Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Big Cat Diary January 2016


January 2016

Written by Glen Vena, Animal Care Manager

Hello all, I trust all is well with everyone. This side it has been extremely hot and dry and we could do with some nice rain, a lot of it would be great.

Things have been busy for us at the rescue centres and the cats are keeping us busy too. Very happy to report that all the cats are well.  

Our new lion arrivals at the Jean Byrd Centre, Black and Jora, are looking good together, they seem not to mind the hot days they would just go about their own business as always. They both eat well, sleep well and I think they find the company of Shada in the next door camp interesting as they would both keep an eye on her and would run up and down the fence line and try to get her attention. 

Black and Jora greeting each other in the hospital camp at the Jean Byrd Centre, after they had been separated, until Black’s tail completely heals. I took this pic when I visited them and got to feed them together, they really are great buddies and love each other’s company.
Jora drinking some of Black’s water and Black waiting for his food. They are happy campers.

Black’s tail looks good.  Thus far we do not see any funny business with his tail (Jora sucking it like he used to do in the circus wagon, or Black chewing at it).  Johan our vet did a fantastic job with the tail, looks like nothing ever happened to it.   It is just a bit shorter!

Well back to the Julie Ward Center, and what has been happening here.  

We had Lucy the leopard tortoise who came to visit us again.  In this photo she was taking a stroll around Sinbad and Achee’s hospital camp and helping herself to the green grass.  She is not shy any more. Not sure how she gets to all these places. 

Lucy our leopard tortoise friend

Thembela, our intern, and I, between guest tours and feeding of cats and collecting lion food, get to the smaller things that need our attention. Here is Thembela busy with the hose-pipe getting the grass wet for a bit and we also changed all the water and cleaned the indoor houses of the cats. With Martin on his annual leave, Thembela has been really great and filling big shoes doing what she can to assist me with my daily duties. 

Thembela watering the grass in Sinbad’s hospital camp, everything is burning in this heat. So we do what we can, where we can.

I think I have to share this with you all: the other day before I started my tour with some guests who came to visit me at the Centre, we saw some kudu coming very close to the Centre and were nibbling on some of the grass and trees in the garden. I managed to take a photo of one before they all took off, once they noticed us looking at them. We have had about 15 kudu living within the sanctuary boundaries for years.  They got in originally by jumping over the 2.4m high electric fence, and now they feel safe here, protected from the wild lions.  There is plenty of food in here and we provide water too.  Our lions and leopards don’t seem bothered by them, and they keep their distance from us, and they help me keep the area nice and tidy and do a good job pruning the trees. 

Kudu bull walking around the BFF garden area.

Our rescued lions and leopards

Sami, Alam and Nimira, the leopard triplets, found as motherless cubs in Sudan.  Arrived Shamwari July 2001

A must share with every one, see my picture of the triplets drinking water in the main camp, taken with my mobile phone.  Our guests stand on the viewing deck to look into their camp but sometimes you don’t  get to see the triplets if they are around the corner, and I tell you they play hard to get some times! They will be there and we would hear them but they will not show themselves at all. The funny part is as soon as we make our way down the steps one of the triplets will come out strolling towards the front of the water trough or fence and all the guests will stop and all will have to go up the steps again.  I had to have a little giggle to myself when one guests asked me, did I teach them that. I said I had no hand in it!

Sami facing us, Nimira to the left and Alam to the right
Here is Sami and Alam somewhere in the middle of the main camp. They look pretty relaxed and minding their own business.
This Nimira and Alam at the back of their main camp, with the view of the southern section of Shamwari that most of our BFF rescued cats get to see.

ACHEE AND SINBAD.  Achee was rehomed from a private home in Romania and arrived at Shamwari in September 2004.  Sinbad was rescued from Bacau Zoo in Romania and arrived Shamwari August 2007.

In this picture, Achee and Sinbad are just few meters apart and they were trying to get to Thembela as they wanted more water on them to cool off.  We had been busy cleaning their hospital camp, and watering the grass in the hospital camp.  The temperature was over 40 deg C.  Sinbad becomes very lethargic on hot days, what with his thick heavy mane round his head and under his tummy.  Anyway, Thembala was using the hose outside the fence and Achee and Sinbad approached.  I suggested to Thembela she turn the hose in their direction – and they loved it!   Achee and Sinbad are still a bit wary of each other but it brought them close to each other without growling for a few minutes as they crawled even closer to the refreshing downpour.   Sinbad was funny; he had this bone that he had found somewhere, and he was growling and at the same time crawling closer to her and the water from the hose while trying to hide behind the bone.  I had to laugh!

Achee and Sinbad in the main camp looking at Thembela. It is very dry at this stage, you can see the grass is dry too, just the trees manage to stay green.

Brutus and Marina – Brutus was rescued from a French circus and Marina was rescued from Romania.  They both arrived at Shamwari in April 2008

Here is Brutus and Marina in the hospital camp.  They were not happy with me when I took this picture as I had just finished applying ‘Frontline’ on them for ticks and fleas. The best way to do this is after they have finished eating in the hospital camp and they are sleeping in the sun next to the fence.  I sneak up on them and manage to get quite a bit on them – but they hate me for it.

Otherwise Brutus and Marina are doing very well and look great. The guests don’t often get to see these two, but when they do they are usually very thrilled and made by speechless about their beauty and by how affectionate they are with each other. So in general I have summed up Brutus as a big scary lion but deep inside he is like a little kitten and is so sweet to be around. He really makes my day when I see him so calm and so full of love. However during feeding he does charge me and make me want to run. The joys we have to work with them, it is just priceless and every day we have with them and seeing them thriving is just a blessing.

Brutus and Marina in their hospital camp

Jerry, Maggie and Sonja – Jerry was rescued from Buhusi Zoo in Romania and arrived Shamwari August 2007.  Maggie and Sonja were rescued from a German circus and arrived Shamwari January 2015.

All three are doing well. Jerry gets my hair rising on my back sometimes. He has this thing where he will charge you and even spit as he is snarling and showing his big teeth.  Warning me to stay away from his girls.

Jerry and Sonja, and Maggie in the back ground. The shade is much appreciated here. Jerry was marking his territory and he was spraying everywhere and smelling everything and everyone!


Jabulani and Queen look great. They will often lie by the viewing deck as if they want to see the people.  They were probably taken from their mothers and hand-raised when they were cubs.  Jabu has a spot by the viewing deck where he marks his territory and it smells like him already there, so once a week I have to get in and do some raking, just to stop the smell bothering the guests and the school kids who visit.   

This picture of our BFF Defender I took while I was collecting lion food in Bedford a few hundred km from Shamwari, we have been to places with her and she always manages to get us back home in one piece and safely. So thank you Land Rover for keeping us on the move and enabling us to deliver what we can no matter the circumstances.
Some Shamwari Conservation Experience volunteers working on a hospital camp.

A very big shout out to all the volunteers who come on the Shamwari Conservation Experience programme. Thank you for all the work you do for our cats, your help is highly appreciated. For those who also support the BFF and got to see your cats that you sponsor I hope you liked the way we look after them and enjoyed the brief time you spent with them. 

On this note I will end; let’s catch up next month!


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

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