Bombi and Matsumi
Matsumi was born in South Africa’s North West Province at one of the many captive lion breeding projects that breed lions for the trophy hunting industry. She as purchased as a very small cub by a film producer, Daniel Radziej who intended to train her as a “film star”. Matsumi had been with her owner for a short while when he was killed in a motor vehicle accident and Matsumi was left with his wife. Catherine Radziej was desperate to return Matsumi to the wild and via Karen Trendler of the Wild Care Africa Trust approached us to take Matsumi for possible release back to the wild.
While we were negotiating with Catherine to move Matsumi to SanWild, we were asked by Liezel Mortimer of the Wildlife Action Group to accept Bombi all the way from Hungary. Dr. Gabriella Kiss, a Hungarian Veterinarian working for Phizer who was trying to find a suitable new home for the young lion cub, had approached her.
Her request came just at the right time. We were eager to find a companion for Matsumi, as the only way to break her dependency on human company would be to introduce her to another young lion ASAP. When Liezel therefore requested that we accept a small lion cub from the Budapest Zoo, we immediately agreed and negotiations started to bring the cub from Hungary.
Produced for Hungarian National Television the story of Bombi’s relocation to Africa starts at the Budapest Zoo before his departure and during the long flight with KLM to
Amsterdam and then to Johannesburg International Airport. In Amsterdam Bombi spent the evening at the zoo before boarding a flight to South Africa. He cleared through customs in Johannesburg late in the evening and then set off on the final 7-hour road trip to SanWild where he and his entourage arrived in the early hours of the morning – all very exhausted. The program recorded the first introduction of the two lions to each other as well as Bombi’s first footsteps on African soil.
A very special twist of fate brought two young lions together to start a new life at SanWild.
Three weeks after Matsumi, Bombi arrived at SanWild with an entire film crew from Hungary that was to film the arrival and introduction of the two young lion cubs. This introduction was not without problems and initially Matsumi tried her best to ignore Bombi and there were a few nasty incidents, but on their regular walks into the wild African bush, she could not resist the temptation to make close contact with the strange little creature that arrived from far away. Within three days the two cubs were happy and absolutely delighted to spend their time together. The bond between them has grown over the last couple of months and they have become inseparable.
Bombi is very well-known in Hungary and the little immigrant from the Budapest Zoo has grown into somewhat of a celebrity in his own country and two books have been published about this young lion’s return to the continent of his ancestors, they are available from Dr. Gabrielle Kiss – his grandparents were wild captured in Tanzania.
The television documentary was screened in Hungary and to this day the Hungarian people send cards and well wishes on a regular basis.
Sadly, a bite from a black mamba towards the end of last year killed Matsumi while she and Bombi shared a large enclosure adjoining another lion pride. Within days Bombi was successfully introduced to Lutalo’s pride and has been fully accepted by his new pride members.
During 2006 one of the most loved young lions at SanWild died as a result of an encounter with a black mamba. Everybody at SanWild was heartbroken over Matsumi’s unexpected death.
Despite our sorrow, our focus had to remain with Matsumi’s companion, young Bombi. This beautiful young lion arrived at SanWild all the way from the Budapest Zoo in Hungary in order to socialise with Matsumi and be weaned off humans. Both lion cubs had been hand raised and were therefore heavily imprinted on humans. Our introduction program worked extremely well and within days the two cubs were inseparable.
Matsumi’s death left Bombi devastated and for many days the young male mourned; his haunting calls breaking our hearts.
It was crucial that Bombi come to terms with his loss and the team at SanWild considered whether to introduce Bombi to the larger pride. One concern of ours was that the pride had formed very strong bonds which may preclude the young male from integrating. Fortunately all our fears were not realised and the pride accepted the young male.
It has been months since Bombi joined the pride and he has assured a place for himself in this group, which in turn has helped him come to terms with the death of his companion Matsumi.
In remembrance of the very much-loved young lioness, four sausage trees were planted at SanWild at the location where Matsumi was cremated. Her spirit will continue to live in the SanWild sanctuary – wild and finally free.