Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Julie Ward Centre Diary Decmber 2012

Written by Glen Vena

Dear friends, I trust all is in order.   For us it has been a very long year and the path was not without obstacles, but we have made it and all our cats are well and looking good. Many things to be grateful for. Most important - good health.

During this time of the year all are planning to take some time off and be with friends and family and this is very important, however I took a week off just to reduce my leave days as I had too many outstanding. Family is very important as you all know and the Born Free Foundation has become family to me and a day spent here is a good day and it really makes me feels good. My wife and kids support this and this gives me so much joy and happiness, my youngest kid (Jessica) all she asked for this Christmas was to come and see her favourite cat Kuma at the Jean Byrd Centre.  To have seen Kuma enjoying his Christmas lunch was everything to her.  So watch the space friends, here comes the next bigger-than-me animal lover.

Sirius, rehomed from Monaco zoo in January 2008

The old man looks fantastic and he is really himself, and looks really chilled.  However, as I have been mentioning in every blog, he is very elderly, 21 – 22 years old -  and so not sure what could happen with him.  For now he is still going strong and still loves his privacy.  Takes food really well and he never wastes any.  Every bit that is given to him will be eaten.  I must say that he has been active.  I heard him rasping and I have seen some guinea fowl feathers close to his water trough in the hospital camp, so it seems as if he did what all leopards are good at and managed to catch one.

Sirius peering out from the undergrowth

Sinbad, rescued from a Romanian zoo in 2007
We have been having very hot days lately, which is hard on Sinbad with such a heavy and extensive mane, and my dear friend has been using the thickest bushes to keep himself cool; he has learned to do this.  He loves his food, still give us those warning growls when taking it and eating it.  His fur is shining and to me his mane seems darker.

Our guests love him to bits and when we are on the viewing platform and I will be telling his story, I can tell the guests are not listening to me if Sinbad can be seen - after 5-10 minutes they would ask me about information I had already told them.



Sinbad looked away just as I took this.

Achee, rehomed from a private home in Romania in September 2004, and Ma Juah, rescued from a private zoo in Liberia in July 2004

The girls and Sinbad are still showing more interest in each other, in fact you can see where the grass has been worn away on either side of the fence where they can get the best view of each other.

It used to be that Ma Juah would be jealous of the attention that Achee showed to Sinbad, but she just stands back and watches now.  They have been neighbours for a very long time; maybe they are getting used to each other. But I have to say, MJ will always be protective over Achee.

Sinbad is definitely interested in Achee and Ma Juah, but I’m not sure which one attracts most of his attention.

The girls are looking good, taking their food well, and are often seen grooming each other.

MJ still gets her little fits on occasion, especially if she gets too excited on a feed day.  I try to avoid this by feeding them promptly but as soon as she hears the sound of the Land Rover approaching, she gets excited and starts running to the fence. Sometimes she will stumble and fall but she gets up and keeps running, she is no quitter.  The fits last 30 seconds at most.

If MJ gets one of her episodes, Achee will not be aggressive or attack her. She will sniff her as if she is asking if all is n order, and sometimes even nudge her as if trying to help her up.  Achee always takes her food first, but if MJ is having a little fit, she will never steal MJ’s food, she just focuses on her own portion.


Ma Juah with her ungainly walk
MJ was walking into shot just as I was trying to take a picture of Achee; I thought I would share it!

Leopard Triplets: Sami, Alam and Nimira, rescued from Sudan in 2001

They look good and can still be very mischievous. They always manage to steal the guests’ hearts!

Sami – he has managed to keep the spot of top cat all these years.  He is very good at intimidating his siblings if he thinks it is necessary, charging them, growling and snarling, his ugly expression a fearsome sight.  They stand aside but they are not really scared of him!

This is Sami, aka Top Cat. He was at the back of the back camp looking at me, then he ran down as fast as he could to come say hello. He sniffed me and made those meowing sounds.

Nimira, well she is the silent one, never giving anything away. If her brothers step on her paws she knows how to stand up for herself. She can take Sami on and will leave him bleeding. Don’t mess with the ladies!

I really wish I could tell you, friends, what is going on in her mind, she does worry me at times. She is in extremely good health but sometimes she can just shut off and can be far away mentally. Her eyes will just stand still while she is sitting on her platform looking out on the rest of Shamwari and you wonder what she is thinking. Is she thinking there should be more to life than this? It must be hard for wild animals, being in captivity, even captivity as good as this. We would love to release them into the wild but it is not possible for these hand-reared animals.

This is what Nimira will look at, when she just stands and stares…
Nimira having a drink and all focused on me while lapping up the water

Alam - he is the under dog, and will settle for the crumbs and be happy with them or he will make the most of it. He is a real survivor I would say. He is very playful - even during feeding he will roll around, hide behind bushes and will have this smile on his face....well it really looks like he is smiling! He is the one that will take Nimira’s mind off things when she is in her deep self. He will groom her behind her head and I can see that it is a wake up for her and she will groom him back. Very loving Alam.

Here is Alam rubbing himself on young Karoo-boer-bean tree, he is a very handsome looking leopard.
Here are all three together, in front is Nimira and second is Sami and the last one is Alam


Brutus & Marina.  Brutus was rescued from a French circus in 2007 and Marina was rescued from Romania in 2008

Their move from the Jean Byrd Centre to a bigger enclosure at the Julie Ward Centre seems to have made Brutus more lion.  He stands his ground more and he does look scary on some occasions.  He is not very vocal but when he roars our guests staying at Riverdene Lodge will have lots to say about it in the morning when they visit me. Some guests have said it reminds them of the vuvuzela’s (the horns many people heard for the first time during FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 2010).  This made me laugh out loud!!! Comparing Brutus to a vuvuzela!

Marina looks good, she has grown into a beautiful young lady.  She makes Brutus really happy and Brutus her. They will groom each other, wrestle, play, hug.  I must try and get a photo of them hugging, it is so sweet.  However, during feeding I still need to split them up and each will eat in their own hospital camp.  That way I make sure Brutus doesn’t get to steal Marina’s.

Brutus scent-marking in his hospital camp and looking very confidant while doing so.
After marking his turf he sits looking at me and shows me he will go out into the main camp only when he is ready. (They both enjoy hanging out in their hospital camp and sometimes it is hard to encourage them to go out and play!)
Grumpy as he was, after I had let Marina into his hospital camp he relaxed and started rolling on the ground and purred. The love birds!
Sid’s expression when he received his gift from BFF

I’ve saved the best for last.  Most of you will remember Sidney Clay; he started way back with BFF in 2002 as an Education officer.  He then joined me on the Animal Care team in 2008, still fulfilling his duties as an Education Officer until a replacement was found.   Sidney continues helping on the EDU side, as BFF has become more then just a job for us all here, we go out there and do more than the extra mile that is required of us.

Well all, Sidney has just completed his TEN years here with us and it has been a long journey for him too. A man that has values, a father to all of us and a very dear friend.

I think the best gift this year was to see his young daughter pass her matric/ grade 12 with flying colours and achieving an exemption and a overall B symbol . A very proud Dad he is.

As a gift to recognise his service to BFF, Sid received a watch and this he did not expect at all, it was a very nice surprise to him. Thx BFF!

Uncle Sid: from all of us, the best and may we have many years together.

Meet the team. Front row, left to right: Catherine, Christine, Martin, then Sidney, me and Headman
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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