Born free’s 38th anniversary event

25 March 2022


Celebrating our Year of the Lion

Hundreds of loyal supporters and friends from all over the world joined us virtually for a very special, and deeply moving, evening to mark 38 years of Born Free’s action for lions. Hosted by our visionary Co-Founders Will Travers OBE and Virginia McKenna OBE, we were taken on a glorious journey to celebrate these iconic animals, and be inspired by the tremendous legacy of our Co-Founder Bill Travers MBE – our lionheart – who would have turned 100 in January.

The event raised thousands of pounds for lion rescue and conservation (our impressive silent auction left you speechless!), it was a night like no other, resplendent with poignant memories, inspiring films and uplifting stories. Virginia first shared some thoughts on her friend and mentor George Adamson – known as Baba ya Simba or the ‘Father of Lions’, who she met in Kenya when filming Born Free in the 1960s. Then, remembering Cecil the lion, killed in Zimbabwe for ‘sport’, Will led a rallying cry to consign shameful trophy hunting to the history books, not least in the UK.

We were thrilled to relive Christian the lion’s heart-stopping reunion with his former owners, before being taken on a whistlestop tour of every lion rescued by Born Free over the years.

A lioness lying in the sunshine looking directly into the camera.(c) Richard Hurrell

The montage ended with joyful footage of the Lions of Lockdown’s remarkable journey to our sanctuary at Shamwari, South Africa, this February, with a brand new update from our Animal Care Manager, Glen Vena.  

Our Year of the Lion got off to a roaring start with the London opening of our Born Free Forever exhibit of 25 life-size lions cast in bronze by world renowned monumental artists Gillie and Marc, so our audience were delighted to watch a film of the January launch. The bronze lions will be going onto Newcastle, birthplace of Bill Travers, in early April for three months, before moving on to Bristol for the summer and then ending their glorious UK tour in Edinburgh in October.

Fittingly, the evening drew to a close with Virginia’s evocative The Lightness of Being, her deeply poignant poem dedicated to her late husband Bill. “My father was our own lion man,” concluded Will. “I hear his roar, so please join our pride, and help us protect wild lions. And join us in September at our Mane Event, at Denbies in Surrey.”  Please keep an eye on our website for updates.

 In Virginia’s words: “We thank each of you, with all our hearts, for all you do to save lions and other wild animals. Thank you for sharing our vision and here’s to the next 38 years!”

At this point we would like to especially recognize the generosity three very special groups of people. Firstly, the many donors who have supported our appeal to rescue the Lions of Lockdown and to take them home to Africa. Secondly, our many lion adopters who help year in, year out with their funding and thirdly our lifetime care supporters who have pledged to support one or more of our rescued lions, cheetah or other animals. 

We are so grateful to everyone who contributed to the unforgettable evening, not least the generous supporters who donated auction items:

“Elsa” a limited edition drawing on canvas by Gary Hodges
“Jon” a lion print and a Clouded Leopard Giclee by Clare O’Neill
“Leona” a special edition print by Sarah Goswell
“Eliza” cat sculpture by Suzy Marsh and donate by Lynne Chitty
Lion: Pride Before the Fall by George Logan
Chocolates donated by Cornwall’s Chocolate Cove
Safari birthday cards donated by Louise Mulgrew
“Destiny” a pastel drawing by Rosabelle
A swing set donated by Plum
Stay at The Hari donated by Andrew Coney
Bronze lion sculpture by Gillie and Marc
Connections with Nature signed book donate by Kate Stephenson
Legacy of Love books donated by Lynne Chitty
Table for 10 at Born to be Wild event donated by Val Hackett and Mike Carey