Posted January 23, 2015 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Wildlife ~ 25,481 views



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.

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”

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.

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.

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.

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.

For more information, please visit



About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.


Be the first to comment!

You must be logged in to post a comment.