OUR BIG CATS

Born Free’s two big cat sanctuaries at Shamwari Private Game Reserve are home to lions and leopards rescued from appalling captive conditions around the world. 

They have come to us from zoos and circuses, or from private homes where they were kept as ‘pets’. Sadly, the nature of their background means they would be unable to fend for themselves if released into the wild, so they are given expert, lifetime care in a spacious, safe and natural environment.

Find out more about the big cats in our care.

 

BLACK

DATE OF BIRTH: 9th June 2007

ARRIVED AT SHAMWARI: September 2015

CENTRE: Jean Byrd

Black was rescued from a circus trailer in Bulgaria after the country banned the use of wild animals in circuses. Together with his brother Jora, they journeyed from Bulgaria to Shamwari as part of a joint operation, and share an enclosure.

VIDEO     CIRCUSES

 

BRUTUS

DATE OF BIRTH: Estimated 2001

ARRIVED AT SHAMWARI: 27th April 2008

CENTRE: Julie Ward

Brutus was confiscated from Cirque Vitalis, a circus in France, where he lived in a two-metre cage. He was rehabilitated at Le Refuge de l’Arche, in France, before arriving at our big cat sanctuary in 2008. 

CIRCUSES

 

CERSEI

DATE OF BIRTH: Estimated September 2018

ARRIVED AT SHAMWARI: October 2019

CENTRE: Jean Byrd 

Cersei was discovered in a garage in Marseille, France. She was very unwell and underweight; with skin irritation, a dull coat, gastrointestinal problems and corneal ulcers. She was rehabilitated in temporary accommodation with the three other Lions of Lyon – Dadou, Horus and Thea – in Lyon, France, before moving to their permanent home at our big cat sanctuary as part of a joint operation in 2019.

VIDEO     WILD ANIMALS AS PETS     

 

CIAM

DATE OF BIRTH: 1st September 2014

ARRIVED AT SHAMWARI: 5th May 2017

CENTRE: Jean Byrd

Ciam made international headlines in November 2015 when he was confiscated from a cage in a garden in southern France. Kept illegally as an exotic pet, Ciam had reportedly lived in the cage for seven months after his owner received him from a friend who worked in a circus. Ciam was rescued by French animal rescue charity Fondation 30 Millions d'Amis, and was rehabilitated at Natuurhulpcentrum rescue centre, in Belgium, before journeying to South Africa in May 2017 as part of a joint move with Nelson.

VIDEO     WILD ANIMALS AS  PETS

 

DADOU

DATE OF BIRTH: Estimated September 2018

ARRIVED AT SHAMWARI: October 2019

CENTRE: Jean Byrd 

Dadou was found in the back of a Lamborghini on the Champs-Elysées in Paris, France, at around two months old. The tip of his tail was missing and he had weak hind legs because his muscles had not properly developed – possibly due to a poor diet. He was rehabilitated in temporary accommodation with the three other Lions of Lyon – Cersei, Horus and Thea – in Lyon, France, before moving to their permanent home at our big cat sanctuary as part of a joint operation in 2019.

VIDEO     WILD ANIMALS AS PETS     

 

HORUS

DATE OF BIRTH: Estimated September 2018

ARRIVED AT SHAMWARI: October 2019

CENTRE: Jean Byrd 

Horus was only two months old when discovered on a child’s bed in an apartment in the suburbs of Paris, France, in October 2018. He was being kept illegally as a pet and images of the cub were being posted on social media. He was rehabilitated in temporary accommodation with the three other Lions of Lyon – Cersei, Dadou and Thea – in Lyon, France, before moving to their permanent home at our big cat sanctuary as part of a joint operation in 2019.

VIDEO     WILD ANIMALS AS PETS     

 

JERRY

DATE OF BIRTH: Estimated 2001

ARRIVED AT SHAMWARI: August 2007

CENTRE: Julie Ward

Jerry was rescued from a zoo in Buhusi, Romania, in 2007 with his mother and brother. The family were given a home at our big cat sanctuary. Sadly, Jerry's brother died in 2008 and his mother later in 2014. To provide Jerry with companionship again, he was introduced to sisters Maggie and Sonja in June 2015 and now lives happily with them as head of the pride.

ZOOS

 

JORA

DATE OF BIRTH: 9th June 2007

ARRIVED AT SHAMWARI: September 2015

CENTRE: Jean Byrd

Jora was rescued from a circus trailer in Bulgaria after the country banned the use of wild animals in circuses. Together with his brother Black, they journeyed from Bulgaria to South Africa as part of a joint operation, and share an enclosure.

VIDEO     CIRCUSES

 

KING

DATE OF BIRTH: Estimated July 2017

ARRIVED AT SHAMWARI: July 2018

CENTRE: Jean Byrd

King was rescued from an apartment on the outskirts of Paris in October 2017 by French charities Fondation 30 Million d’Amis and Refuge de l’Arche. King was being kept illegally as a pet in a small, dirty cage. He had been beaten and kicked by his owner, who posted images of the abuse on social media. King was rehabilitated at Natuurhulpcentrum rescue centre, in Belgium, before making the journey to South Africa in July 2018. 

ADOPT     WILD ANIMALS AS PETS     VIDEO

 

LEDA

DATE OF BIRTH: Estimated 1990

ARRIVED AT SHAMWARI: 2nd May 2009

CENTRE: Jean Byrd

Leda was born in Tel Aviv Zoo, in Israel, and transferred to Limassol Zoo, in Cyprus, when she was four years old. She was rescued from Limassol with her daughter Rhea following a long-running campaign for it to be shut down, led by Born Free’s Co-Founder Bill Travers. The Mayor of Cyprus gave permission for Leda and Rhea to be given a new home at Shamwari. Leda’s enclosure at our big cat sanctuary is next to her daughter’s.

ADOPT       ZOOS     

 

MAGGIE

DATE OF BIRTH: Estimated 2006

ARRIVED AT SHAMWARI: January 2015

CENTRE: Julie Ward

Maggie was confiscated from a German circus with her sister Sonja where they had been living in a cramped trailer. They were rehabilitated at Natuurhulpcentrum in Belgium, before moving to their permanent home at our big cat sanctuary as part of a joint operation in January 2015. Six months later, they were introduced to Jerry and all happily share an enclosure.

VIDEO     CIRCUSES

 

NELSON

DATE OF BIRTH: Estimated January 2000

ARRIVED AT SHAMWARI: 5th May 2017

CENTRE: Julie Ward

Nelson was rescued from Parc Zoologique du Bouy, France, in April 2015 by French animal rescue charity Fondation 30 Million d’Amis when the zoo fell into liquidation and the owner was arrested for wildlife trafficking. It is unclear how long Nelson was at the zoo, but images of him there in 2008 have been found online. He was rehabilitated at Natuurhulpcentrum rescue centre, in Belgium, before journeying to South Africa in May 2017 as part of a joint move with Ciam.

VIDEO     ZOOS

 

RHEA

DATE OF BIRTH: 28th January 1998

ARRIVED AT SHAMWARI: June 2009

CENTRE: Jean Byrd

Rhea was born in Limassol Zoo, in Cyprus. She was rescued from Limassol with her mother Leda following a long-running campaign for it to be shut down, led by Born Free’s Co-Founder Bill Travers. The Mayor of Cyprus gave permission for Rhea and Leda to be given a new home at our big cat sanctuary. Rhea’s enclosure at Shamwari is next to her mother’s.

 ADOPT       ZOOS 

 

SAMI

DATE OF BIRTH: Estimated 2001

ARRIVED AT SHAMWARI: July 2001

CENTRE: Julie Ward

Sami was found abandoned in the Sudanese bush with his brother Alam and sister Nimira in 2001. Thought to be just four months old, they were given a new home at our big cat sanctuary and shared an enclosure together.

ADOPT 

 

SONJA

DATE OF BIRTH: Estimated 2006

ARRIVED AT SHAMWARI: January 2015

CENTRE: Julie Ward

Sonja was confiscated from a German circus with her sister Maggie where they had been living in a cramped trailer. They were rehabilitated at Natuurhulpcentrum in Belgium, before moving to their permanent home at our big cat sanctuary as part of a joint operation in January 2015. Six months later, they were introduced to Jerry and all happily share an enclosure.

VIDEO     CIRCUSES

 

THEA

DATE OF BIRTH: Estimated November 2018

ARRIVED AT SHAMWARI: October 2019

CENTRE: Jean Byrd 

Thea was being kept illegally as a pet in France, but was surrendered by her owner in January 2019 when she was just eight weeks old and very unwell. She had glaucoma, was under-developed and underweight, with extreme hair loss and diarrhoea. She was rehabilitated in temporary accommodation with the three other Lions of Lyon – Cersei, Dadou and Horus – in Lyon, France, before moving to their permanent home at our big cat sanctuary as part of a joint operation in 2019.

VIDEO     WILD ANIMALS AS PETS     

 

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