Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

September 2010

Glen Vena


Blog done by Glen Vena:

Well, well where do you start if you have so much to say? Yes indeed, September has been busy. We’ve had visitors; we’ve had building work; we’ve had to dart cats and we had to do our normal duties at the same time; man there is so much to tell, so I hope I can say all of this in one page – heeheehee!

I will start with some of the visitors that we have had during this busy month of September.

We had a very nice group who came on the BFF holiday.  We had a great time with them and they also got to spend some time with the lions and leopards they support with their adoptions.  I have to say Sinbad has many friends around the world! Just like my late colleague Dan would say: “Sinbad is the man!” Well he is indeed and he does what he wants whenever he wants to, so long story short, he did not show himself on the group’s first visit to our Julie Ward Centre.  The BFF supporters came for sundowners at our centre, so we went to see the cats later and this was worthwhile as all the cats were out then and very relaxed and some of them were very vocal! That was now a bonus for our guests and for me too; it is the best feeling ever to hear our cats roar! I just cannot explain that feeling, but it gives me goose bumps on my skin.  It is special for me as some of them didn’t roar when they arrived.  I had to smile when other visitors staying at Sarili lodge (the old day centre) were telling me that at 4:30am they heard a lion roaring very loudly and they thought a wild lion was at the lodge so they got up to look through the windows, but couldn’t see anyone. So during breakfast they asked their ranger, JJ, if the wild lions were at the lodge and JJ answered that they had heard one of the Born Free lions. The guests called him the Shamwari rooster! That’s funny I think.

Anyway here is a picture below of the BFF holiday group:

Holiday Group photo BFF/Shamwari

We also had James Lewis, the celebrity auctioneer from England with his mum, Christine, we had a great time. I managed to take him to both Centres and he got to spend some time with cats too, all went well he got a nice warm greeting from Jerry and Jools.  (James had bid £13,000 at an auction to help rescue these lions.)

We spent more time at the Julie Ward centre as we sat with Sinbad and with Pitou the leopard for a while, Sirius her mate was a bit shy so we didn’t get to see him; other then that all went well.

The best part is that James got his hands dirty too: he helped us to feed our cats as we were feeding during his visit. This was a special opportunity, so James was in for a big treat

See picture of James with Pitou, this is the only one I took as we were so busy talking and attending to cats.

James taking a photo of Pitou - Photo Glen Vena / BFF / Shamwari

David and Ann Millar came to visit us again, not even a year has gone by. They came to visit Sinbad and all our other cats. They are also very good friends with Valerie Hackett – a big fund-raiser for BFF and a lady with a very big heart!

Photo BFF/Shamwari
David and Ann Miller sitting on the bench built in Margery Hackett’s memory

A very big thank you, to all the BFF supporters for coming out in such numbers to visit our Centres and cats, I wish I could mention more, but I know you would love to hear more of the cats that you all support.

Sorry all, how can I forget Tony Wiles who came to visit us too. He is a legend on his own. Tony is Born Free’s Animal Management consultant and he came down to South Africa to give some advice on the new enclosure and hospital camp that we where building for our elderly lions, Aslan and Stella.  He is very experienced in this field, so his proficiency/involvement is valued by us.

Photo BFF/Shamwari
Tony Wiles with Jenny Seagrove during one of our releases at the Jean Byrd Centre

So what I’m going to do, I will try to take you all the way, step for step, during the construction of this new enclosure.

All at Born Free got involved in dismantling the old camp of Aslan and Stella. In a way, saying good bye to the old and welcoming the new. Errol Francis of the Wildlife Team did all the surveying for us. Let us call it stage one!

Photo BFF/Shamwari
Errol in action with some of the hard working Shamwari team

Stage two:

The contractor was working really fast, the foundations have been dug by hand!  And the cement was ready to go in.  Once that was done and dried properly the walls of the mini boma inside the hospital camp were erected.  At the same time all the poles of the hospital camp went up, soon they will be starting on the main enclosure itself!

Photo BFF/Shamwari
Work in progress

Stage three:

By this time Tony Wiles arrived to share some ideas with us on how to improve on what we had, the fencing was up, walls and roof were up; we were on fire!

The BFF holiday group/ supporters arrived too so between all of this we had to operate and still do our normal duties, eish!

We are a small team but we can tackle big things.  Abagail, our Manager, called me and Christine in and we had a long discussion on who was doing what, and who was looking after whom; with that out of the way we were rolling!

Photo BFF/Shamwari

Stage four:

Well, with Tony here making suggestions, things started to take shape. It was not just a construction site any more, you could see what was being done. You will see in the picture below that the hospital camp is almost done and the mini boma or indoor quarters are also done!

Main work now commenced on the main fence.

Photo Sydney/BFF/Shamwari
The indoor quarters and hospital camp; ignore me to the right of picture - Sidney got me off guard there!

Stage five:

Well there you go, done! This is from inside the new hospital camp, the colour of the mini boma or indoor quarters will be painted a colour that will blend in with the bushes.

Photo BFF/Shamwari

This picture below of the camp is taken from inside the main camp; the main camp is very large so we cannot show you that unless we take a picture from the air.

Photo BFF/Shamwari

Their is still lots to say however, will save it for a later time as I’m sure you all want to hear about the cats now.



They are well, we do not see them as much as the others.  However, during fence patrols I do see Pitou and she would walk with me for a bit and then go into the bushes. Sirius he really loves his privacy and most of the time I do not see him, but when you see him he always takes your breath away! He really looks good, still has that loose skin by his tummy, but we are working on that!   Otherwise they are good.

Photo Glen Vena/BFF/Shamwari
Sirius looking at me just before he ran off


He is a real charmer, The guests love him to bits.  He looks great.  He has a huge mane so on warm days he goes where it is cooler, which is very good.

Photo Glen Vena/BFF/Shamwari
Sinbad, ‘The Man’

MA JUAH AND ACHEE - Ma Juah was rescued from the private zoo of Charles Taylor, the ex-dictator of Liberia, and Achee was the much-loved pet of the Cypriot Consul in Romania.

They are very well, looking good too. We are keeping a close eye on Ma Juah as when it very hot and there are many flies they do like to bother her and the flies would sit around her eyes, this irritates her.  However good news it has been windy too, so I don’t think flies got a chance to bother her and we make sure the camps are clean.

They still like to be at the back of the main camp, close to their hospital camp.

Photo Glen Vena/BFF/Shamwari
This is MJ just after her morning snooze!


They are the greatest, most of the time our guests will see them, as they are so relaxed around people.  Being hand-reared they really seem to enjoy human company. I’m still under strict instructions from the Vets to watch what they eat, so still following those orders. Must say we are starting to see an improvement, we are getting there slowly. So here are some pictures of them, below.

The triplets together. The closest to the camera is Alam, the leopard lying down behind him is Nimira and the leopard walking towards them is Sami..
Sami rolling on his jungle gym, he can be so chilled sometimes.


I think our old timers are looking great and they look so happy up at Ikhanda. I wish they could stay longer up there.  However, it can get quite windy up there and cold in winter, and there is no hospital camp should they need it if their health starts failing.   Anyway I’m sure they going to like the new revamped enclosure, it is a new beginning.

Aslan and Stella at their temporary home at Ikhanda. They were busy eating when I sneaked up on them to take this picture.
For those who know lions, this is a charge that Alsan is doing and he is coming really fast at me, I backed up quickly and ended up on my butt. I had a good laugh afterwards!
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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