Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

April 08 Diaries

Summary of BFF Cats at ther Julie Ward Centre

It has been a busy month. I was away for a few days too, so at the same time trying the catch up with every thing that has been happening at the Centres.

For a while I was really worried as I did not get any food for the cats from the local farmers and I had only a few portions left in the freezer room. However out of the blue, farmers where calling us and we had to collect all the carcasses we could get. Without that BFF Land Rover we would be lost, she has been working right through and she never stops or breaks down. She takes us wherever and brings us back in one piece!

So at this stage I’m sorted with food and thanks to all those farmers who have been supporting BFF rescued cats.  As a token of our thanks to the farmers we are going to invite them for a one night stay over here at Shamwari, just to show our appreciation. I’m sure they will enjoy this.

Things are also starting to shape up nicely at our sister centre (Jean Byrd Centre). The two new camps are up, awaiting the new arrivals, and we have built mini bomas inside the camps and some nice shelters for the newcomers, now due later this month.  We have put in these new concrete water troughs and I want to see if the new lions will try to move them around. In the past the lions used to pull out the plastic water troughs and there would be water all over the place.

Exciting news is that Murray and I might go to France to get Brutus the male lion. This is going to be a first after eight years been with the Foundation to go full out on a rescue and see everything, I’m so exited. In the past I only got to see all the rescued cats once they got to Shamwari, but now I’ll be witnessing it from start to end and I’m going to learn so much from this. Yeppppppiee!!!!!!!!

Well, I’m sure you want to hear more about the cats now:

WEATHER – around 28 deg C


Food – this he loves and never messes around with it.  He looks good and still maintains his lovely figure.

Sightings – most of the guests that visit the centre at 8:15am will see him. He does not like the heat later in the day and stays hidden in the shade.

I tell you this lion is so famous. Most of the guests that come to the centre always ask about Sinbad before we go up to view the cats and they love him to bits! He too doesn’t mind people when he is out and about. He would just sit under a tree to keep cool and look at us. His head or eyes would move slowly from left to right scanning all of us on the viewing deck and would then lick his lips. I do not know what this means, but I do not think he wants to eat us up! Guests also have noted this licking behaviour when he looks at us.   He just looks great, guests would note he is a small lion, but they will be fascinated by him.

At this stage he has not roared as yet. He does purr and scent-mark his territory.

Dan has seen him on a few occasions looking at Ma Juah and Achee. Looks like he and Achee are making eyes at each other. MJ, she lashes her tail side to side when she sees him and would show her big canines to him.  Poor Sinbad doesn’t have any to show so he plays little and would roll on his back and put his feet or paws in the air as a sign that he is being submissive – that is how I sum it up anyhow! Not always will he go on his back.   I have heard him give a very big growl and he has still lots of lion in him! Achee is just the sweetest lioness ever. Would love to see them together, if possible, one day.

Credit Glen Vena
Sinbad eating


Sightings – rare – guests don’t see them very much as they prefer to be at the back of the camp which is not visible from the viewing deck.  The only time when you see them with guests is when they came to visit Sinbad. This is where their fence lines are close to each other and they are able to see each other.

The girls are doing very well and look great. MJ is very protective over Achee and she will get a bit aggressive, even if it is me or Dan having a chat to Achee. She would show her canines and would approach us then, well that is where we give them their space and move backwards and watch our distance or shall I say we would observe her comfort zone.

I have not seen then trying to dominate each other. Just on the odd day you would see Achee wanting to take both food portions when we are feeding them, but as you know she can only take one portion at a time and go off with it.  So by the time she comes to Ma Juah, MJ would have disappeared with her portion. If need be sometimes we do feed MJ in the hospital camp and leave Achee in the main camp. However, as soon as they have eaten a little of their meat, they start to pace the fence line and try to get to each other, so as soon as I see this start, and seen that they have eaten enough of their meat, I open the gate.  Normally MJ would run out as fast as she can to Achee in the main camp and they would start to groom each other and smell each other. This would last a few seconds and it is over. Then Achee would go into the hospital camp to look for MJ’s food and MJ would go down the main camp looking for Achee’s.

The girls still love to stay inside their mini bomas and that is why most of the time that we have guests they will never see them as the girls are inside keeping cool.

Achee has started a new habit - she is really good in finding the water pipe that runs through the hospital camp and she loves taking a bite at it! The other day we lost 10 000 liters of water, this happened overnight. So when we got to the Centre at 7.30am there was no water and poor Murray our vet that stays at the Centre says they had no water to take a shower.  We have buried the pipe deeper this time, and so far Achee hasn’t tried to excavate it.

Photo - BFF / Shamwari / Glen
Aslan and Stella


Sightings – in a week we will see them about once from the viewing deck with the guests. Guests still love them to bits and fortunately Aslan hasn’t shown aggression towards them.  He still loves to give us a fright every now and then though.  He will walk past the viewing deck and as he is walking past us he would give us this look that freezes you.  Then, just as you think he is going to keep on walking, he looks back at you and gives a big bark!   That makes you want to jump backwards! Then he walks away towards where Stella would be and they would rub their head against each other. Then you have the guests looking at each other with smiles on their faces.


The Triplets are the greatest. Guests never stop talking of them and love them to bits. Just the other day I had some close friends of Virginia Lundin who came to visit the centre and wanted to see the leopards that Virginia talks so much about. They were over the moon seeing the triplets, and the triplets enjoyed the attention too.

Sami is still the top cat and Alam the gentleman. Well as you all know Nimira can be a handful sometimes and I think her brothers know this too by now, and they will give her space if she needs it.

Nimira gave me almost a heart attack the other day (April 2nd). I was doing a talk on our cats to new trainee rangers here at Shamwari. At the same time I was showing them how everything works here at our centre. So we went to see our rescued cats and this they love as very few people are allowed to go and see the cats up close.

Dan already had done his morning fence patrol at around 7.45am and all was in order.  Dan saw all three of them and all was well and did not see any thing out of the ordinary.

So it was safe for me to go and walk with the eight trainees. We approached the triplets’ camp and I only saw Sami and Alam. Then the time was 9.50am and the sun was nice and hot (+25ºC) so we kept on with the discussions, and as the time went on Nimira came out from under a nearby Qwarry tree where we hadn’t even spotted her.  She came up to us while I was calling her and she was responding to my voice, but as she was coming towards us she was swaying from side to side as if her back legs where too heavy for her and her paws heavy too. She came right up to the fence and she started to talk with me (she always blow air through her nose and she meows), but she touched the electrical fence as she was doing this and she never does this as all the cats are very careful of the fence as they know it will hurt or shock them. Right there I knew there was something wrong and the students agreed with me. Her eyes were seriously dilated and she was just not herself. Funny part was that her brothers kept away from her but she was not aggressive at all with them, she was very calm, but just not right.

I called Murray, our vet, ASAP. While I was waiting for Murray to get to BFF I managed to separate her from the boys and got her into the hospital camp and tried to keep her calm in there. Well that proved unusually easy. I asked all the students to go back to the centre, but before I did this I explained to them why I didn’t want them all around her and that her wellbeing was, at this stage, my number one priority. They understood. In my heart I was saying please let it not be a snake bite as I would be devastated. As she was breathing heavily at first and could not move properly – I thought cape cobra – neurotoxic venom – keep her calm! I was also thinking I fed yesterday, was it the food, but why are the boys okay then?

Murray arrived. The time was then just after 11am,  but I know Murray came as fast as he could. We got the dart gun ready and darted her with half the dose that you would give a leopard. She went down in less then 4 minutes, normally it would take about 8 to 10 minutes before the anaesthetic works.  She was not well at all. Murray was quick and very organized and had every thing with him.  By this time Dan had cancelled the guests and joined up with me at the back and Bongani we called just to let him know what was happening as he is a big part of the team.

Murray gave her some good stuff and took blood samples and this was rushed off to the lab in Port Elizabeth. We stayed there with her while the anaesthetic was wearing off as, if she stays relaxed and calm she will not try to get up.

She woke up around 6.00pm and she was still a bit drowsy from the anaesthetic. Murray took over monitoring her, and Abagail was also around to have a look at her later the evening.

The following day she looked well and she was just fine. Murray said to give her something like liver, just to see if she was going to eat. She took it and she wanted to have more.  Too much of it not good for you Nimira, I said!  You could see she was dying to get to her brothers and nothing else mattered. They were by the sliding gates waiting patiently and looking at all the movement.

The results came back and all was normal, it is so confusing. We are observing them all closely.

Photo Virginia Lundin
Magnificent Sami


Sightings –  We see Pitou a lot lately. Sirius still prefers to hide the bushes when he sees people coming. Otherwise he is well. I must just get updated pictures for you all.

Both have settled in nicely and they look great. The food they love. During feeding Pitou would come out and take her food while we are there and she would lick the hair off and even roll on it. Well Sirius comes only when we are gone. Once Dan saw him, by the water trough, but it was just a glimpse and he was out of there.

Late afternoons we hear Pitou call and the triplets would respond.

Otherwise they are both well and kicking.

Phoyo Glen Vena / BFF/ Shamwari
Pitou taking shelter from the heat under a qwarry bush
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

Share | |