Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Jean Byrd Centre May pt2

Brutus - photo BFF/Shamwari



Brutus has started roaring!  This is good news, it is another indication of how confident Brutus is becoming in his new home, though he is still reluctant to go into the bushes, preferring to lie up in the open. 

Our sanctuary is on the edge of the Shamwari reserve, and one of the wild male lions has taken to hanging around the gate.  He is perhaps fascinated by the sound of other lions - our females are on contraceptives so should not be signalling availability!   Anyway, apparently Brutus saw him the other day and roared at him!  The poor wild male took off at the sound of this powerful roar and was half way up the hill before he realised he wasn’t being chased. He has been rarely seen since.

Lutando, who lives in at the Jean Byrd Centre, has heard Brutus roaring in the night and the Three J’s roaring back at him.  These might be territorial roars.  However, they might also be meant to attract the attention of Shada, a lioness in a nearby camp.  They have been making eye contact with each other.

Brutus has also seen other wild animals from the reserve: a herd of elephants has passed by, and also some giraffes.  Apparently Brutus flattened himself to the ground when he saw the giraffes, probably wondering what on earth these strange creatures were.

Brutus gets on well with Bongani, as Bongani is the one who spends most time with him.  When Bongani does his fence patrols, Brutus will follow him half-way round the enclosure, making the “uummm” groaning talk, and then stops to lie down.

He also still enjoys his food.  The other day I gave him a big portion of meat, I wanted to see him in action and how he would handle the portion and it was time to see it he was going to eat the skin and the offal ( lungs, heart, spleen, liver and kidneys). Well he didn’t disappoint me at all. He grabbed the portion and started to run with it into the bushes.

Brutus is a very nice-natured lion.  He will still flick his tail if you get too close to the fence, and enter his comfort zone, so we respect this, but often he will choose to come right up the fence to say hello anyway.  We watch his body language and let him set the pace.

All in all his is looking good for a lion that arrived so recently.  I would say he is totally relaxed now, which is great.  As I said he was released on 27th April – this is Freedom day in SA which is to celebrate when Madiba (ex-President Nelson Mandela) was released. So Brutus you have something to share!

Brurus eating - Photo Glen Vena /BFF/ Shamwari
Brutus takes his meat to the thickets to eat in private


Their different personalities are well-developed:  Sarnia is the mischievous one, always the first to investigate anything new, while Marina is more cautious and watchful and will follow in her wake.  Sarnia is obviously the more dominant cub of the two, and has been seen shoving her sister into the water trough!  However, sometimes, at feed times, Marina will pounce on Sarnia’s portion and a wrestling match would go on for a few seconds until Sarnia lets go. If that happens we just put one of them in the hospital camp and then both settle down to eat their own portion, then we let them together again.  They have a very close and affectionate relationship with each other.

They like and are interested in people but they still don’t give any indication of missing human contact, which is a relief to those of us who wondered how they would cope without their human foster family.

For example, if they have been dozing on the mound above their ‘cave’ and they hear voices coming from the viewing deck, they will lift their heads to check out who is there and then slowly, about three metres at a time, will approach, not in any hurry at all.  And while they nearly always come to the fence if the wheelbarrow with their food is to be seen, they won’t always put in an appearance if Bongani or Lutando or I come over to say hello.  They are very self-sufficient and happy with each other’s company.

The cubs enjoy their twice daily feeds, but sometimes they don’t seem too bothered about the afternoon feed, so the meat is not thrown in and they are quite relaxed about missing it until breakfast the next day.  All in all they are settling in very well.

They do not mind Brutus next door and Brutus does not mind them either. However, I think Kuma might see them as a nice snack as in the wild leopards would attack young lion cubs, just as adult lions would to the same to leopard cubs if they got them.  This is because, in the wild, they are both in competition for the same prey and getting rid of some of the competition leaves each animal with more.

Sarnia and Marina do not mind Kuma though, they are real dare-devils.  They would come right up the fence and look at Kuma. Well Kuma would just lay flat on his belly as if preparing to pounce, and keep his eyes focused on them, but he has shown no other signs of aggression at this stage.

They still love to take all the plants out that we planted around their mini boma / shelter.  Sometimes they would drop bones into their water trough just to get our attention; well, they have all of Bongani and Lutando’s attention.

Credit: Glen Vena / BFF / Shamwari
Abagail, our Centres Manager, gets out from behind her desk to help with Kuma’s annual health check.


He is good, just got his head full at this stage on who he must keep an eye on: Shada or the cubs next door.

On 29th May we had to dart him for the yearly medical check. I was there by 7am just to see if he was calm and relaxed in the hospital camp. Well at 7.30am Dr. Murray was there and darted him, all went well and we took blood tests and checked him over and he is a healthy cat. However he did not enjoy the darting part at all and I shall be in his bad books for the next three weeks now. Bongani is lucky as he was off duty but poor Lutando, who is new, is also in his bad books.

Three J’s

They are well and kicking.  Every now and then James and Jerry get a bit clingy round mum and hang around her, and Jools gets very protective of them. 

When we darted Shada in the next door hospital camp they kept a close eye on what was going on – they never took their eyes off Shada.

Credit: Glen Vena / BFF / Shamwari
The Three J’s basking in the sunshine


She was darted 22nd May for her annual health check.  She is very well apart from some dental work needed on her bottom right canine tooth as it has broken off and must be sore.

Credit: Glen Vena / BFF / Shamwari
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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