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Fit for a King

July 30th, 2019, by Lucille Sive

After a long journey, King, a one-year old lion cub, has arrived at his new home in the Shamwari Game Reserve in South Africa. African Travel, Inc. is proud to support King’s journey in partnership with the Born Free Foundation, Shamwari Game Reserve and the TreadRight Foundation. I could not be happier to share King’s story, and its wonderful conclusion, with you!

King in his forever home at Shamwari Game Reserve.
Photo: Shamwari Game Reserve/ Born Free Foundation

Last October, King was rescued from a French apartment after authorities discovered that he had been living in terrible conditions and was being kept illegally. At the time, King was only a few months old and was being neglected and abused by his owner. It was absolutely devastating to see just how poorly such a beautiful wild animal like King was being treated. Thankfully, King was rescued and moved to Natuurhulpcentrum, a wildlife rescue centre in Belgium that specializes in rehabilitation of sick and injured wild animals, where his story took a positive turn.

King begins his journey from Europe to South Africa. 
Photo: Shamwari Game Reserve/ Born Free Foundation

When King arrived in Belgium he was a small, frightened lion who distrusted people. However, over the next nine months, the staff at the centre worked hard to rehabilitate King physically and emotionally. By the time he left Belgium, King’s confidence had grown along with his roar! During his time in Europe, the Born Free Foundation launched an appeal to move King permanently to their big cat sanctuary in South Africa, located in the Shamwari Game Reserve. Their appeal was successful, and King officially began his journey to his ancestral home in July.

King arrives at Shamwari Game Reserve in South Africa. 
Photo: Shamwari Game Reserve/ Born Free Foundation

More than a year following the start of his ordeal, King departed Belgium on July 5th for the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary in the Shamwari Game Reserve. Born Free’s mission is to “keep wildlife in the wild” with a focus on taking in captive big cats living in poor conditions and giving them the opportunity to live freely in large enclosures in the natural environment. Because King has grown up in captivity, close to humans, he will never be able to re-join the wild, but his forever home at Shamwari gives him ample natural space to roam and be free.

King bursts out of his crate and into his new home at Shamwari. 
Photo: Shamari Game Reserve/ Born Free Foundation

After a two-day journey on Kenyan Airways, King arrived at Shamwari on July 7, 2018. He was greeted by the experienced teams at the Born Free Centre, led by Catherine Gillson, and Shamwari, including veterinarian Dr. Johan Joubert. When animals arrive in new environments there’s a lot of uncertainty about how they will react. However, all reservations of King’s transition were quickly laid to rest when the wildlife team opened the crate and King burst into his new home running and leaping through his new environment immediately. It was a truly magical moment for everyone involved and it was captured beautifully in the video below.

For a year-old cub who has been through so much, King’s energy and confidence in his new setting is a tremendously positive sign. In the weeks following his arrival, the team at Born Free have reported that King has been eating, drinking and exploring his new home with a curiosity and self-assurance that is rare for new arrivals at the centre. Catherine Gillson, Manager of the Born Free Centre, is also positive that King has already grown in his short time there. With his fantastic start to his new life in South Africa, we are happy that King will finally be able to live the life he deserves: free and in a home fit for a king.

King, three weeks after his arrival at Shamwari.
Photo: Shamwari Game Reserve/ Born Free Foundation

At African Travel, Inc., we are proud to support King’s journey. We are absolutely committed to protecting Africa’s big cat populations in Africa and thanks to the incredible support we receive from our guests, we are able to make positive contributions to stories just like King’s. Our partner, the TreadRight Foundation, has also proudly supported King’s journey as a part of their Big Cat initiative, a new program aimed specifically at conserving the world’s big cats for generations to come. Thank you to Shamwari, Born Free, Kenyan Airways and everyone else who has been involved in making the end to King’s story such a happy one.

Interested in seeing King in person? Our Majestic South Africa can take you there. You will spend 3 nights at the Shamwari Game Reserve where you will have the opportunity to visit King’s forever home at the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary.

CST #2071444-20