Four adult lions who were sold as cubs and used as circus performers in France have taken their first steps on South African soil in Shamwari Private Game Reserve, after a gruelling four-year struggle.
The lions – Angela, Bellone, Louga, and Saïda were confined to less-than-optimal living and travel conditions and even harsher treatment. When they were not performing, they were kept in small, barren wagons.
Thankfully, the curtains closed in 2018 when their owners relinquished custody to experts at a rescue centre near Lyon. A year later, Born Free – a wildlife conservation organisation – became aware of their situation and immediately started making plans to relocate them to their big cat sanctuary at Shamwari Private Game Reserve.
With funds secured and preparations made, Born Free was ready to relocate the four lions from their halfway house in Tonga Terre d’Accueil, France to their new home, but the pandemic threw a wrench into their plans, delaying this process.
This did not deter the organisation, as on 11 February 2022, Angela, Bellone, Louga, and Saïda set foot in their new home.
Their journey was relatively unproblematic, thanks to excellent logistics and planning by specialists and experts. They travelled by road to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, where they set off into the air for South Africa.
All four lions were observed to be calm and relaxed during their journey. When they finally reached Born Free’s Big Cat Sanctuary at Shamwari, the lions were released from their travelling crates. Despite their harsh background, the lions emerged confidently and enthusiastically, instantly setting off to explore the landscape.
They are all eating and drinking well and will continue to be under observation for the next few weeks. But it’s safe to say we can all breathe a sigh of relief. Louga, the only male in the group, frequently lounges in the shade, while keeping a watchful eye over the three females.
For updates on their progress or to make a donation to aid in their recovery, click here.
Picture: Screenshot from video