Born Free gives lions back their pride

2017-05-18 06:00
=Ciam, the 2 year old confiscated “exotic pet”, free at last!       PHotos: HEILIE COMBRINCK

=Ciam, the 2 year old confiscated “exotic pet”, free at last! PHotos: HEILIE COMBRINCK

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Former zoo lion, Nelson, and confiscated “exotic pet”, Ciam, are starting new lives in their ancestral home of Africa.

Nelson and Ciam travelled from their temporary home in Belgium - via Germany - to Port Elizabeth, where they were introduced into their spacious, safe and enriching accommodation at the award-winning Shamwari Game Reserve.

With them every step of the way on their more than 10 000km journey was Born Free Foundation co-founder and actress, Virginia McKenna , who watched with delight as Nelson and Ciam explored their new surroundings.

“The lyric goes ‘life is worth living when you’re born free’ but for the two lions, Nelson and Ciam, who were not born free and never lived free, life is now, at last, worth living,” said Virginia McKenna (85) who played the role of Joy Adamson in the iconic movie Born Free.

Nelson, after 14 years of imprisonment and about 2 years at the Natuurhulpcentrum rescue centre in Belgium, and Ciam, bought from a terrible circus by someone who kept him illegally in his back yard, will now have a new life at the Born Free sanctuary at Shamwari.

“Seeing them take their first steps into their huge natural enclosures was utterly joyful. At last they are free to live where lions belong and will be treated with the care and respect they deserve. How lucky I was to be there to share the moment,” said McKenna.

The two lions started their journey from Natuurhulpcentrum rescue centre, Belgium, on Thursday 4th May. Born Free Celebrity Patrons, comedian Jim Moir (Vic Reeves) and his wife – model and actress Nancy Sorrell - helped carefully prepare Nelson and Ciam for their journey and have been closely following their progress.

“It was wonderful to meet the magnificent Nelson and Ciam and to help the Born Free team prepare them for their journey to Shamwari Game Reserve,” said Jim Moir and his wife Nancy Sorrell.

“Nelson and Ciam highlight the plight of captive wild animals worldwide that are still kept in zoos and circuses or as ‘exotic pets’ just for the entertainment of humans. We are so happy to hear they are settling into their new homes and know they will be in the best of hands.”

Nelson is now living at Born Free’s Julie Ward Animal Rescue and Education Centre, while Ciam’s new home is at the Jean Byrd Centre.

Nelson and Ciam’s new lives at Shamwari Game Reserve will be a world away from their previous circumstances, which highlight the sorry plight of the millions of wild animals worldwide kept for human entertainment – in zoos, circuses or as ‘exotic pets’.

  • Nelson was rescued from a French zoo when it fell into liquidation. Ciam was confiscated from a cramped cage in a garden in Southern France.

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