Maggie and Sonja, two lionesses seized from a circus in Germany, are settling into their new home in South Africa, “where they’ll have a second chance to live out their days in a nurturing and natural environment” at the Born Free Foundation’s Big Cat Rescue and Education Centre at Shamwari Game Reserve, the conservation charity Born Free USA said in a news statement today.
The feline sisters spent their first eight years as circus performers, living in a circus trailer in appalling conditions, Born Free said. When the animals were confiscated by the German authorities in 2013, the Natuurhulpcentrum, a wild animal rescue and rehabilitation centre in Belgium, offered them temporary accommodation. They were rehabilitated and treated for wounds sustained whilst living in the circus, before being declared fit to travel to a permanent new home in Africa, the charity added.
The big cats traveled via London and Nairobi in style, including a flight on the inaugural Kenya Airways Dreamliner service to Johannesburg. Land Rover Discovery vehicles towed them in their traveling containers to Shamwari Game Reserve near Port Elizabeth. “They were released straight into their large natural enclosure, where they were introduced to the sights and sounds of Africa for the first time,” Born Free said.
“Although it was a long journey for them, they traveled well,” said Shamwari wildlife director and veterinarian, Johan Joubert, who accompanied the cats the whole way. “It was snowing when they left, two days ago, and now they are adapting to a hot African summer’s day. They experienced natural grass and trees today for the first time in their life. I am sure they have a good life ahead of them here.”
David Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.
He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.
Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship.