Rescued From The Pet Trade In France, 4 Lion Cubs Settle Into Their New Forever Home At Born Free’s Big Cat Sanctuary In South Africa

Photos by: Filip Fortuna, Born Free Foundation 

It has been a little over one week since four lion cubs were rescued from horrendous captive conditions in France and released to the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary, Shamwari Private Game Reserve, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

Horus, Dadou, Thea and Cersei, believed to have been taken from their mothers before they were weaned, were each found in different locations across France. According to Born Free, they were kept in captive conditions that no animal should ever be subjected to; an apartment, a garage, even a Lamborghini on the Champs-Elysées.

Innocent victims of Europe’s trade in wild animals from circuses, zoos and private keeping, the lion cubs were sold illegally to become pets before being rescued by French wildlife charity, Fondation 30 Million d’Amis.

“Thanks to the commitment and generosity of so many people, these four lions can look forward to a life worth living in South Africa. But the horror of people keeping wild animals as ‘pets’ goes on and on. Here in the United States, the phenomenon of primates being treated as pets has yet to go out of fashion – which is why we have over 500 rescued primates at the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary in Texas,” Will Travers, President of Born Free told WAN this morning. “Charities like Born Free will continue to do all we can to rescue and care for wild animals in need – but until laws are introduced and this form of exploitation is brought to an end, more wild animals will suffer because of our unnatural desire to get ‘up close and personal.'”


The transfer of the lion cubs to their new forever home began on October 10th. After departing from Tonga Terre d’Accueil Wildlife Rescue Centre near Lyon, the animals remained under the care of Born Free’s Rescue and Care team on their way to London Heathrow Airport for their flight to South Africa. After a short internal flight, Horus, Dadou, Thea and Cersei touched down in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, before traveling the short distance by road to Shamwari.


“It went amazingly well. The cubs are relaxed and inquisitive. It was an absolute joy to witness them enjoying natural vegetation under their feet for the very first time; the sounds of other lions, the sounds of African wildlife,” Dr. Chris Draper, Head of Animal Welfare and Captivity at Born Free, said in a statement on the organization’s website. “It was a long journey, and not an easy journey for the lions, but it’s worth it in the end.”


Born Free’s Corporate Partner, IAG, the cargo division of British Airways, generously flew the four cubs back to their homeland.

“We are delighted to have partnered with Born Free to help with the relocation of the Lions of Lyon, France. When we heard about these four cubs and the terrible start they have all had to their lives, we knew that we wanted to be part of the team working to give them a better life,” shared Lynne Embleton, CEO of IAG Cargo. “It was a privilege for us to be able to help Born Free with their largest animal relocation to date, and we are looking forward to developing our partnership with them.”

Just last year Born Free relocated another young cub, King, to its big cat sanctuary at Shamwari Private Game Reserve after saving him from similar conditions.

His story combined with those of Horus, Dadou, Thea and Cersei, serve as a shocking reminder of the continued plight of millions of captive wild animals around the world that are kept as exotic pets.


“Taking these four lions is a drop in the ocean. Of course, it means an enormous amount to them, and it means an enormous amount to us, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of similar wild animals out there who are still in the exotic pet trade,” continued Draper. “Keeping wild animals as pets is cruel, totally unsuitable, and has such a devastating impact.”

Shamwari has been home to Born Free’s two big cat sanctuaries for more than 20 years.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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