Born Free’s Bid to Give Two Lions a Life Worth Living

Press Release • Born Free’s Bid to Give Two Lions a Life Worth Living

Appeal launched to rehome two lions – former ‘exotic pet’ Ciam and former zoo lion Nelson - to South African sanctuary

International wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation and its Co-Founder, Virginia McKenna OBE, have launched an urgent appeal to assist with rehoming two magnificent lions Ciam and Nelson – unfortunate victims of the captive animal industry - to its big cat sanctuary at the award-winning Shamwari Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

Virginia McKenna OBE, said: “The stories we so often have to tell are of sadness and disappointment. But, today, we have one that surely will melt the hardest of hearts and bring a smile to everyone’s face. Two beautiful lions – one quite old and the other quite young- are waiting to go to our big cat sanctuary at Shamwari, in South Africa.

"They have been living, temporarily, at the marvellous Natuurhulpcentrum in Belgium, but they need the space, the sun and the wild habitat of the African bush. I really hope you will want to help us take them on this journey – for them the journey of a lifetime that they richly deserve, after the deprivation they have endured all their lives.”

Worldwide, millions of wild animals are kept in captivity for human entertainment - in zoos, circuses or as ‘exotic pets’. The heart-breaking stories of Ciam and Nelson highlight the desperate plight of many of these animals.

Ciam, a two-and-a-half year old male lion, made international headlines in November 2015 when he was confiscated from a cage in a garden in southern France. Kept illegally as an exotic pet, Ciam had reportedly lived in the cage for seven months after his owner received him from a friend who worked in a circus. Ciam was rescued by French animal rescue charity Fondation 30 Millions d'Amis, and has been living in a temporary home at Natuurhulpcentrum rescue centre (NHC), Belgium, since his confiscation.

Nelson was rescued from Parc Zoologique du Bouy, France, in April 2015 by Fondation 30 Millions d'Amis when the zoo fell into liquidation and the owner was arrested for wildlife trafficking. It is unclear how long 17-year-old Nelson was at Parc Zoologique du Bouy, but images of him there in 2008 have been found online. He is also currently living in temporary care at the Natuurhulpcentrum rescue centre (NHC).

An increasing number of wild animals are kept as exotic pets, including reptiles, amphibians, mammals, primates and big cats. The demand for exotic pets fuels both the legal and illegal wildlife trade: some animals may be bred in captivity to supply demand, some may be traded as surplus from zoos and circuses, while others are caught from the wild. Born Free opposes the exploitation of wild animals as pets and campaigns for national and international legislation to reduce and, where possible, end this practice.

Campaigning to prevent captive animal suffering and to phase out zoos has been at the heart of Born Free since its formation in 1984. This year, Born Free has gone ‘back to its roots’, with a focus on challenging the exploitation of wild animals in captivity and the multi-billion pound global zoo industry through its Beyond the Bars campaign.

Born Free is planning to move Ciam and Nelson to a permanent home at its long-established sanctuary at Shamwari Game Reserve, which is already home to a number of lions and leopards rescued by the charity from a dire life in captivity. At Shamwari, they will be given lifetime care in a spacious, safe and enriching environment, surrounded by the sights and sounds of Africa.

Born Free President, Will Travers OBE, added: “Now that Ciam and Nelson are on the mend from their previous lives, we don’t want to waste a single minute. Born Free’s priority is to get these magnificent animals to a new home in Africa. This is why we need everyone’s help to make this possible, and give Nelson and Ciam the new home that they so thoroughly deserve.”

To donate to this important cause, visit or call 01403 240170.

Please see Born Free’s website for further information on:
Ciam and Nelson Appeal:
Beyond the Bars campaign:
Exotic pets:
Shamwari Game Reserve:
Fondation 30 Millions d'Amis:
Natuurhulpcentrum rescue centre:

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