It was the perfect morning at the Born Free Big Cat Rescue and Education Centre in the North of the reserve. The sun was out and there was a feeling of excitement in the air with the much-anticipated Lions of Lyon release!

Their Journey to Shamwari

The Lions of Lyon started their long journey on Thursday morning from the Tonga Terre d’Accueil, France. Horus, Cersei, Dadou and Thea travelled in purpose-built crates to Heathrow Airport in London and thereafter flew to South Africa. They arrived at Shamwari Private Game Reserve late Friday evening, a long journey for four little lions.

The Born Free Foundation team decided it would be in their best interests to them on Saturday morning to ensure that they felt safe and at ease in their new surroundings. These four cubs are the biggest lion relocation in Born Free Foundation’s 35-year history!

Girl, Horus, Dadou, Thea - The Lions of Lyon

The Release

As Glen Vena, Animal Care Manager, and Tonga Terre d’Accueil vet, Jean-Christophe Gerard, opened the gate, the cubs were hesitant to take their first few steps. King eagerly watched from a distance as the release was taking place!

To our surprise, Cersi, was the first one to take the first few steps out into her new home. The others followed with Horous being the last one to make his way out into the open. Cersi and Hourous stuck together whilst Dadou and Thea ventured up into the thicket, exploring sights and sounds of their new surroundings. It was wonderful to see as they started to settle in, after venturing around and feeling South African soil under their paws for the first time.

Lions of Lyon release

Lion casually chilling in the grass

That is a fine looking gazelle! Thinks the young lion to himself

We’re thrilled to have these four deserving lions’ cubs in our care at Shamwari’s Northern Born Free Sanctuary where they will live a life free from harm, under the African sun in a safe, big spacious natural enclosure. It was an incredibly heart-warming release and we’re certain they will adore their new forever home. To donate towards their lifetime care, visit the Born Free Foundation’s website.