Born Free is deeply saddened to report the passing of dear Black, a beautiful lion rescued from a circus trailer in Bulgaria and given a new life at our sanctuary in South Africa.

Two lions lying together on the grass. The lion in the foreground is side-on to the camera and looking up to the sky with his eyes closed.

Black (pictured at the front) with his brother Jora at Shamwari

With extreme sadness, Born Free has had to say goodbye to Black, a 16-year-old rescued lion, after on-going health issues.

With his brother Jora, Black arrived at our big cat sanctuary at Shamwari Private Game Reserve, South Africa, in September 2015. The last two lions from Bulgaria’s circus industry, they had previously spent years performing in the bright lights and noise of the big top, constantly on the road as the circus toured eastern Europe and Turkey.

Fortunately, in January 2015, the Bulgarian government banned wild mammals in circuses. Jora and Black’s owner got in contact with Born Free to ask for our help and we arranged for the lions to come to South Africa – thanks to donations from supporters. Here, they could enjoy a peaceful, enriched life in a natural habitat enclosure, lavished with the best possible care. This was funded with the support of their wonderful and generous Lifetime Carers.

The affectionate brothers clearly relished the space and tranquillity of Shamwari but, unfortunately, had arrived with complex health issues due to their deprived lives prior to rescue. They gradually recovered, however they retained symptoms relating to their poor diet when they were young. Sadly, as the lions grew older and especially in recent weeks, Black’s health deteriorated, impacting his quality of life. We realised it was time to say goodbye and our care team at Shamwari agreed gently putting him to sleep would be the kindest option. The end was very peaceful.

“To my friend Black – you were such a special part of our lives for the past nearly nine years that I have known and took care of you,” said our Animal Care Supervisor, Martin Miritiawo. “I have seen you manage to overcome huge obstacles. I will always cherish your resilience and perseverance. What a majestic lion and a great warrior! You will forever be missed, but I know you are in a better place.”

Thankfully, Jora remains in reasonable health and we are monitoring him closely, as he grieves the loss of his brother and becomes accustomed to life without him. Although heartbreaking to lose Black, it is a big comfort to know we could give him so many contented years. Rest in peace dear Black, we will cherish the memories, not least you and your brother’s mighty roars every morning and late afternoon – audible several miles way. Thank you for reminding us that every lion is precious.

If you would be interested in becoming a Lifetime Carer, do get in touch with us.