British Airways Holidays, charity rescue big cats

British Airways Holidays has officially opened a new rescue enclosure at a big cat sanctuary in South Africa, as part of its joint vision with international animal welfare charity Born Free that all wild animals, whether living in captivity or in the wild, are treated with compassion and respect.

British Airways Holidays and Born Free have been working together over the last year to develop the travel company’s industry-leading Animal Welfare Policy, which sees British Airways Holidays commit to never promoting the captivity of wild animals for entertainment purposes and discouraging its hotel partners from doing so. 

The enclosure is now home to two lionesses, named Alpha and Cora. The two neglected lionesses were initially rescued from a failed zoo in Spain and housed temporarily at Natuurhulpcentrum, a wildlife rescue centre in Belgium before they were flown to their new home.

Born Free’s Animal Welfare team and IAG Cargo’s animal transport team ensured that Alpha and Cora received specialist care and attention as they travelled to London and onto a British Airways flight to Cape Town. The lionesses then travelled a short distance by road before arriving at Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary, a 40-hectare sanctuary in Stanford, South Africa. British Airways Holidays’ support has enabled the construction of a perimeter fence, night house and security provisions.

Alpha and Cora had been neglected and kept in cramped conditions at the zoo, which has since been closed following a raft of infringements. The new natural habitat at the enclosure allows the lionesses to live in the best conditions for the rest of their lives.

Claire Bentley, Managing Director of British Airways Holidays said: “We are delighted to have been able to support Born Free and enable Alpha and Cora to spend the rest of their lives in their natural habitat. We know our customers are behind us in supporting causes like this and we are proud that our new Animal Welfare Policy and its various initiatives will help improve the lives of animals living in captivity all over the world. This is a long- term commitment for us and the first of many projects that we’ll be supporting Born Free with. We look forward to developing this extremely important partnership.”

As part of the partnership, a new initiative, ‘Raise the Red Flag’ has been unveiled to help more animals like Alpha and Cora, by allowing members of the public to report captive wild animal welfare concerns, while equipping people with the tools to take action.

Dr. Chris Draper, Head of Animal Welfare & Captivity, at Born Free said:

“It’s extremely gratifying to see how much Alpha and Cora have improved and are settling into their brand-new enclosure. It is virtually impossible to enable big cats brought up in horrific conditions in captivity to be released to the wild, so their new home will create an environment as close to their natural habitat as possible and encourage them to exhibit their natural behaviour. From a previous life in an unsuitable zoo environment, Alpha and Cora will now live the rest of their lives under excellent care.

“While this is a story with a happy ending, there are millions of wild animals held in captivity all over the world that need help. Born Free can’t do this alone and we are calling on the public to take action to report the mistreatment of wild animals held in captivity through ‘Raise the Red Flag’”.

Lizaene Cornwall, Co-Founder, Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary said: “We are truly honoured to be working with Born Free to give Alpha and Cora a new home. We work to provide rescued big cats with a peaceful and safe home and as soon as we saw Alpha and Cora, we knew we wanted to help in any way we could. We are delighted that Alpha and Cora are now part of our pride.”

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