Late last summer, distressing images were circulated on social media of a tiny lion cub being kicked and beaten by an unknown man somewhere in France. Horrified members of the public alerted the authorities, who immediately launched an investigation.

Their inquiries led them to an abandoned apartment in the Paris suburb of Noisy-le-Sec. Inside they made a shocking discovery – a male cub, half-starved and cowering in a small, dirty cage.

French animal rescue charities Fondation 30 Million d’Amis and Refuge de l’Arche sprang into action to treat the poor cub and found him a temporary home at Natuurhulpcentrum rescue centre (NHC), in Belgium. There, he was nursed back to health and named King.

Just a few months old, little King is an innocent victim of the illegal wildlife trade. His ‘owner’ was taken into custody on charges associated with illegally keeping a wild animal and animal abuse. 

You will understand just how upset I was to hear about King – a tiny cub with a mighty name who has had the worst possible start to his very short life. 

 - Virginia McKenna OBE

Sadly, an increasing number of wild animals, just like King, are kept as exotic pets, including reptiles, amphibians, mammals, primates and big cats. Demand for exotic pets fuels both the legal and illegal wildlife trade: some animals may be bred in captivity to supply demand, some may be traded as surplus from zoos and circuses, while others are caught from the wild. Born Free opposes the exploitation of wild animals as pets and campaigns for national and international legislation to reduce and, where possible, end this practice.

King has had the worst possible start to his very short life, but with your help we can give him a life worth living. Born Free has a permanent home ready for King at its long-established big cat sanctuary, the Jean Byrd Centre, at Shamwari Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

At Shamwari, King will be given lifetime care in a spacious, safe and enriching environment, surrounded by the sights and sounds of Africa.

Wild and exotic animals should never ever be kept as pets, no matter how darling they look when they are small, and no matter how much we feel we could give them a wonderful home. Their lives should be in the wild: and to buy them means propping up a ghastly and cruel trade.

Help us to give King the freedom he deserves back in Africa. Every penny you give furthers our mission to keep wildlife in the wild. Please support Born Free now, while you are reading this; we would be so grateful.

 - Joanna Lumley OBE



King is a survivor of the exotic pet trade, and with your help we want to give him a permanent home at our Jean Byrd big cat sanctuary, in Shamwari Game Reserve, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. 

At his temporary home at the Natuurhulpcentrum rescue centre, in Belgium, King will be carefully prepared for his journey. Born Free’s expert relocation team will place King in a custom-built crate and transport him by road and rail to London Heathrow airport, where he will fly on to Africa. Touching down in Johannesburg, King will board a charter flight to Port Elizabeth, before travelling the short distance by road to Shamwari.

When King is settled at Shamwari, he will be introduced to his new home – a large, natural enclosure with dense undergrowth, shady trees and grassy areas, surrounded by the beautiful sights and sounds of Africa. 




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