Born free rehomes two former zoo leopards


Mowgli and Zeiss have been given a lifetime home at our big cat sanctuary in South Africa.

We’re delighted to reveal that we have rescued two leopards from a failed zoo in South Africa and given them a lifetime home at our big cat sanctuary in Shamwari Private Game Reserve.

In a dramatic emergency operation, vet Dr Johan Joubert and Animal Care Manager Glen Vena made an 855-mile dash to collect Mowgli and Zeiss from Bloemfontein Zoo. The animals had been left to starve but, after a colossal group effort from a number of organisations and working with our friends at Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary and Bloemfontein SPCA, all of the animals – from jackals to jaguars – were rehomed.

Our team sedated the leopards and loaded them into travelling crates for the journey to our big cat sanctuary. Mowgli is a rare melanistic leopard, also known as a black panther, with ebony spots on dark fur and is 18 months old. Zeiss is six years old. 

When they arrived, they were released into their night houses. “Zeiss is more confident and ran out as soon as the crate door was lifted. He was quick to tuck into his first meal, but Mowgli was more nervous,” explains our Animal Rescue & Care Manager Maggie Balaskas. “The team patiently waited and, eventually, he stepped out into his new world. The pair are now gradually acclimatising, although Mowgli remains quite timid for now.”

Leopards are naturally solitary and, in separate, spacious enclosures, Mowgli and Zeiss can gradually learn to explore grass slopes, shady shrubs, indigenous trees and dense undergrowth. Big cats appreciate a good view of their surroundings, so trees and wooden platforms allow them to view neighbouring hills. Mowgli and Zeiss will never be able to fend for themselves, so will always rely on our care.