Land Rover has reaffirmed its commitment to wildlife conservation through its continued support of the Born Free Foundation (BFF), based at the Shamwari Game Reserve near Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.

Land-Rover Defender

Land Rover South Africa’s Managing Director Kevin Flynn recently handed over a new Defender 130 Double Cab to the local team and congratulated them on their ongoing commitment.

The Born Free Foundation is a UK-based wildlife charity with projects worldwide, and has been one of Land Rover’s Global Conservation Partners since 2002. As the only BFF facility in South Africa, the Shamwari centre was first opened in 1999, and forms part of the Foundation’s Big Cat Campaign. It comprises a sanctuary that cares for big cats rescued from around the world, as well as educational facilities to promote awareness and conservation of wild animals in their natural habitat.

“At Land Rover we are passionate about our conservation and environmental awareness and sustainability projects,” says Flynn. “By supporting the Born Free Foundation at Shamwari, we’re assisting this commendable wildlife charity to not only provide a safe haven for rescued big cats from around the world, but also to educate people on the plight of our wild animals.”

The Defender 130 Double Cab is used for all aspects of the Foundation’s activities, and is a crucial sponsorship, explains Catherine Gillson Born Free Co-ordinator.

“The vehicle sponsorship is critical to our programme, as it is used for everything we do, including collecting carcasses from farmers in surrounding areas, feeding the cats, checking fenced camps and clearing the camps of dead vegetation,” says Gillson.

By virtue of the harsh conditions in which the Defender operates, and the fact that it is used on a daily basis, the vehicle needs to be both tough and dependable. In addition, when it’s not deployed for its regular tasks, it serves to not only ferry VIP guests but is also utilized for various community projects in the surrounding region.

“We are a small team but we are determined to make a big difference,” Gillson continues.   “Without Land Rover’s continued support none of this would be possible.”

Earlier this year Land Rover and Born Free collaborated together for the Pride of Cape Town – a major public arts event that will see a colourful pride of fifty life-sized, 30kg lion sculptures located in South Africa’s popular V & A Waterfront.

Queen guitar-legend Brian May CBE and acclaimed West End and Broadway singer Kerry Ellis made a special appearance at Granger Bay, Cape Town to launch the Pride of Cape Town. Born Free Foundation founder Virginia McKenna was also in the country for the special event. The trio used the opportunity to visit the Shamwari-based project while in South Africa. McKenna, star of the 1966 classic wildlife film, ‘Born Free’, has devoted her life to wildlife conservation and the formation and development of the charity.  She was a welcome visitor at Shamwari, where she was able to experience the good work being done as a result of her vision.

The Pride of Cape Town will be back in South Africa in March 2012, when the pride of creative lions will be released to ‘prowl’ the streets of Cape Town, followed by an auction with the proceeds supporting the international wildlife charity.

The Pride of Cape Town will not only highlight Land Rover and Born Free’s international conservation efforts, but provide a special focus on the plight of lion numbers which have dramatically dropped due to persecution, loss of habitat and unsustainable trophy-hunting.