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Here at the Safina Lion Conservation Fund we are proud to be inspired by zoo lions right from the start. We believe that zoo lions can be incredibly important when it comes to inspiring zoo visitors to take an interest in conservation and that they can help raise vital awareness and funds for lion conservation efforts - we aim to work with zoos and their lions to be their voice. The story of our charity starts at Linton Zoo in Cambridgeshire. Our name-sake Safina pictured above (June 2021) was born at the zoo on the 30th November 2005 to young first time parents Riziki and Karla pictured below. Safina was hand-reared at the zoo by Linton Zoo Director Kim Simmons and in 2006 she was introduced to a young male from West Midlands Safari Park named Zuri. Zuri is pictured above with Safina many years later!

These two lions took up residence in a new enclosure at Linton Zoo where they became a focal point for future talks raising money for lion conservation. Safina gave birth to their first daughter Zara in 2008 who is now living in the Ugandan Wildlife Education Centre near Entebbe. Their second litter two boys Zulu and Masai and a female Louisa moved on to different zoos within the UK. Zulu now lives with his companion Wilma at Port Lympne Reserve in Kent after spending some years in Wales and Masai lives with his companion Arusha at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm near Bristol. In September 2015, 6 years after their previous litter Safina gave birth to a boy and a girl, Kali and Nabulaa. After spending their formative years with their parents Kali and Nabulaa now live in an enclosure adjoining their parents.

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Our Founder & Chairman James Welch explains how this family are so important to our charity...

"I was incredibly fortunate to have the privilege to be a long standing visitor and to watch Zuri and Safina as they grew to the impressive adults they are now. Over my years of visiting as a teenager Zuri & Safina started to recognise me and I would spend many a day sat by the lion enclosure in their company. It was a joy to watch them develop as parents and to see them as they looked after their litters of cubs. The Linton lions became family to me.

In 2013 I joined the team at Linton Zoo and was fortunate to work with the many species at the zoo but managed to work alongside Zuri and Safina by raising money for the Zoo conservation Fund at lion talks. The money raised went to help conserve lions in the wild through the organisation Lion Guardians. From doing those talks it was clear that these lions were very important to our visitors, by having the chance to see the lions themselves they felt more involved in their world and therefore more likely to gain an interest in their conservation. My time at Linton taught me how important these zoo lions could be in inspiring people to take an interest in the conservation of their wild cousins. In 2013 I started the 'Safina Lion Project' - An internet based awareness and education website and social media pages aiming to spread awareness for lions in the wild. After 4 years of an increased following and even the sponsoring an African Lion Cub through the Lion Guardians, an organisation that works with local tribespeople in East Africa to conserve lions in the wild, I decided to try and develop the Safina Project one step further. 

In April 2017 with the help of a small team of trustees we founded the 'Safina Lion Conservation Fund' - The next phase of the Safina story where we aim to spread awareness for lion conservation and education but also to take part and raise funds to carry out and sponsor lion conservation work ourselves. All of our trustees have a connection to Safina in some manner. Having either regularly visited or worked at the zoo, or visited the zoo to support lion conservation events."

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Here at the Safina Lion Conservation Fund we hope to create a conservation legacy for this family of lions. We aim to do this by working with zoos around the UK to raise awareness about the plight of their wild cousins and to raise funds for lion conservation efforts doing their bit to aid the last wild populations in Africa. Thank you to everyone who has aided and helped us so far, we look forward to seeing what we can achieve in the name of these lions.

Nearly seven years on in 2024 we have now increased our support by donating over £23,000 to four conservation partners working in Kenya and Tanzania, our conservation legacy is growing faster than we ever anticipated. We have and always will be inspired by zoo lions and will always ensure that this stays a key aspect in our work. Through our Ambassadors For The Wild project we work directly with zoos to use their lions to inspire their guests to take an interest in conservation work. Safina and her family remain very much integral to our story but we are also proud to have ties with other lions throughout the country. One of which is Mojo pictured bottom right, who will always have a special place in our conservation work and will always remain an inspiration to many of our trustees and supporters who knew him.

By the end of 2023, Safina is now the only member of those original four Linton lions left at the zoo with her mate Zuri and parents passing away due to old age in 2023. Safina at 18 and a half is now a grand old lady and curently one of the oldest in the country, pictured bottom left in March 2024. She currently lives in an enclosure alongside her youngest offspring Kali and Nabulaa under the loving care of Zoo Director Kim Simmons.

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