Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Julie Ward Centre Diary


APRIL 2017

Nimira, Alam and Sami

April has been very busy for all of us, April has been very sad too. We lost good friends suddenly. I guess it is okay to feel a bit down. We all have those days, don’t we? 

It is with great sadness to tell you all that Nimira, and Jabulani at the Jean Byrd Centre, passed away within two weeks of each other, after very short illnesses.  We are all trying to deal with this in the best ways possible. 

The cats we care for, they became more than just friends, and it is made more painful, when those left behind are calling for their partner and their sister.  

But we will be positive and look ahead and try to comfort ourselves knowing we did all we could to give them the best years of their lives. 

Sinbad warning me to keep my distance from his girl :)


Achee and Sinbad.  Achee was rehomed from a private home in Romania in September 2004, and Sinbad was rescued from a Romanian zoo August 2007

I think they are the loveliest cats ever that we managed to introduce to each other. It is also amazing seeing how they thrive here with us, indeed a life worth living! They have been through so much and yet they still trust us, I do hope their roars will forever echo in our ears. Most gave up believing Sinbad would accept Achee, it took so long, but they are a very close couple now.  And some see the way Achee’s head wobbles from side to side as she walks, as a result of her poor early diet, and Sinbad’s tiny frame, again from a poor early diet, and wonder if we have done the right thing, rescuing them.  However, if they could see how much pleasure Sinbad and Achee get from their lives, and now from each other, they wouldn’t question it.  That’s what we do here, give all individuals a chance, where others have given up. For me this is a big comfort and a big plus in my work that I do here. Makes me feel good about my work. So to you, Achee, Sinbad … I salute you. 

Sinbad and Achee, having an afternoon sleep.

Jerry, Maggie and Sonja.  Jerry was rescued from a Romania zoo and arrived at Shamwari in August 2007; sisters Maggie and Sonja were rescued from a German circus and arrived January 2015

My little nickname for them: The Magnificent Three! They are so beautiful, and so cool with each other as if they have been together for years. Jerry came originally from Romania and the girls from Germany, then spent some time with our friends at the Natuurhulpcentrum sanctuary in Belgium, but there is no language boundary for these three cats! 

Sonja in front, Maggie behind, with Jerry in the background.

I have to say this, Sonja has a very sweet spot for Martin. We have been watching this for some time to make sure, but it is not our imagination.  (I could sit and watch our cats for hours, if there was time, but we are such a small team, we always need to be on the move.) Martin is so caring and I think that the cats are really picking up on this.  They are very smart and I am sure they know/sense when there are good feelings around them. So thank you Martin for being a friend to our cats, since day one, when you started to work with us.  All the hard work you do is appreciated.  

Jerry.  Look how his mane has grown back nicely since he has been with the girls. If you remember, with the passing of his mum, Jools, he lost a bit of his mane.

The sisters together, Maggie on the left and Sonja on the right

Brutus and Marina.  Brutus was rescued from a French circus, and Marina rescued from Romania as a cub where she was found being kept as a pet in a block of flats.  They both arrived at Shamwari in April 2008. 

They are well and are still very much in love with each other.   Brutus is still limping, but it is not getting worse, and he does not let it get him down.  He is always on the move in his own way, and he will follow Marina anywhere.  She is so gentle with him.   

Brutus grooming Marina

Brutus and Marina - afternoon sleep 

Sami, Alam and Nimira, found by soldiers as motherless cubs in Sudan.  They arrived Shamwari July 2001   

Nimira on the right, at the beginning of April before she died.

In mid April things did not go so well for us in a short space of time.  On the 14th of April, we saw Nimira had not eaten the food she had been given the day before.  We keep her separate from her brothers for feeding, as Sami would steal hers if he finished first, so we spotted it that morning when we opened up the hospital camp to let her out.  She looked normal and she was herself, so at the time we thought it was a tummy bug.  However, we reported it to Catherine, our Centre Manger, and to Johan, our vet. At the weekend she was back with her brothers, being herself drinking water as normal, running around being Nimira.   On the 16th Martin gave her some really fresh meat that he just collected from a farmer.  She took her food as always but then stopped eating after a few chunks.  Johan came after hours to check on her. 

The next day Johan returned and darted Nimira and took her to the Shamwari animal hospital where she was observed and blood tests were taken.  

She remained at the hospital as she was not responding to treatment and on the 20th I went to see her and to sit with her.  I could see she would not be coming back to me.  Her eyes were a bit sunken and she did not blink.  I called her name, but she did not respond, I stroked her on her head a few times and she felt cold, although she was covered nicely. I went outside and had a moment to myself. Her blood results came back and the lab did not pick up anything abnormal, but I knew she was dying.  I went out crying, got into the Defender and drove off. Long story short I got a call, early in the morning the next day, from Megan our vet nurse, telling me that had Nimira passed away during the night. Well I tried to be brave and all I said to her was; “Eish, a double whammy in one month.” (Jabulani, our white lion at the Jean Byrd Centre, had died two weeks earlier). 

Johan called later that day to say they will be doing an autopsy on Nimira, and I said I would like to be there.  

Nimira’s liver was very reduced in size, Johan said, and was covered in nodules.  He thought her collapse was too sudden to be cancer, and her body condition was still good. It didn’t look like an infection or from anything poisonous, and there was no sign of tick-transmitted blood parasites.  Whatever caused the liver damage, we still don’t know what is was.

I am not really sure why I wanted to be there for the post mortem.  I met Nimira for the first time in 2001 when she arrived here with her brothers as cubs, and I guess I wanted to see her off, for the last time in 2017, 16 years of being together. This I wanted to do and it made me feel better; I guess it makes it easier to move on.  I really loved Nimira.  

I have laid her to rest in our little garden of remembrance at the Julie Ward Centre and she is next to Kuma, our magnificent old leopard who died in June last year. So yeah, a very sad month for those of us who knew her and were close to her.  It must be very hard for Virginia Lundin and her family, who were so instrumental in the rescue of the triplets.  

The boys after Nimira’s death.  They are still the same, boisterous and playful with each other, bless their hearts.

Our policy is not to handle our rescued cats, but the triplets arrived in winter as hand-reared cubs, so we used to keep them indoors at night as it got too cold for them.  In the mornings we would take them out to their enclosure and we used to carry them as if we let them walk, they would be all over the place.   Happy memories.  So, here is a moment with me and Nimira, taken by our Animal Care Manager at that time, Tim Parratt.    


As well as losing friends, we made new friends too, some new Shamwari Conservation Experience students.  It is always a pleasure having them around, and they go all out to help at our Centre, by assisting us with our daily tasks here.  

Shamwari Conservation Experience students – a welcome help

We cleaned out some enclosures, some water troughs and did some bush clearing. I must say it was good to have our Land Rover Defender back; she was out of action for a few weeks.  It was good to get to all those odd jobs we had been unable to tackle.  

We also had David and Anne Millar visit.  They are long time BFF supporters and Shamwari is a must when they visit South Africa.  We had a lovely time and they loved seeing the cats. It was during this time our Defender was out of action, but we had a courtesy car from our wonderful sponsors, Land Rover, so we drove around in a Discovery 4 and that was so

Me with Anne and David Millar, long-time supporters

We wish to thank each and every visitor who came to our Centre during their stay at Shamwari, it is always lovely to have you all, and we hope our work touched you. 

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