King made international headlines in October last year, when he was found half-starved and cowering in a dirty cage in an abandoned apartment in Paris.
Just a few months old and kept illegally as an exotic pet, he had been beaten and kicked by his owner who then posted videos of the abuse online.
It’s hard to imagine such a shocking case can exist so close to home, and the thought of living near by to someone with a pet lion sounds like something that would only happen decades ago — but the latest research by international wildlife charity Born Free has revealed more than 292 dangerous wild cats – including at least nine lions – are being kept privately, and legally, in Great Britain under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976.
The growing demand for wild animals to be kept as exotic pets worldwide is fuelled by both the legal and illegal wildlife trade. The illegal trade alone is worth an estimated $23 billion US dollars a year!
These wild species may be captive-bred, sourced from zoos and circuses or wild-caught, and they are sold through various means — such as online, in pet shops, trade fairs, markets and directly through breeders.
In response to King’s story, Born Free, has launched an urgent appeal to rehome King to its big cat sanctuary at Shamwari Game Reserve — a place I was fortunate enough to volunteer at many years ago — in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
King has left the building
King has now been given a temporary home at Natuurhulpcentrum rescue centre, in Belgium, and Born Free plans to transport him from Belgium to South Africa, where he will be given a permanent home at their long-established big cat sanctuary at Shamwari. The sanctuary is already home to 16 lions and leopards rescued from appalling captive conditions.
King’s new life at Born Free’s big cat sanctuary will be a world away from the Paris apartment in which he was discovered. He will be given lifetime care in a spacious, safe and natural environment, surrounded by the beautiful sights and sounds of Africa.
He was born free, he should live free
“Whether wild-caught or captive-bred, wild animals retain their wild instincts and their often complex social, behaviour and environmental needs: needs that are impossible to meet in a domestic environment,” Born Free’s Head of Animal Welfare & Captivity, Dr Chris Draper explains.
“It is high time that we stop viewing exotic wild animals simply as objects to own, and start considering their welfare — and the risks they may sometimes pose to us. It should be abundantly clear that the never-ending demand for increasingly exotic and dangerous wild animals in the pet trade needs to stop.”
“Have we learned nothing over the years? How can we not understand that keeping wild animals in cages is not just cruel, but shameful? Lions are known as kings of the jungle.”
Learn more about Born Free Foundation
Want to know more about Born Free Foundation?
- Discover the work of Born Free
- Learn more about the Born Free story
- Born Free and me
- My early connections with Born Free
- Pride in the Park: Born Free 30th anniversary
- Pride in the park planning
- Pollyanna Pickering’s Born Free 30th anniversary exhibition
Want to know more about Shamwari Game Reserve?
- Read about my time volunteering at Shamwari
- See my photos of Shamwari’s big cat centre & Julie Ward Education Centre
- Why volunteer at Shamwari?
- Conservation volunteer experiences with Worldwide Experience
- Watch some of my Shamwari home videos
- Discover the Shamwari experience on Facebook
- Discover iShamwari and the Voice of Conservation
- What happened to the Voice of Conservation project?
- Call to bring back Voice of Conservation