King is a one-year-old lion cub who was rescued from an apartment in Paris last summer where he was being kept illegally as an "exotic pet" in appalling conditions.
Following a successful appeal launched in April, Born Free will now provide King with lifetime care at its Big Cat Rescue Centre at Shamwari Private Game Reserve, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
The sad story of King before he was rescued highlights the plight of millions of captive wild animals around the world that are kept as exotic pets. Born Free opposes the keeping of wild animals as pets.
Wild animals, whether they have been taken from the wild or bred in captivity, have extremely complex social, physical and behavioural needs and are, therefore, particularly susceptible to suffer when kept as pets.
Dr Chris Draper, Born Free's Head of Animal Welfare & Captivity, said:
"It is staggering that, in 2018, lion cubs are still finding their way into the pet trade in Europe.
"We are concerned that King's case is the tip of the iceberg, and that a great many wild animals are being kept illegally as pets across Europe and elsewhere.
"This situation needs to be addressed urgently, and we hope that by introducing the world to King – his plight, his rescue and his rehoming to lifetime care – Born Free can draw attention to this important issue."
King started his journey from Natuurhulpcentrum rescue centre, Belgium, on 5th July. From Belgium, he travelled under the care of Born Free's expert team to London Heathrow airport for a flight to Africa.
After a short internal flight, King touched down in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, before travelling the short distance by road to Shamwari and to his new home at Born Free's Jean Byrd Centre.
Virginia McKenna OBE, Born Free's Co-Founder and Trustee, who grew up in the Horsham area and has lived in Surrey for nearly 50 years, added:
"I am sure there will be a lot of smiling faces today! So many people responded to our appeal to bring young King to Shamwari, and now he has arrived!
"Thanks to everyone whose hearts were touched by his story, he now takes his first steps on African soil, and can begin his happy new life. May it be a long and peaceful one."
Shamwari has been home to Born Free"s two Big Cat Rescue Centres for more than 20 years.
To donate to this important cause, visit www.bornfree.org.uk/king
, call 01403 240170 or text KING to 70755 to donate £10.