South Africa

National Flag of South AfricaSouth Africa Country Profile

South Africa is in southernmost Africa with a coastline that stretches more than 2,500km (1,553m) and along the South Atlantic and the Indian ocean. Neighbouring countries include Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe to the north and Mozambique and Eswatini to the east and northeast. South Africa also completely enclaves Lesotho. The country has a population of around 60 million people (as of 2021) and 12 official languages, as well as South African Sign Language, which was recognised as an official language in 2023.

Geography & Wildlife

South Africa’s landscape has a high central plateau surrounded by coastal lowlands. The interior of the country is comprised of wide savannahs and bushland, the coast is made up of lush, tropical vegetation, where conditions are more humid.

South Africa is deemed a wildlife hotspot supporting an array of wildlife including elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo, cheetah, crocodiles, hippos, giraffe, and an abundance of birds – including the African penguin. The coastline and surrounding oceans support other marine life including humpback whales and great white sharks. South Africa is also home to 23 designated Ramsar Sites which are wetlands of international importance.

Main Conservation Challenges

Land clearing and unsustainable agriculture practices, human-wildlife conflict, wildlife poaching, including capture of animals for use wildlife trade, trophy hunting, captive breeding of big cats and to be used for interactions with tourist and support the canned hunting industry.

Our work in South Africa

Three men stand in a row wearing light coloured Born Free uniforms

Our Shamwari staff (c) Lyndon Brandt

Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary at Shamwari Private Game Reserve

Animals: lions and leopards

Established: 1999 & 2006

Work: rescue & care / education

We operate two sanctuaries in Shamwari Private Game Reserve – the Julie Ward Centre (est. 1999) and the Jean Byrd Centre (est. 2006) – to provide lifetime care for lions and leopards rescued from zoos, circuses and other captive environments. An education centre also allows local children and other visitors to learn about South Africa’s wildlife and the importance of conservation, as part of our wider education work in the local area.


Close up of a female lion looking towards the cameraBORN FREE RESCUE SECTION AT PANTHERA AFRICA BIG CAT SANCTUARY

Animals: lions and servals

Established: 2019

Work: rescue & care

Managed by: Panthera Africa

Born Free works in collaboration with Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary to provide safe homes and expert care for big cats, rescued from zoos, circuses and other captive facilities.

Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary is a non-profit organisation founded by Lizaene Cornwall and Cathrine S. Nyquist in 2014, located 140 kilometres from Cape Town, in South Africa’s Western Cape. It is a sanctuary for captive-bred big cats where they will be protected for the rest of their lives.

Supported by British Airways Holidays, the Born Free Rescue Section was unveiled in November 2019.

The natural bush enclosures give the lions and servals the space and privacy they so desperately need in an area closed off from visitors.

Born Free funds the lifetime care of the lions and servals that we have rehomed in the Born Free Rescue Section. The Rescue Section and daily care of the cats is managed by Panthera Africa’s dedicated and expert team.