Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Julie Ward Centre blog

Written by Glen Vena, Animal Care Manager

November 2017

Hello to all.

We’ve had a great November.  We had some very interesting visitors; they are long-time friends too.

And talking of old friends…

Glen's boots

I had to share these pictures with you all.   My old boots worked very hard during 2017 and must be retired now.  We have been to many places, dealt with mud and rain - not to forget the meat preparation days, which are a bit, how can I say, messy.  They have done me proud.  So, to the new: all the best.  How long will they last?  Let’s see if they can break the eight months record.


Nelson – he was confiscated from a French zoo and arrived at Shamwari in May 2017


Nelson the lion
Nelson in the rain

He is good. Looks good too.  He is very vocal in the mornings. He has a very powerful roar, it will sometimes wake up guests staying in lodges not far from the Julie Ward Centre - how cool is that, hey?!  He will also start off our other lions roaring.

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

Achee and Sinbad
Achee and Sinbad

Both Achee and Sinbad look great and are very compatible.  Well, usually…. It seems things didn’t go well recently and Sinbad has ended up with a black eye.  We are not sure what happened, however I think they disagreed on something and Achee won and Sinbad had the black eye to show for it.   Well Achee can be bossy sometimes and poor Sinbad is just the sweetest dude ever, he just wants to ‘hold hands’ and groom her.   It could have happened that Achee was looking at Nelson next door and Sinbad came to disturb her, and the rest is history.

We see them often with our guests and that is a bonus to us.  It is always a pleasure to see them. They take their food very well and nothing goes to waste.  I have changed feeding methods with them and I totally separate them now.  I used to let them hang around each other after they had eaten, but I have noticed Sinbad likes his quiet time after a meal and loves to sleep a bit and Achee would be all over him, thus making him a bit restless. So now what we do is that they spend the night in their hospital camps and night houses and we would only open for them in the morning. My boy Sinbad is then in a much better mood.

We learn every day with our cats what works and what used to work, especially now that they are getting older as their behaviour is changing too.  So as the Animal Care Team we must stay on top of things at all times.

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

Jerry, Maggie and Sonja
Jerry, Maggie and Sonja

Jerry, Maggie and Sonja are very well. The girls are super cool with each other. They have started to be naughty a little bit. We have noted during feeding they would take their time to come take their food, I mean they will really take their time. Sometimes it can take them up to 15 minutes to come up the hill from the depths of their enclosure – and yet when they get to the gates they would run as fast as they can as if they are racing each other.  

We do feel a bit impatient when we have so little time and still have to do other rounds, but hey what can you do? They are The Queens, so we wait. Cats will be cats. I always remind myself even our little cats at home act up like my very big cats at work and make me laugh.

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

Alam and Sami
Sami peering at me from behind a Blue Bush (Pteronia incana)
Sami peering at me from behind a Blue Bush (Pteronia incana)

Unfortunately for our guests, they rarely get to see Sami and Alam.  Our guests would love to see them but we do not entice our rescued cats to come to the viewing deck for this purpose.  If they want to be seen, that is totally up to them. Ideally our voices should be like music to them and when we talk, and they hear us they should pop their heads out to see what Glen or Martin is bringing but they never do so, they just disappear into the thickets and that is how it should be and should remain.  They are not on display.

Between us, Martin and I see them every day during our fence patrols, and on the odd occasion they would follow us but not too far and they would duck into the bushes and vanish.

Brutus and Marina.  Brutus was rescued from a French circus and arrived at Shamwari in April 2008; Marina was found as a sickly, motherless cub in Romania and also came to Shamwari in April 2008.

Brutus and Marina, always in love
Brutus and Marina, always in love

What can I tell you about these to beautiful cats?  They are so sweet, I personally think the one cannot do without the other,

We darted Brutus this month and Johan our vet took more X-rays of his left leg/paw to see if we can get a better understanding of Brutus’s on-going limp, and how we can help him.  We will consult with other Vets and see the way forward.

Poor Marina being without Brutus.  She only had to spend a few hours without him, but she was roaring, and when he was returned to his night house, she kept watching for when we were going to open the hospital camp.  She could not wait to get to him! That’s love!

Our vet, Dr Johan Joubert, preparing to X-ray Brutus
Our vet, Dr Johan Joubert, preparing to X-ray Brutus
Brutus’s left front carpus (wrist)
Brutus’s left front carpus (wrist)


We had a visit from actor, conservationist and Born Free Patron, Dan Richardson and from Margot Raggett, who founded the amazing Remembering Elephants and Remembering Rhinos books.  It was a very quick visit for them at our Julie Ward centre and they were hosted by myself and Catherine.  They do wonderful work for the Born Free Foundation and are great ambassadors for us.

Well, Dan Richardson loved Marina, I managed to get this priceless moment when we were telling Dan and Margot about our work, and Marina sat with us, listening and taking it all in.

Marina and Dan Richardson listening to me talking about our work
Marina and Dan Richardson listening to me talking about our work

I also spent a few hours at our Centres with Bryony Hedley.  Bryony is a regular here at Shamwari, this being the 8th visit to Shamwari thus far and also a long-time supporter of the Born Free Foundation.  She is so passionate about our work and for her it is always a treat to spend time with us and our rescued cats.

Glenn Bryony and Catherine.

Catherine and I managed to get some lunches and dinners with our visitors, always a treat, however the work must continue and we must get back to it quickly.  Here I am with Bryony and Catherine.  I must admit I did feel a bit important here, well, I felt more like a male lion!

We also started cleaning around the centres, just the normal kind of maintenance, nothing big. We just maintained the grass and nailed in a few nails where needed.

Maintenance at the Julie Ward Centre, by the Mother Earth statue
Maintenance at the Julie Ward Centre next to the Mother Earth statue

JEAN BYRD CENTRE (bonus feature!)

I also managed to spend some more time with our lions and leopards at the JB Centre which is in the northern section of our reserve.   They all look great and so relaxed in their homes.  I can only wish for better things and good health for them.

You can read more about them in the JB blog that will be done by Headman and Kelvin.

We are hoping that the anticipated upgrades will start soon at the JB Centre, we are so looking forward to these.  We in the Animal Care Team have a few ideas that we would like to implement.

We are looking at building some more ‘jungle gyms’ and things to stimulate the cats even more in their new homes.  The new designs will make environmental enrichment easier to implement, such as using hessian bags and boxes with grass in, maybe a few spices, some dung from the kudus and elephants we could collect from the reserve.   We will run all these past our UK team and find alternative goods to use if we do not come right.  We hoping to make 2018 better for all.

Shada, one of our lionesses at JB is getting old, she will be 21 next year, and we had a few close calls recently.  However, we have the one and only Dr. Johan Joubert who always comes to our rescue and he did his magic again, so news for now is that Shada is doing well.  My team is keeping a very close eye on her for anything that’s up and not normal, to report to Johan and myself as soon as possible.

Jora and Black

Black, left, and Jora
Black, left, and Jora relaxing with our invaluable Land Rover Discovery in the background.



Ciam arrived in May. He is a beautiful cat.  Out of all the cats I ever worked with or cared for he is the one that has adapted so well to his new environment in a very short time.  He is totally at home.


We also saw many elephants, and some decided to have a wrestling match not far from our Land Rover.. It is always a pleasure seeing these beautiful giants.

To end the year together before some go on leave next month, we had a team lunch at Catherine’s house. 

BF-Team 2017: from the back left, Headman, Kelvin, Sidney, Glen, Martin, Thembela and Catherine.
BF-Team 2017: from the back left, Headman, Kelvin, Sidney, Glen, Martin, Thembela and Catherine.

Until next month - all the best,


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

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