Photos: Lionesses dream ticket to Africa- Kenya Airways new dreamliner

Photos: Lionesses dream ticket to Africa- Kenya Airways new dreamliner
Inaugural Dreamliner B787 flight from London to Nairobi with H.E Mr. Lazarus O. Amayo

Photos: Lionesses dream ticket to Africa- Kenya Airways new dreamliner
From Tuesday’s inaugural Dreamliner B787 flight from London to Nairobi with H.E Mr. Lazarus O. Amayo, MBS, The High Commissioner of Kenya to the United Kingdom cutting the ribbon to launch the flight.

International wildlife charity, the Born Free Foundation have announced that two rescued circus lionesses, sisters Maggie and Sonja, will embark on an epic journey ‘home’ to Africa this week on the inaugural Kenya Airways Dreamliner flight from London Heathrow via Nairobi to Johannesburg.

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Singer, TV Star and Born Free Patron, Peter Andre, will be making a special trip airside to see the lionesses as they are loaded on to the new B787 Dreamliner to start the 6,000 mile journey to their new life at the Born Free Big Cat Rescue and Education Centre at Shamwari Game Reserve in South Africa.

Peter said “I was so excited to be asked to come along and witness part of Maggie and Sonja’s epic journey to Africa. It really is a dream ticket for them! After being told how cruelly these beautiful animals had been treated whilst living with the circus, I am really delighted to get the chance to join the Born Free team at Heathrow. I was shocked to learn that circuses which use wild animals as part of their acts are still legal in many parts of Europe, including here in the UK, and I hope to be able to raise awareness of this issue

and what organisations such as Born Free are doing to try and change things.”

In partnership with Kenya Airways, and with Peter on-hand to wave them off, Maggie and Sonja will begin their journey on Tuesday 20 January, arriving in the UK from their temporary home in Belgium via the Eurostar. They will then travel to Heathrow where they will fly to Nairobi aboard Kenya Airways’ new Dreamliner, before connecting to Johannesburg and completing the journey to their new home just outside of Port Elizabeth by road, transported by Land Rover vehicles.

Born in 2006, Maggie and Sonja spent the first eight years of their lives at a circus in Germany. Along with regular performances, they spent the rest of their time confined to a circus trailer in appalling conditions. When the animals were confiscated by the German authorities in 2013, the Natuurhulpcentrum (a Belgian Centre for the rescue and rehabilitation of wild animals) stepped in and offered them temporary accommodation. They have been at the Centre for the last year undergoing rehabilitation and being treated for wounds sustained whilst living in the circus, before being declared fit to travel to a permanent new home in Africa.

Sil Janssen, Founder of Natuurhulpcentrum said, “When the lionesses arrived they were in very poor condition, suffering from open wounds. Our team have worked hard to improve their physical and psychological wellbeing and now they are in good shape and are ready to make their rightful passage to Africa where they belong”.

Ahead of the relocation, a team of animal welfare professionals, including senior vet and Head of Wildlife at the Shamwari Game Reserve, Dr Johan Joubert, and Born Free’s Big Cat Expert Tony Wiles, will work with staff from Natuurhulpcentrum to prepare Maggie and Sonja for the journey.

With such a long journey ahead of them, keeping Maggie and Sonja safe and comfortable is paramount, as Born Free’s Big Cat Expert Tony Wiles explained.

“The lionesses will be monitored throughout the journey and after receiving such great care and attention at Natuurhulpcentrum we know that they are ready for the move. All necessary preparations have been carefully considered and we have a fantastic team on hand to look after them”

The team at Kenya Airways were proud to be able to offer Maggie and Sonja passage to Africa as part of the launch of their new Dreamliner, which will operate between London and Nairobi, Kenya. Sally Peters, Marketing Manager of the airline, which has worked closely with the Born Free Foundation on numerous projects, including the inflight ‘Change Brings Change’ appeal, said:

“We are delighted to have our new Dreamliner operating out of London Heathrow but to have such special passengers on board makes this is a truly memorable flight.”

Katrina Hanson, Cargo Manager Kenya Airways, also added “We are thrilled to offer our services to carry this amazing, unique cargo. With the expertise of our support teams and our African network it is great we can logistically make this happen for Maggie and Sonja.

Born Free’s President, Will Travers OBE, who will join Maggie and Sonja for the flight to Nairobi, added:

“To see the dedication of so many to give these lionesses a new future under the African sky is a dream come true. Born Free’s vision is that one day no more animals will have to

suffer like Sonja and Maggie have and that wildlife will live in the wild where it belongs.”

On arrival in Johannesburg, the lionesses will be transported with support from Born Free’s partners at Land Rover in two Land Rover Discoveries to their new home at the award winning Shamwari Game Reserve. Here they will be released into a large African bush enclosure at the Born Free Education and Rescue centre, where they will start their new lives.


Shirley Galligan, PR Director T: 0207 792 9668 M: 07773 848352
Victoria Lockwood, PR Officer T: 01403 240170 M: 07814 284756


About Born Free

The Born Free Foundation is a dynamic international wildlife charity, devoted to compassionate conservation and animal welfare. Born Free takes action worldwide to protect threatened species and stop individual animal suffering. Born Free believes wildlife belongs in the wild and works to phase out zoos. We rescue animals from lives of misery in tiny cages and give them lifetime care.

Born Free protects lions, elephants, tigers, gorillas, wolves, polar bears, dolphins, marine turtles and many more species in their natural habitat, working with local communities to help people and wildlife live together without conflict. Our high-profile campaigns change public attitudes, persuade decision-makers and get results. Every year, Born Free helps hundreds of thousands of animals worldwide. For more information about Born Free please visit:

About Kenya Airways:

Kenya Airways, a member of the Sky Team Alliance, is a leading African airline flying to over 60 destinations worldwide, 40 of which are in Africa and carries over three million passengers annually. It continues to modernize its fleet with its 45 aircraft fleet being one of the most modern in Africa. The on-board service is renowned and the lie-flat business class seat on the wide-body aircraft is consistently voted among the world’s top 10. In 2010, it scooped top awards at the Africa Investor (Ai) Tourism Investor Awards and was declared the Business Airline of the Year in Africa. Kenya Airways takes pride for being in

the fore front of connecting Africa to the world and the World to Africa through its hub Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.


About Land Rover and Born Free:

In 2002 the Born Free Foundation became one of Land Rover’s Global Humanitarian and Conservation Partners and is part of Land Rover’s ‘Our Planet’ commitment to sustainability. Together Land Rover and Born Free are working to conserve wild animals and their habitats with projects throughout the world. The sponsorship includes vehicle support in the UK, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa and Sri Lanka, as well as dealer promotions, staff incentives, PR and merchandise opportunities, plus a clothing allowance for field projects.

Jaguar Land Rover is committed to addressing the challenges of climate change and has invested £800m in sustainable technology which includes the development of hybrid technology and the use of lightweight material. Since September 2006 carbon dioxide generated by Land Rover manufacturing activities and UK customer vehicle use has been balanced through an industry leading offset programme run by Climate Care. This includes the; UK, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Austria, the Middle East, China and Japan.

About Natuurhulpcentrum:

The Natuurhulpcentrum Opglabbeek (Wildlife Rescue) is a centre for the rescue and rehabilitation of sick or injured wild animals. Over the years, the Natuurhulpcentrum has become increasingly involved in temporarily hosting exotic animals coming from all over Europe, that were either seized by police or abandoned by their keepers.

The Natuurhulpcentrum Opglabbeek (Wildlife Rescue) aims for all wild animals that it cares for to be released back into the wild. With regard to exotic animals, the Natuurhulpcentrum Opglabbeek will, most often in co-operation with other organisations, seek to re-home the animal in a facility that can offer life-long care in a setting best adapted to that animal.


About Shamwari Game Reserve:

The world renowned Shamwari Group has been a pioneering leader in wildlife safaris, conservation and hospitality for over 20 years offering three diverse properties in South Africa – the malaria-free Shamwari Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve outside Cape Town and Jock Safari Lodge in the Kruger National Park.

Shamwari Group presents guests with the very best that Africa has to offer whilst conserving a vanishing way of life.




Photos: Lionesses dream ticket to Africa- Kenya Airways new dreamliner



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