Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Big Cat Diary May 2016

Julie Ward Centre Blog
May 2016
Written by Glen Vena, Animal Care Manager

Dear Friends

Greetings.  Here is the latest news on our rescued kitty-cats.  Winter is around the corner here and I feel like I want to give them some extra-insulation by feeding them up, but Martin keeps pinching me and saying “Not too much Glen.”  Oops!

Jabulani and Queen, ex-breeding farm lions.  They arrived from Shamwari‘s sister reserve in April 2015

Jabu and Queen look great and they are doing well too. They spend lots of time in front of our guests’ viewing deck, so it is quite easy for our guests to get a glimpse of them and they are very interested in the story of these stunning lions.

Queen, well she is very private and spends most of her time sleeping and when you call her by her name she would respond by lashing her tail side to side. Well that I know in lion language is ‘you are irritating me’ or ‘back off! 

Other than that all is good.

White lion

Jabu was busy scent-marking here.  Most of the front section smells of urine, I don’t know where he gets it all from.  I must say he looks so proud while doing it!
Here Jabu was busy sharpening his claws and roaring at the same time, Queen not too far from him.


Achee and Sinbad.  Achee, an ex-pet, was rehomed from Romania and arrived Shamwari September 2004; Sinbad was rescued from a Romanian zoo and arrived Shamwari August 2007

Sinbad the lion

This is Sinbad. He came to say hello to me in the morning and he came close to the fence and he gave a big yawn.  I was too late to capture the whole thing but I got the last bit where his mouth is still a bit open and his eyes are open already.  His big paws were close together like a ballet dancer’s plié.   I had to share, he always makes me giggle! 

Sinbad and Achee

I hope I did not share this picture with you already, but it is just to show how close they sit with each other and without his big teeth snarling.  This snarl was for me as I got too close when I took this picture. They look great.

Jerry, Maggie and Sonja.  Jerry was rescued from a Romanian zoo and arrived Shamwari August 2008; Maggie and Sonja were rescued from a German circus and arrived Shamwari January 2015

In May we have been building a platform for these three lions with the help of the Shamwari Conservation Experience volunteers. While the building work was going on Jerry and the girls had to be shut in their hospital camp.   

We had a visit from Rudi and Ingrid this month, from the Natuurhulpcentrum sanctuary in Belgium; they took in Maggie and Sonja temporarily when they were confiscated from the circus.  So Maggie and Sonja got to see their Daddy and Mommy for a few hours and they were also fed by them. I guess these are what I call priceless moments to spend with them. 

All three in one shot – great.  It is easy to tell Maggie and Sonja apart as Sonja is the one with the tail.  I shared this one as Jerry was shutting his eyes for a few minutes; it is not easy to please two ladies at the same time, so whenever he can have a siesta, he will take it and enjoy it.

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

See pictures of Sami and Alam sleeping together in the hospital camp.  They had been shut in while Martin was collecting their bones and droppings in the main camp, which is part of our general duties.  

Nimira had other plans, she has this untameable soul, always has little adventures in her head and always exploring all the different areas in her camp, anything that moves will be chased and she does get the odd mouse and dove, yes she is a natural. I saw her on the platform and she was on her way down to join the boys and when I called her by her name she looked at me and I managed to get this picture on my mobile phone, I had to zoom all the way in. Does she not look pretty?!

Nimira on her jungle gym

Brutus, rescued from a French circus; Marina, rescued as a cub from Romania.  They both arrived in April 2008.

Brutus, rescued from a French circus; Marina, rescued as a cub from Romania.  They both arrived in April 2008.

They had been shut in their own half of the hospital camp overnight so they each could eat their meat without hassle from the other.  I had opened up for them to go in the main camp and because they had missed each other, as soon as I opened for Marina she rushed over to jump on Brutus where he was sleeping and by the time I got around to photograph the moment it was over. Next time around I might be luckier! But I’m sure this one is also great. 



Team-BFF at the wildlife offices; we just had a quick get together to wish Headman (back row, centre) a Happy Birthday.

Here is a photo of Team-BFF and we were celebrating Headman’s birthday, he has hit the big four zero! We hope he had a fun day with us and as the old saying goes, “life begins at forty”, hey!

We were wearing our new uniforms and with our BFF logo’s embroidered on them, I must say we look really good. 

Winter is around the corner and lately it is getting very cold and misty in the mornings. As I said, I had a few SCE volunteers helping around the Born Free Centre BFF where they were staring work on building a viewing deck for Maggie, Sonja and Jerry. So that means these three were shut in the hospital camp while we were working.


Some of the SCE volunteers with me and some of the casual workers in the back ground and our Defender to the right of the picture

Maggie and Sonja and Jerry did not look bothered at all with all the action that was going on in there.The girls were very interested though and they had their eyes on us most of the time, always looking what was happening. 

At the same time I also had four casual workers from Paterson who were assisting Martin and me with our general cleaning of the camps, so they were using bush cutters, chainsaws and who knows what else to get the job done. Jerry now and then would go into his house to get away from all the drama that was happening outside his home, but not a sign of aggression shown during this time. He did very well, so proud of him. 

Sonja, Maggie and Jerry in their hospital camp

So May was a busy month for us and that is very nice. Cath, our Centre Manager, was also very supportive in helping make our little project with the students go smoothly.

See picture of extra materials we got from our Shamwari workshop. We managed to get most of it on the Defender, she is the best.


  • Shamwari fence building
  • Concrete

Defender with some SCE volunteers and our much needed materials for our project.

We also had to fix some problems on the fences and Martin was up there sorting it out and replacing the damaged insulator, while I was holding the stepladder he was on. Only let go to take the picture  

Here are a few pictures of us in action with our never-absent Defender, she does all the heavy lifting for us and take us everywhere! She is the best! 

Martin busy here, loading some of the gravel we would mix the cement with. 


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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