Imagine a lion cub, rescued from physical abuse and the confines of a filthy cage in a Paris apartment, feeling the South African sunshine on his back for the first time and the dry grass beneath his paws.
That is the story of beautiful King the lion. Now successfully re-homed by International wildlife charity Born Free at their big cat sanctuary in South Africa’s Shamwari Game Reserve; King’s story captured interest (and hearts) back in April, when an appeal was launched to raise the funds to deliver him back to his ancestral home of Africa, and highlight the issue of the illegal wildlife trade. For those of you who’d like to read the first part of King’s story, take a look here.
King, back in April, before his big move
The one-year-old lion cub was rescued from an apartment in Paris last summer where he was being kept illegally as an ‘exotic pet’ in appalling conditions.
After his rescue, he was temporarily homed at Natuurhulpcentrum rescue centre, Belgium, awaiting his big journey back to African soil and lifetime care provided by Born Free.
A home fit for a King…
On July 5th he travelled from Belgium, to London Heathrow airport under the care of Born Free’s expert team. In his Born Free branded wooden container, King then flew to Africa, courtesy of Kenya Airways.
Katrina Hanson, Kenya Airways’ Area Cargo Manager, said: “We were delighted to assist in King’s amazing relocation to Born Free’s Big Cat Rescue Centre at Shamwari in South Africa. We have worked with Born Free for many years carrying rescued lions from Europe to Africa so they can enjoy being a lion. These relocations have been a great success and we do all we can to make it as stress free as possible for the lions.”
After a short internal flight, King touched down in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, before travelling the short distance by road to Shamwari and to his new home at Born Free’s Jean Byrd Centre. Shamwari, where I was fortunate enough to gain a 3-month volunteer placement back in 2008, has been home to Born Free’s two Big Cat Rescue Centres for more than 20 years.
“So many people responded to our appeal to bring young King to Shamwari, and now he has arrived!,” said Virginia McKenna OBE, Born Free’s Co-Founder and Trustee. “Thanks to everyone whose hearts were touched by his story, he now takes his first steps on African soil, and can begin his happy new life. May it be a long and peaceful one.”
The exotic pet trade
The sad story of King before he was rescued highlights the plight of millions of captive wild animals around the world that are kept as exotic pets.
I’m proud to support Born Free, who oppose the keeping of wild animals as pets. They state: \Wild animals, whether they have been taken from the wild or bred in captivity, have extremely complex social, physical and behavioural needs and are, therefore, particularly susceptible to suffer when kept as pets.
Dr Chris Draper, Born Free’s Head of Animal Welfare & Captivity, adds: “It is staggering that, in 2018, lion cubs are still finding their way into the pet trade in Europe. We are concerned that King’s case is the tip of the iceberg, and that a great many wild animals are being kept illegally as pets across Europe and elsewhere. This situation needs to be addressed urgently, and we hope that by introducing the world to King – his plight, his rescue and his rehoming to lifetime care – Born Free can draw attention to this important issue.”
I’m so glad to know that for King, the tale ends happily, but like many of the people who have reacted to this story; I find it shocking to think that wild animals are being kept privately in people’s homes. In the case of King, his owner’s warped sense of pride in posting pictures of the lion cub (and the abuse he suffered) on social media was his own downfall. Thank goodness that the right people saw his posts and reacted accordingly.
I am, however, concerned about the many wild animals whose owners are not foolish enough to post their mistreatment online. How many others are stuck in an existence like the one King had?
Please consider supporting Born Free’s petition to restrict the trade in, and private keeping of, dangerous wild animals in Great Britain: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/221050
To donate to King’s lifetime care, visit www.bornfree.org.uk/king, call 01403 240170 or text KING to 70755 to donate £10.
Learn more about Born Free Foundation
Want to know more about King?
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