Lions enjoy new-found freedom at sanctuary

2017-05-17 06:02
Nelson, who was rescued from a French zoo in April 2015, recently started a new life at the Born Free sanctuary at Shamwari Game Reserve.Photos: HEILIE COMBRINCK

Nelson, who was rescued from a French zoo in April 2015, recently started a new life at the Born Free sanctuary at Shamwari Game Reserve.Photos: HEILIE COMBRINCK

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TWO lions have recently started a new phase in their lives at the Born Free sanctuary at Shamwari Game Reserve.

Nelson was rescued from a French zoo in April 2015 when it fell into liquidation and Ciam made international headlines in November 2015 when he was confiscated from a cramped cage in a garden in Southern France.

An increasing number of wild animals are kept as exotic pets, including reptiles, amphibians, mammals, primates and big cats. The demand for these animals fuels both the legal and illegal wildlife trade.

Born Free has been campaigning to prevent captive animal suffering and phase out zoos since its formation in 1984. This year, they have gone back to their roots with a focus on challenging the exploitation of wild animals in captivity and the multibillion pound global zoo industry through it’s Beyond the Bars campaign.

Nelson and Ciam started their journey on May 4 when they travelled from their temporary home at the Natuurhulpcentrum rescue centre in Belgium and arrived at Shamwari Game Reserve on May 6.

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

“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,” McKenna said.

Comedian Jim Moir and his wife, Nancy Sorrell, two Born Free Celebrity Patrons, helped prepare Nelson and Ciam for their journey and have been following their progress closely.

They said, “It was wonderful to meet the magnificent Nelson and Ciam at Natuurhulpcentrum and to help the Born Free team prepare them for their journey to Shamwari Game Reserve. 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.

Joe Cloete, Group General Manager at Shamwari Game Reserve, said, “We, here at Shamwari Game Reserve, are very proud to continue our close working relationship with Born Free, which now marks 20 years, and to be a part of not only supporting this great work, but also raising awareness of the plight of many big cats worldwide.”

For more info or to donate to the cause go to


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