Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Jean Byrd Centre - October

Brutus (c) BFF/Shamwari


It has been cold for the last couple of days and we even got rain. 

Bongani Bavuma – cat reports to 8th – 18th October

Jools and Jerry

The two animals have been spending most of their time sleeping or just looking for Shada. They were also visible most of the time to our guests even though sometimes from a distance. We were lucky the other day to see them sleeping next to the shelter directly in front of the viewing deck. Jools was sitting behind Jerry but as soon as she saw us she moved a bit closer putting her head on over Jerry’s shoulder. Jerry looked at us but after a couple of seconds he went back to sleep.

On the 8th October Jean Byrd, the sponsor of our centre, paid us a visit and I took Jean around all the enclosure to see the cats. When we got these to these guys they were next to the fence but not visible from the viewing deck so we walked a couple of meters towards them. We stopped when we were about 15m because we could see them clearly but Jools was not in the mood for guests so she lashed her tail a couple of times before taking off and Jerry got up then sat down again. Jools went to sit a few meters from where she was; Jerry laid down basking on the sun. We left them and went to look at Shada who at the front of her enclosure.


She seems to be spending more time at the bottom of her enclosure mostly because of the wild warthogs that feed on the grass by her viewing deck. (The wart hogs have dug under our boundary fence, we think they are attracted by the grass, as it is so dry here now, with the vegetation in the reserve drying up.  There are about four of them.  They are very cheeky and will stand right by the fence of the cats, seeming to know they are safe.  Brutus has been stalking them, so it doesn’t seem fair to the cats to have them hanging around.  We chase them out and fill up their holes, but they still come back!)

I took Tony Wiles and Alison Hood from the Born Free office in England to see Shada on their recent visit.  Shada was sitting at the top of her enclosure next to the fence on Kuma’s side. We slowly went up the hill occasionally stopping to observe her behaviour. She only repositioned herself to look directly at us as we were approaching and didn’t show any signs of nervousness. We went to about 2m from the fence and eventually we were about 1m from he,r taking pictures of her. We left her sitting at the same spot. She is mostly calm with other people around her as long as you don’t suddenly point something at her.

When I took Jean Byrd, the sponsor of our centre, to see Shada she was sitting next to the fence so it was easy for us to see her. She wasn’t bothered at all to have us watching her and I noted that her attention was on something else because she kept on moving her head around a lot looking behind us us. I turned round and saw a warthog grazing peacefully on the grass about 5m from us, moving away towards her viewing deck. I didn’t chase the warthog away in case she started running after it. We left her to see other cats.


Kuma has been staying away from our view and only comes out when it is feeding time. I was patrolling the fence the other day and at the same time looking for him. On my way up the hill I saw him moving into the thicket and as a result I couldn’t see him when I got to the top of his enclosure. I saw some interesting foot paths in his enclosure and noted that all of them were heading the same direction that he had taken. I took Jean to see Kuma and fortunately he was also not far from the fence so we went up to see him. We saw him sleeping but as soon as we got close he sat up and went to sit on the shade moving away from the fence. We watched him for a while, and then as we were heading down the hill Kuma decided to follow us and went to sit next to the fence at the bottom right hand corner of his enclosure.

He mostly hides at the top of his enclosure and only comes down to get his food, drags it up and then disappears.

One hot afternoon I had guests who were checking-out from one of Shamwari lodges and wanted to look at our cats. I briefed them about Born Free as usual and then told them that it was too hot to see the cats but we can try their luck if they want to. We didn’t see the other cats even Brutus was sleeping on the shade in the Hospital camp but we were lucky enough to see Kuma. He was at the top of his enclosure sleeping, he rolled on his back to look at us and then after a few minutes of staring he went back to sleep. It was very hot to continue with the tour so we went back to the centre sanctuary and the guests left.  When I went to check on the cats later on Kuma was nowhere to be found.

One cold and drizzling morning I went to check on my cats, as usual most of them were sleeping but to my surprise Kuma was busy playing in the rain. He was just behind the shelter at the bottom of his enclosure. There he had a leg bone that he was playing with and occasionally he rubbed himself against it. He rolled on his back with the bone on his paws and sometimes pushing it away from him using his foreleg.

He repeated this for about 20 minutes and later on he went to kick a skull that was in front of the deck but he only kicked for a moment, and then moved on to sit next to the fence to watch the cubs.

Marina - Photo (c)BFF/Shamwari
Marina charging Sarnia

Sarnia and Marina

They were at the left side of their camp when I took Jean to them. They first stalked us for a short while and then they went on to playing with each other. We watched them tackling, chasing each other and occasionally stopping to watch us. After about thirty minutes of watching them they ended up ignoring us and went to sit under the bush on the left of their camp next to the fence line. We saw them chasing each other in the hospital camp playing. They played there until we left their deck and when we went to Brutus they came out of the hospital camp and went to sit next to the fence watching us.

When we feed them they eat they as much as they can all at once then later on play with the bones if the meat had had any. 

The two youngsters are very active and run around the whole day unless it’s a hot day. They spend most of the mornings at the back of their enclosure.

We always enjoy watching the two sisters playing. Sarnia is very energetic and chases Marina around the enclosure until she sits down, a sign that she no longer wants to play. Sometimes when we bring food to them Sarnia would start calling as soon as she sees us approaching. She lets Marina take the first piece and she would call until she gets her food. They tear the meat apart violently and within five minutes they would be looking for more and they always finish within seconds of one another so that makes it difficult for them to steal each other’s food. I watched them the other morning stalking a heron that was feeding in their enclosure. Sarnia was more interested than Marina who after a few minutes of crouching low on the ground decided to give up and came to join me along the fence line. Sarnia used the shelter in the centre of the enclosure to get close to the bird. Unfortunately for Sarnia the bird saw her and flew away to the back of the hospital camp. She wasn’t discouraged, she pursued the bird and slowly she made her way in to the hospital camp and with her ears flat she sat in the hospital camp waiting. It was beginning to be interesting until Brutus got up and started pacing next to his hospital camp and the heron flew away. It looked like Brutus wanted to join in the fun. Sarnia watched it and later on she went to sit on top of the shelter looking at Brutus. Marina went to join her sister in the hospital camp.


He was very relaxed when Jean and I got to his camp and remained dozing by us.  His favourite place is in the corner of his enclosure.  This is out in the open, so he is usually seen by guests.

On my way from lunch the other day I saw one of the wild Shamwari lions standing directly in front of the viewing deck just outside our perimeter fence. He was staring at Brutus who was sleeping next to the fence. As we drove down the road Brutus got up and started to walk along the fence line. The wild lion crouched down looking at Brutus who was not aware of the visitor. Just when we were driving past it Brutus saw it and also crouched low next to the fence. They stood there watching each other and later on the wild lion went slowly up the road. Brutus got a bit excited and started following the other lion until he got to the end/corner of his fence and could go no further. The wild lion went done the valley on the other side of the road and disappeared, leaving Brutus staring after him.

Jean Byrd Centre reports 25th – 30th October 2008

Photo (c) BFF/Shamwari

Lutando Gxowa

Temp 18deg C – 28 deg C

Jools and Jerry

I had 4 guests in the morning tour. We started with Jools and Jerry.  They were sleeping right in front of the deck looking at each other. They were lying down, looking relaxed. Jools stood up and licked her son and she went to drink some water and Jerry followed. After that they moved to the other side of the camp to sleep.  Later on, about 11.00am, they had disappeared and we could only see their behinds sticking out behind the leaves.

I have noticed that, when we feed them, Jerry will sometimes hide behind the bushes and then dart out to get it; Jools just grabs the food and runs away.


My guests have been fortunate, as we mostly see her on the tours. I have noticed how Shada will make use of her shelter in the main camp when it is very hot. Sometimes she will sleep next to it or behind, wherever the shadow is.  Her favourite place is next to the big gate looking at Kuma. She no longer spends much time with territorial pacing next to Jools and Jerry, like she used to.


I had heard him first thing in the morning, calling, but by the time my guests arrived, he was in hiding.  However, they appreciated my explanation about his background, and were glad for his sake that he had this opportunity for privacy.


On feeding day he will grab his food and run to the bushes.  This seems to be his feed place, yet he won’t use those bushes for shade when it is hot, he prefers to sleep on the open grass. He also don’t sleep in one position for a long time .Whereas some of our cats hardly change position, sometimes he will be close to the water trough, a bit later he will be next to the hospital camp, and then he will move to the into the middle front of the enclosure by the viewing decks.  He sleeps a lot!  He is quite interested in the cubs next door though, and will watch them when they are at the water trough near his fence.

Marina and Sarnia the cubs

On hot days they spend time in the shelter in the hospital camp shelter, Sarnia inside and Marina outside, enjoying its shade.

They were so sweet the other day: after they had finished drinking together at the trough, they sat next to each other and seemed to hug each other.  It was so cute and the guests loved it! 

30th October (Glen Vena report)

Today we did snake aversion training with the cubs, as our snakes our coming out of hibernation now.   The Jean Byrd Centre is on part of Shamwari Game Reserve, so we are surrounded by natural habitat – with a lot of venomous snakes in it.  We use a large toy rubber snake attached to the electric fence. The cubs had this training done when they were in Guernsey at the GSPCA centre.  They were only little cubs then.  Now they are about 11 months old and they look more like wild lions and they are very naughty!

Well when it came to the training Marina was the first one to get a shock from the rubber snake.  Sarnia, she looked at what had happened to her sister, and seemed wiser.  She took the snake and tackled it like a springbok rugby player and user her claws to start with.  She got a shock of the 9,000 volts, then I think the temptation was too big and she thought she had killed the rubber snake and as soon as she put her nose on it, she got a big shock.  She jumped backwards, and ran towards her sister and snuggled up to her.  I do hope they will remember this when they encounter a real snake and they will remember the shock too, but we all know this might work or not, so let us hope for the best.

Julie Ward Centre Diary

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

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