The SanWild Lions


Way back in 2003 a number of wild lions were drugged and darted on illegal baits in the Timbavati and Klaserie Private Game Reserves and moved under cover of darkness to a private game farm in the Hoedspruit area. 

Some of these unfortunate lions were first offered for sale at the Hoedspruit Live Game Auction, but when the thieves did not receive a high enough offer, Prince and his brother, King were set up to be killed in illegal trophy hunts.  Fortunately, the conservation authorities, acting on a tip-off managed to find the lions before they could be hunted.  They confiscated the lions and criminally charged those involved.

The lions consisting of two males and two females were relocated to the SanWild Wildlife Sanctuary for temporary holding pending the outcome of criminal proceedings.  Once the criminal proceedings had been finalized, SanWild negotiated ownership of the lions with the police Criminal Investigations and the Assets Forfeiture Units to ensure the pride’s safety and prevent their return to the country’s sordid captive lion breeding and hunting industry.

The four lions were named King, Prince, Queen and Princess and became know and the Royal Pride.

Two of the Royal Pride males; King and his brother Prince

After the lions settled in, the males all received vasectomies to prevent any breeding. As they grew older, territorial disputes between the four adult lions occurred on a more regular basis and to safeguard everyone in a captive situation, the lions were split into two pairs and placed in adjoining large natural habitat enclosures.

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Queen and her cubs

Queen who arrived pregnant at the time of her confiscation gave birth to three male cubs named Rongo, Babetwa and Kajika and one female cub called Aroha.

Her sister, Princess passed away in 2014 of natural causes and King is now on his own in a large natural habitat enclosure adjoining his brother and Queen


 Bombi’s pride consist of four lions; the pride male Bombi and three lionesses named Aisha, Sasha and Nina.


Bombi is the only one of the SanWild Lion Prides that were not rescued from South Africa’s infamous captive lion breeding and hunting industry.  He was born at the Budapest Zoo in Hungary.  A veterinarian that worked as a representative of Pfizer Animal Health Products, saw, and immediately fell in love with this young cub that had been deserted by his mother at birth.  His two siblings were still-born.  Gabriella Kiss negotiated with the zoo director to find a new home for Bombi and return him to Africa.  Two children’s books were written by her documenting this young lion’s return to Africa. 

Aisha and her brother (Lutalo) were only small cubs when they were put out on display at many shopping centres around Johannesburg.  For the public to safety handle the cubs and have their photographs taken with the animals, both lion cubs were regularly drugged.  Her little brother developed a dangerous reaction to the drugs and most died.  It was the intervention of a vet who cared enough to phone us for help that ensured a new future for Aisha and her brother. With the help of a French donor, SanWild went in undercover and purchased the two cubs from a breeder that supply lions for hunting and brought them to SanWild.  Lutalo sadly passed away of natural causes a couple of years ago, but Aisha is still doing well as part of Bombi’s Pride.

Sasha and Nina were only days old when they were removed from their mother at a captive lion breeding project that breeds lions for one purpose only and that is to have them hunted by trophy hunters.  In 2003 the South Africa authorities confiscated their entire family from one of South Africa’s sordid canned lion breeding and hunting farms and was brought to SanWild pending the outcome of legal proceedings. Their father Jespha, sadly died of natural causes in October 2010 and one of the large dams at SanWild was named Jespha’s Dam in remembrance of this beautiful male lion. When Jespha’s family was confiscated by the authorities we tried unsuccessfully to reintegrate Sasha and her siblings with their pride, but Jespha would not accept them back and their mother was already pregnant with new cubs.  It was therefore decided to integrate the young lionesses with another pride.  Bombi too, have been vasectomised and there is no breeding.


Queen’s cubs eventually grew up into beautiful young lions.  Sadly Rongo died mysteriously some years back after falling ill and while under veterinary treatment.  The cause of death could not be establish with a post-mortem. Babetwa, Kajika and Rongo still live in the same pride.  The two males also received vasectomies and there is no breeding in the pride.



Tyson was very small when he was taken to the Aran Veterinary Clinic in Rustenburg by the conservation authorities to be hand reared by Dr. Tsjitske Schouwstra.  As Tyson grew up a more permanent solution had to be found and SanWild was chosen as a destination of choice for the lion cub. We agreed to take Tyson with the provision that we would be allowed to source another lion cub of similar age from one of South Africa’s sordid captive lion breeding projects so that Tyson could grow up with his own kind.

SanWild is totally opposed to the interaction with large predators and as highly social cats, it was necessary for Tyson to be introduced to a friend before he was moved from Aran Veterinary Clinic to SanWild.  A very sick and weak cub was identified at one of the captive lion breeding farms and with the financial assistance of one of our donors, the cub was purchased and immediately put in the care of Dr. Schouwstra that saved her life in the nick of time.  As she grew stronger, little Mel was introduced to young Tyson that was over the moon with his new-found friend.

Both young lions were relocated to SanWild after a couple of months and have grown into healthy and strong young lions.  The pair will remain together for life and as no breeding is allowed Tyson received his very important vasectomy a couple of months ago.