Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild


Written by Glen Vena, Animal Care Manager

We are being kept very busy here and it is nice to see more and more of Shamwari’s guests are interested in the work we are doing at our two Centres, caring for rescued big cats. 

Our vet Dr Johan Joubert, has a broken leg and that means he is not very mobile these days.  However, even with this he is still at work, doing what he can. Here he is on the day he came to visit Sirius, one of our leopards at the Julie Ward Centre.

We have students from the Shamwari Conservation Experience come to visit us too.  I try my best to make myself available when they come and really enjoy the time I spend with them and they seem to enjoy their day with us too – some say it is the highlight of their trip! That makes me very happy and the help I get from them is priceless. Thanks guys. You rock!

Shamwari students
Here are some students from the Shamwari Conservation Experience visiting our Jean Byrd Centre. From left to right, Dudley, Brittany, Jordan and, from our BFF team, Headman.
From right to left; Merriam, Martin, Laila, Caitlin Melidonis from the University of Cape Town, and Ann. We had loads of fun, they work really hard and they just incredible people! Thanks again for giving your time.

Here are photos of some of the other guests we have had recently.


Here is Martin and Rachel at the Jean Byrd Centre. Rachel is a vet nurse working in Port Elizabeth at the moment and she comes regularly to visit the cats
Sidney and I looked after this group, they were from the Feather Market Hall in Port Elizabeth and had arranged their visit through Abagail our Centre Manager. They loved their visit and said they learned so much from us.

I had this young man from Selborne School in East London, he is an Eco Schools Team leader and he arranged for his class to visit the Born Free Centres at the end of the last term. He was so inspired the last time he came with his parents to Shamwari that he had to share it with the rest of his class, he even made a board game of the high profile animals (Big Five) of Shamwari and made his own rules and it looked great, see picture below.

In between all of this, several adoptive parents and Born Free supporters also came to visit, and there were so many there was not always enough time to get a picture with them.  Here are just two below.

Here are Ben and Mandy, BFF supporters. They had adopted Kuma and came to see him. I enjoyed the day I spent with them, showing them all our cats we care for.
This is Geoff and Maureen Clark, BFF supporters. We had a splendid time, looking forward for their return visit!

We even had snakes visiting the JW centre!  I really got a big fright as this boomslang was under some of the animal skulls we use for presentations with the many school kids that come to the Centres. Not sure how he managed to get in the centre but he did scare me.  Ranger Jan Dakeman had to come to the rescue to remove him and release in the garden.  Thanks Jan.

He is a nice big boy. Jan reckons he is over one metre; he is back where he is safe now.

The rescued lions and leopards:

Sirius, rehomed from Monaco Zoo in January 2008

He is doing very well and looks well too. I see him more often now that we are feeding him daily.  However, he still loves his privacy so he will never stay long, he will just take his food and be off.   Even our guests are starting to see him too.  He will sometimes be on his ‘jungle gym’ looking at them then as soon as he has had enough, he will jump off and disappear in the bushes. 

leopard rescued by born free
Here is Sirius, I love his long tail you can just see here. I took this one just before I gave him his food, he looks good and handsome!
Sirius, getting ready to grab his food!

Sinbad, rescued from a zoo in Romania August 2007

He is looking really good.  I still think he could do with a nice girlfriend, well that is my wish although I know with his physical problems it would have to be a small, gentle female.  Don’t get me wrong though, he is doing quite well by himself but on occasions when he goes to check out Achee and Ma Juah next door, and they don’t show any interest in him, I feel a bit sorry for him.

Most of our guests love him to bits from the moment they see him, rolling on the ground like an overgrown kitten.

He doesn’t cope well with the heat and if he is in the sun he will look very sick and that worries me a lot.  Usually though, when it is hot he knows what is good for him and he will retreat to a nice cool bush and he will just be fine.   He is learning and I am happy!

lion sinbad eating
Here he is enjoying what he loves – his meat - and for those of you who have met him during feeding you will agree with me when I say: do not bug him or call him while he is eating! He makes the loudest growling sounds and he is so protective over his food!

Ma Juah (MJ) and Achee.  Ma Juah was rescued from a private zoo in Liberia in July 2004 and Achee was rehomed from a private home in Romania, in September 2004.  

The girls are doing just fine.  As always they spend most of their time up at the back of the enclosure, it is very rare that we see them in front, by the visitor’s viewing deck.  However, Christine our education officer says, on  occasion, she would see them in front when she is taking students round.  Maybe it is a girl thing!

MJ has a small heat rash on her left foreleg.  She stopped licking it and then after a week she started licking it again.  If we get some cooler weather that will help.

Leopard Triplets, Sami, Alam and Nimira.   Rescued as cubs from Sudan and arrived at Shamwari in July 2001

The triplets look good and in these warm days they do what most cats do when it is hot – they find somewhere shady to sleep.  We don’t get to see much of them, although Sami will still put in an appearance.

When it comes to food I still have to split them up to make sure Sami does not have all three portions for himself as he can be very mischievous most of the time. Now and then you would see Nimira putting her foot down when the boys get out of line. They know not to mess with her, because when she gets angry she really knows how to use her claws.

Here is Alam in front and Sami at the back, in the shade at the back of the enclosure.
Nimira ‘hugging’ a log, scent-marking it. She also rubbed her head on it and she kicked up the turf afterwards, claiming the log as hers.
leopard in grass
Nimira in tall grass and here she was watching her brothers playing
Alam in a bush trying to keep cool.

Aslan and Stella.  Aslan was rescued from a Greek zoo and arrived at Shamwari in September 1999.  Stella was rescued from another Greek zoo and arrived at Shamwari in October 2000.

I have a lot to say about these two and how sad I’m feeling, I hope you all will understand.

During November, Stella was not doing well, and I was observing her closely and seeing how she was slowing down and getting less active.  Aslan, on the other hand, was always around her and was especially protective over her ie aggressive to us when we were nearby.  However, he was still eating and looked himself under the circumstances.

I called the Vet to have a look at them and after discussing with Born Free in England Stella was darted on 26th December and blood samples were taken to try to find out what was wrong with her.  The results came back showing nothing of great significance, just what we already knew: Stella was a very old lioness.
You know that feeling you get when something is really wrong, I was at that point and I was trying to get her to eat by giving her small soft bits of meat and her favourite portions.  She would take some and them she would turn her back on them and walk away and she would drink lots of water.

On her last day with us, 29th December, she spent it in the hospital camp with Aslan by her side.

At 4.00pm on the 29th, Dr Murray Stokoe came have a look and see what he could do.  Murray no longer worked with us full time, just when Dr Joubert wanted an extra pair of hands – as is now, with Dr Joubert having problems getting around with his broken leg.  Murray hadn’t seen Stella for six months  and, unlike us who were seeing the small changes in her every day, he could see she had deteriorated a lot in that time. 

After discussions with Born Free it was decided the kindest thing was to euthanase her.  She has been laid to rest by me at the Julie Ward Centre, next to her son Dimitrius, who died in December 2001.

This has been a long walk for her and I’m very sad that it had to end this way; it was heart breaking seeing her every day going backwards like that. This I do know that she had a good life with us her and there are many moments that I will remember about her and the people she has touched over the years that she has been here with us.

I must say to you all this has left a hole in Aslan’s heart.  He seems to be coping and he is eating his food without any complications, but when he is in the main camp you will see him wandering around and he would be calling, not roaring, calling, a meowing-like sound.  I have not heard him roar since her death.  I have done what I can just to keep his mind busy, and making him “ice-lollies” – blood and water frozen in a bucket - but he is still looking.


23rd December - this is the last one I took of them both together in the main camp and this is where Aslan charged me and he was so serious that I left him; he was very protective I think he knew what was wrong. After that Stella became too weak and they stayed in the hospital camp
lioness rescued by born free
Aslan alone in main camp, now Stella is gone
Aslan, as above
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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