The time had come. I felt both excited and nervous, as I was about to witness an amazing event. This was my first visit to our sanctuary at Shamwari and I was about to see the four Lions of Lyon released from their night quarters into their spacious, natural bush enclosure for the very first time.
I watched as a brave Cersei stepped out, closely followed by Thea. They took a few tentative steps forward and looked around, a little bemused. Dadou, having observed the girls, casually wandered out after them. Horus decided to lay down and remain where he was. I was transfixed by their every move.
After a few minutes, Thea, the smallest of the cubs, wandered back over to Horus, while Cersei and Dadou walked off up the hill to explore the natural bush vegetation towards the back of the enclosure. The bond between them was evident to all.
It was a magical moment in my life: to see these four cubs finally in Africa after all the long months of preparation, and in great condition too after such a long journey. They were so alert and active. I just could not take my eyes off them, watching them exploring and experiencing new things. Thea, unused to the terrain, stumbled over a few ridges in the ground and tried eating grass for the first time. It was so lovely to watch her discovering these new things.
Neighbours, King on one side and Jora & Black on the other, were also very keen to observe the new arrivals. I noticed Dadou stop and stare across at Jora, and for a few tense moments, for me, anticipated a loud roar or a charge, however, nothing as dramatic, Dadou just turned and carried on exploring down the hill to see what else he could find.
Having worked at Born Free for a few years I had heard much about Shamwari, but nothing prepared me for the true beauty of the place. The rolling green hills and red earth provide the physical backdrop, but the real eye-opener is the remoteness. There is hardly a sound, which provides such a peaceful and tranquil setting. It’s just magnificent. I can’t think of a better place for these cubs, who were given such a poor start in life.
Thank you to everyone who donated to our Lions of Lyon appeal. Without you, the cubs wouldn’t be here today.