Earlier this month, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve bid farewell to two formidable and much loved young lions, a coalition of males that had been born on the reserve. Turning 4 years of age, the two brothers were translocated by air from the arid plains of the Klein Karoo to their new home in KwaZulu-Natal at Thanda Safaris.

Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is founded and operated using sound conservation principles. As with any private game reserve, it is imperative to manage wildlife numbers responsibly. Genetic diversity within the populations of a reserve must always be considered. The Lion Management Forum of South Africa (LiMF) was established to do exactly that. Formed by reserve managers and landowners, the platform was created to enable planning and management of lion populations across different landscapes between various reserves. The consequence of this is ensuring optimal genetic diversity and sustainability of the species, which is critical as lion numbers across Africa are on the decline. Collaboration within South and Southern Africa ensures responsible and sustainable conservation of lions.

Our wildlife management team identified the need to relocate the two young lions a few months ago, as they are related to existing pride members. Operating within the network of like minded reserves extended by LiMF, Thanda Safaris was identified as the perfect place to receive our lions, their lion population would benefit from these new genetics.

After months of intricate planning, it was all hands-on deck as the males took their first (and hopefully last) flight from Sanbona to KwaZulu-Natal. The trip brought together an incredible team of persons who donated both their time and equipment to this unique project.

Willem Burger, a local wildlife veterinarian from Oudtshoorn, came on-board by donating his time to care for the Big Cats. Aifa flight school in Oudtshoorn sponsored two pilots to fly the lions from the Western Cape to KwaZulu-Natal.

Savannah Helicopters, generously sponsored a King Air to transport our favourites, and The Bateleurs took care of the fuel.


The translocation by air reduced the transfer time
from ±22 hours by road to less than 4 hours by plane. Furthermore, what made this transit noteworthy, was the fact that the lions were not kept in transportation crates.

The journey marks a significant partnership between forums, wildlife conservation teams, air teams and vets to ensure the flight and translocation was a great success.

Marianne Venter  from Thanda Safaris has been in contact with our reserve General Manager Paul Vorster to advise that the two males are settling in well and look absolutely beautiful in their new environment (we never had a doubt), and their roars are already rolling over the Zululand bushveld!

They will be kept in a boma (fenced in holding area) for a short time while they adjust to their new surroundings, before being released onto the reserve.

We wish this Sanbona coalition the best of luck with their new adventure!