We were privileged to visit the northern Born Free Animal Rescue and Education Centre at Shamwari Game reserve in South Africa.

Born Free  Northern Centre Shamwari


Born Free has many programs including bear, primate, elephant or ‘elefriends’ and marine campaigns, but here they focus on big cats as in the southern centre.


They re-house lions and leopards usually from Eastern European circuses especially Romania, to live out the rest of their days in dignity after a life of being maltreated.Born Free  Northern Centre Shamwari

They have a female lion, Shada, who came with two other lions Djunka and Nalla who died from snake bite and from renal disease a few months after their arrival, leaving her all alone now. She is approximately 18yrs old and was very timid, severely malnourished and had been de-clawed in the circus. Now she is a confident and well developed lion.

A male lion in the adjoining enclosure had a similar background but had also had his teeth filed.  He too was very malnourished but now looks fabulous, although at times is a little ‘grumpy’ and vocal.

Born Free  Northern Centre Shamwari

Male lion with filed teeth

Born Free  Northern Centre Shamwari

Resting out his days

The centre at Shamwari also had a small number of different types of leopards, including three temporarily re-housed ones from the southern centre. Their own smaller darker female was aggressive and often unhappy and unpredictable. Because of this she had been separated away from the other two, including her own grown up cub which she had attacked in the past.

Born Free  Northern Centre Shamwari

Born Free  Northern Centre Shamwari

All the animals are fed every second day. No one enters the enclosures as the animals are still very wary of human contact because of the memory of maltreatment by their previous human ‘carers’. The animals live here till they die, which most often is from old age or snake bite.  Sponsorship and adoption programs are in place to help in their care and support.

Born Free  Northern Centre Shamwari

Happy days…

For more on the Shamwari Born Free Foundation see our other blog about the Southern Born Free Foundation Centre.

For more information on Born Free, go to:

[Photos by Tony and Irene Isaacson]

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