Farewell dear Sami

It is with great sadness that Born Free has had to say goodbye to Sami, our beloved rescued leopard, cared for by our dedicated Big Cat Sanctuary team at Shamwari Private Game Reserve in South Africa, for the last 22 years. 

A leopard peeping through the long grass

Sami (c) Lyndon Brandt

Sami arrived at Shamwari on 5th July 2001, with brother Alam and sister Nimira, and they were estimated to be just four months old. The three cubs were found motherless in the desert in Sudan by soldiers, who did their best to care for the trio but only had cow’s milk to feed them, which isn’t suitable for cat species.

Fortunately, the soldiers took the cubs to the offices of Lundin Oil for help and Virginia Lundin, wife of the President, kindly took the cubs into her care. She arranged for the cubs to be hand reared by Dr Alam Bagi – General Manager of Lundin Oil – and got in touch with Born Free. Together with the Lundin family, we brought the cubs to our sanctuary at Shamwari, which became their lifetime home. All three leopards lived happily together in their spacious natural bush enclosure until 2017 when, heartbreakingly, first Sami’s brother Alam and then sister Nimira passed away within six months of each other.


A leopard has its face right up to the camera, with two other leopards in the background

L-R Alam, Sami and Nimira (c) Glen Vena

“Sami’s passing has left a huge hole,” explained his loving carer Glen Vena, Born Free’s Animal Care Manager at Shamwari, who first welcomed the cubs all those years ago. “What a journey of 22 years it has been with him! Arriving here at Shamwari in the middle of South Africa’s winter in 2001, where the temperature was just 10°C (when they left Khartoum the temperature was around 40°C). I remember seeing them shivering in their little crates… They had travelled under the watchful eye of our vet, Dr Johan Joubert, who came with them all the way from Sudan checking they were okay.

“There was so much love for the triplets from day one, everyone loved them. Johan and I have known Sami for most of his life and what a privilege that has been. I take comfort knowing he is in a better place and playing with Alam and Nimira once more. Life has come to a full circle. He is missed; however, knowing that we did what was right and gave him the best quality of life we could at the sanctuary and that he was content. The three siblings have taught so many people that wildlife belongs in the wild. Be free Sami.”

We would like to whole heartedly thank the Lundin family and Dr Alam Bagi and his wife who all made the rescue of Sami, Alam and Nimira possible.

Sami is resting in our garden of remembrance at the Julie Ward Centre amongst old friends. His story, and the stories of all the other cats that came before him, are told to every guest, school child and teacher that visits the centre. He will never be forgotten; the story continues, just a different chapter.


A leopard is standing towards the camera facing slightly towards the left

Sami © Lyndon Brandt