendly.  However, the conditions were very basic and inadequate and the sandy floor of his enclosure became a muddy mess in winter, soaking his beautiful mane.  His diet was poor in vitamins and minerals and Sinbad is half the size of a normal lion.  His spine is a little sunken and he is weak on his back legs.  His canines have been worn down to stumps, which gives him some difficulty in eating.  It doesn’t stop him feeding though, and he very much enjoys his food!

Sinbad arrived at Shamwari on 2nd August 2007.  His balanced diet and exercise appear to be strengthening his muscles, making his skeletal deformities less obvious.


Brutus ♂

Date of birth: estimated 2001

Species: lion (Panthera leo)

Born Free and Shamwari were first alerted to the plight of Brutus in 2005 by the French NGO1 ‘One Voice’.  Their investigator found Brutus confined to a ‘Cirque Vitalis’ trailer with cage space of less than two square metres.  Apparently Brutus was never let out; the circus was very run down and the domestic animals were in a ‘horrendous state’.

One Voice took action to get Brutus confiscated and asked if Shamwari and Born Free could offer him a home.  We agreed but unfortunately, during the investigations that were needed for the confiscation the circus moved to a new ‘Departement’ which meant the whole legal process had to start all over again with new local authorities.

One Voice eventually secured the necessary agreement for the confiscation of Brutus to take place, then handed over his case to their colleagues at FAA2 and SPA3 who kindly worked with us on the permits and fund-raising.

Brutus was eventually confiscated on 13th December 2007.  There was a heavy frost that night, and for Brutus lying on the metal floor of his trailer, with no bedding provided, it must have been extremely uncomfortable.  Brutus was taken temporarily to a French sanctuary, le Refuge de l’Arche where he could remain safely while the permits were arranged – we had good reason to be concerned that the circus might spirit him away once they learnt of the confiscation.  With space limited at the French sanctuary, Brutus had to remain in indoor quarters until his transfer could be finalised.

On 27th April, 2008, Brutus was transferred to Shamwari.  Suddenly he was faced with many new sensations: grass under his feet, the sky above; the ability to walk and run in a straight line; he had not experienced these for five years – or perhaps ever in his life.  However, he settled in surprisingly quickly and is now a friendly, affectionate lion. 

1Non governmental organisation

2Society for the Protection of Animals

3Foundation for the Assistance of Animals

Lion Cubs

The Young Lioness

Marina ♀ 

Date of birth: estimated November 2007

Species: lion (Panthera leo)

In Dec 2007, the Foundation was alerted to the tragic story of two 4-week old lion cubs, Marina and Sarnia .  They had been abandoned outside an apartment block in Central Bucharest.   One of the cubs had severe enteritis, a potentially fatal condition. They were given temporary shelter by Monica Minciu from the Romanian Animal Welfare Group, APAR1, and emergency veterinary treatment was administered.  Meanwhile Born Free launched an urgent appeal in the British media for their rescue.  

A very generous sponsor stepped in to help and in February 2008, the Foundation and Shamwari were able to go ahead with preparing for their rescue.  Monica received the news with mixed feelings.  Much as she loved the cubs, they were trashing her flat and causing a lot of expensive damage!

While the import and export permits were being arranged, the cubs were transferred to Guernsey, an island off the coast of Great Britain, and to the quarantine enclosures of the GSPCA2 Animal Shelter.  Here the cubs were prepared for their new life, with their dependence on humans being slowly decreased.  They were also played recordings of sounds of the African bush, complete with lions roars!  The cubs seemed fascinated by the strange sounds – but wanted to keep close to their human carers too.

The cubs traveled well on their long journey to Shamwari, and arrived at their new home on 27th April, 2008.  We thought they might be nervous initially, and want to remain close to Jayne le Gras, their foster mum.  However, Jayne and the other carers had done their parenting well.  The cubs were curious, confident and out-going.  To those of us watching the cubs’ investigation the grass and bushes, a transformation seemed to take place.  In their natural habitat they no longer looked like over-grown kittens; suddenly it was possible to see the powerful lions they would soon become.

Very sadly, Marina was to lose her sister: in January 2010, it was noticed that Sarnia was off her food and so she was assessed by the vets.  They tried to determine the cause of her illness and decided to undertake an exploratory operation and discovered a blockage that was caused by a small plastic ear tag that could have come from a food item.  The blockage was removed but sadly there were complications and in spite of intensive care her condition deteriorated.

She died on January 25th.  Throughout this time she was being treated by the expert veterinary team at Shamwari, in consultation with other colleagues.   Fortunately Marina had already bonded with Brutus, the male lion they were introduced to, and this must have helped ease her loss.  She wasn’t seen calling for Sarnia afterwards and seems to have developed a closer relationship with Brutus now she doesn’t have to share him with her sister.

1Association for the Protection of Animals in Romania

2Guernsey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

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

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