Simba has now made the monumental journey from Belgium to his new home in Malawi. Read Born Free’s Programme Support Co-Ordinator, Laura Gosset’s first-hand account of the move below.
“On Thursday morning we all met at the Natuurhulpcentrum in Belgium to start the epic move of Simba to his new home at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre. Many people turned out to say farewell to this rescued lion they had lovingly cared for for over a year. Then, at 11.05, under the guidance of Bart, Simba’s carer, he was coaxed into his crate and the door shut and firmly locked.
On schedule he was loaded into the horse box and, accompanied by the Land Rover convoy, we were on the road by 11.45. The team checked on him about three times during the journey to the airport which took about three and a half hours - and apart from getting a bit hot Simba was travelling well.
On arrival into the airport Stef the Natuurhulpcentrum vet, Bart and Tony Born Free’s Animal Care Consultant checked Simba through customs and into the KLM animal hotel where he was to wait for transport to the plane. Arriving at the aircraft in the drizzle he was already under the cargo net (a net and straps put over the crate during transport so that it does not move around), he was loaded into the hold which was temperature regulated by the captain in discussion with Stef and Tony and we were ready to go.
With fingers crossed we boarded and took off for the 7hr 50min Kenya Airways flight to Nairobi. In Nairobi we were taken straight down onto the tarmac to check he was OK and do some more filming (this attracted the attention of many of the workers as well!) then he was loaded onto the next flight, again into a temperature regulated hold and we were off again.
Landing in Malawi we were greeted by Jonny and the team from the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, with a large banner welcoming Simba to Malawi and we were all off to Centre. Once we arrived at the centre the vet team, Stef, Tony, Bart and the animal care team from Malawi (Amanda and Jasper) took the decision to put him into his night room first so that he could be properly assessed.
As the front of the crate was lifted (revealing Simba through the grill) he was pawing the bottom eager to get out - he was looking good and came straight out of his crate to take a look around. After lunch he was then given the opportunity to go outside for the first time and he did not need to be asked twice! He immediately went to smell Bella's night room and then wondered along the side of the enclosure surveying his new and very large space that is now his home. After about 15 minutes he went back inside of his own accord. The team thought it best to keep him in overnight – so he was fed and given water – and then left to relax following his long journey.
Bella is extremely interested in the new arrival and has been pacing up and down and purring through the fence. Simba seems incredibly relaxed now that he is out and more interested in his new surroundings than the promise of a beautiful lioness! Due to strict quarantine rules here they must remain separated for 30 days and so they haven't caught sight of each other yet but they can certainly hear and smell each other.”
We look forward to the day that Simba and Bella finally get to meet, and you can read the latest update here.
The story of Simba and Bella has touched the hearts of countless people and as our friends at NHC said, when they toasted Simba’s future in Africa – we also need to thank Simba for bringing together so many new friends.
Born Free supporters for responding so quickly and generously with donations to the Simba Appeal, with special thanks to David Walker and The Olsen Family.
To the teams at Natuurhulpcentrum and the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre for pulling out all the stops to give Simba a new home.
And in Malawi to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife for all their support; His Excellency Mr Michael Nevin, British High Commissioner; Mr Brighton Kumchedwa, Director of National Parks and Wildlife; Mrs Elsie Tembo, Permanent Secretary, Ministery for Wildlife, Tourism and Culture and Land and Lake Safaris.
Plus a special thanks to Future Air Cargo and TFA Logistics.