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Zuri & Safina, 2021

THE SAFINA STORY

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 play an important role in raising vital awareness and funds for lion conservation efforts and inspiring zoo visitors to take an interest in conservation. We aim to work with zoos and their lions to connect them to the wild. The story of our charity starts at Linton Zoo in Cambridgeshire. Our name-sake Safina 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 built pride of place right in the middle of the zoo, where they would become a focal point for keeper 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 of two males Zulu and Masai and a female Louisa moved on to different zoos within the UK. 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 lived in an enclosure adjoining their parents as the lion area was expanded to allow the zoo to keep them alongside their parents.

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Zuri & Kali, 2020

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Riziki & Karla, 2018

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 from young cubs to impressive adults. 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 like family to me.

In 2013 I joined the team at Linton Zoo as a trainee zookeeper and was fortunate to work alongside Zuri and Safina by raising money for the Zoo conservation Fund at lion talks. By having a chance to see these lions first hand and to experience them, zoo visitors are able to connect and learn about these animals and their plight. While working at Linton Zoo we were encouraged to raise money for conservation projects, we would each have a collection tin at our specific talks, and for the lion talk we decided to raise money for Lion Guardians. Very quickly thanks to the generosity of our visitors we were able to sponsor our own Lion Guardians and it was this level of connection and impact that really stirred something in me to try and make a difference.

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 three other trustees we founded the ‘Safina Lion Conservation Fund’ - The next phase of the Safina story named after Safi with a desire to complement the work of the zoo to create a conservation legacy for this family of lions. We work with zoos up and down the UK and their keepers, carrying out talks, educational events, sponsorship and fundraising events to raise funds for conservation organisations working to protect and monitor lions in the wild. Naturally our first chosen project to support was Lion Guardians and since then we have added three more organisations working across Kenya and Tanzania to protect and monitor lions in the wild."

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James with Safina, Nabulaa, Zuri and Kali, 2018

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Nabulaa, Safina, Zuri and Kali, 2019

Seven years later 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. Connecting zoo lions to those in the wild will always be a key aspect of our work and 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 too.

Sadly, all good things have to come to an end and in 2023 Zuri, Karla and Riziki passed away all at a very advanced age, leaving Safina alongside her 8-year-old offspring Kali and Nabulaa. Safina enjoyed her last year under the loving care of Zoo Director Kim Simmons in a brand-new enclosure adjoining Kali and Nabulaa. Our founder James has kept in regular communication with the zoo over the years, continuing to visit regularly to see and spend time with Safina. On his last visit only a couple of weeks prior to her death she was active and appeared well and content and as friendly as ever. It was after a very short decline in her health that she passed away peacefully with Kim by her side. We would like to pass on our condolences and sincere thanks to Kim Simmons and her team at Linton Zoo for the updates over this recent time. Safina's death represented the end of an era, one that we certainly won’t forget. 

"I can honestly say that I believe that we have been able to contribute support to lions in the wild in a way in which Zuri & Safi are inexplicably linked. These lions are the bridge that provides visitors a glimpse of Africa, allowing them the opportunity to see these amazing animals for themselves, to engage with and to learn about them and the issues that face their wild cousins. It is from this association that we are able to build and work together to raise funds and awareness for projects that directly contribute to efforts to protect and monitor lion populations in the wild. Even though Safina is longer with us, her legacy is still young. This is the start of the next phase of our charity as we continue to build on the conservation legacy for Safina and her family that we started seven years ago. She will always remain our namesake and we are proud to carry her name into the future."

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Safina, 2024

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Safina, 2024

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