Normally on World Lion Day (Monday 10 August) guests at Shamwari Private Game Reserve would be boarding early game drives, rubbing the sleep from their eyes in anticipation of seeing one of Africa’s apex predators in its natural environment.
Elsewhere on the reserve, staff at the Born Free Education Centre would be preparing to receive local school children eager to find out more about lions and see some of the rescued big cats for which the Born Free Foundation provides a sanctuary.
This year none of that can happen.
The Covid-19 lockdown means there are no guests at Shamwari to climb on board waiting Landcruisers and the schools are closed.
Instead Shamwari Private Game Reserve and The Born Free Foundation have joined forces to mark World Lion Day virtually.
Shamwari’s virtual game drives started when head ranger Andrew Kearney, armed with just a rifle and cellphone, started filming his daily excursions around the reserve and posting them on YouTube.
The short videos became so popular that the ranger and hospitality teams began hosting Shamwari TV episodes for tour operators, travel agents and guests around the world. This, higher quality, professionally shot series, too has quickly gained a large following.
Now they’re hosting a World Lion Day special for anyone who’s interested.
It will start when the team pay a visit to one of the Born Free Foundation’s two big cat sanctuaries on the reserve. Here viewers will find out more about the work the Born Free Foundation does in educating people about the consequences of taking wild animals from their habitat and experience first-hand how it cares for rescued African big cats.
Viewers will be introduced to some of the cats, which have been kept as household pets or rescued from zoos and circuses around the world and are not able to survive in the wild. At Shamwari they are cared for in five bush enclosures.
They will then join the Shamwari rangers and a pride of lions living in the wild on the 25 000, hectare reserve.
The rangers will provide the full safari experience, telling viewers more about the lions, how they live, sleep (a lot), hunt, their habits and social interactions and the dynamics of the pride.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.