My pride and joy

1 June 2022


Born Free’s Events and Philanthropy Manager, Joanne Bartholomew speaks of her pride to be involved in Born Free Forever, and welcomes you to future in-person events.

A photo of a male lion roaring

(c) George Logan

This year I will be celebrating 12 years working with my colleagues at Born Free. I once read a quote: “If you find a job you love, you will never work again.” Whilst I do agree – I am so lucky to work with the Born Free team and be part of their amazing achievements – the work is tough and relentless, but it is the right thing to do on behalf of all our amazing supporters for the animals.

Joanne Bartholomew

This year has been named Born Free’s Year of the Lion. The head of our pride is of course Virginia McKenna and together we mark what would have been the 100th birthday of our late co-founder, Virginia’s beloved husband Bill Travers. Together you can help us achieve so much and we hope there is something you can get involved with this year with us.

In January we launched our Born Free Forever exhibition at its first venue in London. We hope everyone will get to see our pride of 25 life-sized bronze lion sculptures as the they tour the country.  It really is a safari for survival as back in the 1960s, when the film Born Free was made, an estimated 200,000 lions were recorded in the wild but today as few as 20,000 remain. How can we not fight for them to ensure their future?

Every lion in the exhibition has their own tale to tell, and everyone who visits will play a vital role by sharing their individual stories, raising awareness, and encouraging family and friends to donate to help us protect lions, resolve conflict with communities living alongside them, and stop the horrors of trophy hunting. I believe together is stronger and we can do this!  So please visit and share with us your photos, donate if you can but mostly enjoy seeing them – just like Born Free supporter Sheena Wilson did, when she visited the exhibition in Newcastle! See below for her write-up and photo with King’s sculpture.

Each lion will also need its own forever home at the end of the exhibition; brave King the little cub rescued from abuse in a Paris apartment and now living with his companion in Shamwari, well here he is beautifully captured in bronze forever. And he along with the others can be purchased.

I can’t tell you how exciting it has been to put on an in-person event again after so long, and now we have another to plan! I can’t wait to see everyone at our Mane Event – ROAR! in September. Every event has the aim of being extra special and this year it really will be because we get to be together again. I extend the warmest of invitations for you to join Virginia, Will and the Born Free team at Denbies Winery…  I will see you there!


Born Free supporter Sheena Wilson (pictured) was blown away when she visited the Born Free Forever lions in Exhibition Park.

She said: “As soon as I heard the Born Free Forever Lion sculpture exhibition was coming to Newcastle, my hometown, I immediately decided to organise a visit to my sister who lives in South Shields.  We spent most of Saturday afternoon with the stunning life-size bronze lions in Exhibition Park, and in particular, I couldn’t wait to meet The King!

“I had adopted Sinbad for my nephew many years ago and when Sinbad sadly passed away, I transferred the adoption to King who took over Sinbad’s enclosure. I am very privileged because I actually got to meet Sinbad back in 2010 when I visited Shamwari where the lovely Glen was taking great care of him and still is taking care of what he calls his ‘kitty cats’.

“I think the Born Free Forever initiative, in honour of the 100th birthday year of Bill Travers MBE, is an amazing way of raising awareness of the plight of lions and hope that many people will visit them and possibly contribute towards the much-needed Forever Lions Fund.

“It was wonderful to see so many families visiting the lions. The children were really enthusiastic – I bet they will never forget the experience! We need to rely on future generations to help conserve our ever-diminishing wildlife numbers, so it’s important to engage children in such events.

“I highly recommend visiting the exhibit if you can!”