Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Julie Ward Centre Diary

Written by Glen Vena, Animal Care Manager
December 2016 

Dear friends, I have been away most of this month and Martin, Sidney and Thembela have held the fort at the Julie Ward Centre while I was away. 

The cats are looking great!  We could do with rain though, it is so dry and we cannot see grass any more in the veld.  It is worrying for everyone, for the farmers around us too, so we hoping to receive some much needed rain soon.   

Our rescued lions and leopards

Achee and Sinbad:Achee was rehomed from a private owner in Romania in 2004 and Sinbad was rescued from a Romanian zoo in 2007

Below is a picture that I took with my mobile, well not the greatest, but this is just to show you all that there is progress between them, and Achee is really trying to make this work between them, even though Sinbad shows no interest in responding.  Sometimes he comes across as grumpy, and sometimes he makes me laugh and it is not a laughing matter :)

But what I saw this morning when I was showing round our guests, was sooo cool! They were sleeping facing each other with their noses almost touching.

After a few minutes observing them, Achee started to roll around on her back and I thought Sinbad was going to respond to her clear invitations, but he just did what lions are good at – he went back to sleep!   

But at least they have each other and that alone is a blessing, lions are social cats and they need a friend in their lives.  So far, so good!

Jerry, Maggie and Sonja.  Jerry was rescued from a Romanian zoo in 2007, and Maggie and Sonja were rescued from a German circus and arrived at Shamwari in 2015.

These three cats are doing well, they look good too. Maggie has the sweetest face ever and her sister Sonja has this serious look on hers, but both make my day. 

Sonja in the hospital camp relaxing
Maggie photo bombing Sonja’s picture, she had to come and see what I was doing.

When I took these photos, for some reason Jerry decided to stay in the thickets.   He is good though.

Triplets, Sami, Alam and Nimira, found as motherless cubs in Sudan.  Arrived Shamwari 2001

Owing to the extreme heat this month we did not see them as much as we do usually with our guests; the triplets were doing the sensible thing and staying in the bushes to keep cool.  This will be disappointing to our guests, who would love to see these stunning cats; fortunately most understand when we explain why the cats are here, and how they must always have the choice of whether or not they allow themselves to be seen - but we do get the odd guest who doesn’t understand this! 

Brutus and Marina. Brutus was rescued from a French circus, and Marina was rescued as a cub from Romania.  They both arrived at Shamwari in 2008. 

Everything is well with them, still very much in love. However, Brutus is gaining weight. I’m sure this is because he is not moving as much as he used to, due to the limp on his right front foot/leg.   We think it might be arthritis.  We will have to reduce his food a little.

Fussy Marina, using her trough to wash the soil from her meat!


We had many guests here at our Julie Ward Centre this month - 421 visitors.  They were very impressed with our work and touched with what they have seen, some even cried when hearing the stories told about the cats and even about our passion for our work.  

We had some problems this month with our precious water, which we could do without in this severe heat.  We had some water pipes that burst due to the heat - plus Marina has been damaging some water pipes and moving the water trough!

Thembela shocked to see Marina’s damage of the water trough.

Marina had managed to move the water trough and also the ball valve that controls the level of the water in the trough!  The worst part was because the pipe was ripped out, we lost 15 000L of water that left the centre without a drop of water and our guests could not use the washrooms! These are so important for guests to use as they come straight from their wildlife drive and they really could do with a ‘comfort stop’. I was on the 2-way radio calling all the rangers to stop at the nearest lodge for a comfort stop to avoid disappointment. 

Look how she pulled it out of the ground, the little plastic coupling could not match Marina’s strength. 

Then on one of the hot days, one of the pipes burst and I think that was due to the heat, see this picture.  Fortunately I spotted this quickly as I was busy doing my morning checks and patrol. 

Look how brown our grass is.  At least that water did not go to waste, as some of the animals grazing outside our perimeter fence will have green grass growing soon.

Finally, to put the cherry on top, our Defender decided she is a bit tired and needed to visit the dealership in Port Elizabeth.  She stopped taking gears and just cut out, I could not even start her. 

She is very much missed and things are not the same, everything takes so long, trying to loan a vehicle already in use.  It can take me three hours before I can even get on to the road to collect food for our cats. With our Defender within 10 minutes of hooking my trailer, I’m on the go, just like that. Let’s hope she will be back soon. 

I mention all these to you all just to share some of the challenges this side, and open a little window into our world.  But hey we make it work!  We always get to the top, and our other teams on the reserve are always willing to lend a helping hand.  It’s part of our success!

Read the latest Jean Byrd Big Cat Diary here! 

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

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