Caught from the wild to be sold as a pet, Lakota was only around five months old when she was rescued and spent over ten happy years as part of our Cheetah Family.

Lakota: 2011 – 2022

We are so sad to announce that one of our beloved cheetahs, a female rescued with her siblings at the beginning of 2012 from wildlife traffickers in Somaliland, has died after a short illness.

Named Lakota, she was bigger and wilder than her sister and two brothers and nicknamed Hissy Spitty, due to her feisty nature. She quickly settled in well to her new home at our rescue center Ensessa Kotteh in Ethiopia. Exuberant and always up for fun, she liked to wake her companions by gently nudging and pawing at them to encourage them to get up and play.


Caught from the wild to be sold as a pet, Lakota was only around five months old when she was rescued and spent over ten happy years as part of our Cheetah Family. With her companions, she enjoyed a spacious, natural enclosure filled with indigenous trees and shrubs, with plenty of room to run.

Lakota Female Cheetah Rescued From Somaliland Traffickers DiesCheetahs – and other animals – caught as infants from the wild and exploited by traders, are rarely fed or cared for adequately and many die at a very young age. Already an extremely sensitive species, several of the young cheetahs who come into our center are found to have nutritional deficiencies and can suffer problems such as metabolic bone disease.

But, fortunately, ‘Hissy Spitty’ did well over the years and lived to a good age for a cheetah. Thanks to the support of our Cheetah Family adopters, she was able to spend the majority of her lifetime enjoying the next best thing to the wild, with her companions and siblings.

Born Free’s mission to end the trade in wild animals continues and our Ensessa Kotteh center rescued three more orphan cheetahs in 2022. You can support this life-saving work when you adopt today.

Born Free Foundation LogoAbout Born Free Foundation

The Born Free Foundation is an international wildlife charity that campaigns to “Keep Wildlife in the Wild”. It protects wild animals in their natural habitat, campaigns against the keeping of wild animals in captivity, and rescues wild animals in need. It also promotes compassionate conservation, which takes into account the welfare of individual animals in conservation initiatives. Born Free also creates and provides educational materials and activities that reflect the charity’s values.

Born Free’s head office is located in Horsham, West Sussex, in southeast England. It also has offices in Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Africa, with representatives in Sri Lanka and Australia. Born Free USA is a separate organization based in the United States which adheres to the same objectives as the Foundation.

In the year to 31 March 2021, the charity reported an income of £5.9m.

Born Free foundersIn 1969, actors Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, who starred in the film Born Free, made the film An Elephant Called Slowly. This featured an elephant calf called Pole Pole who was given to the London Zoo by the Kenyan government of the day when filming finished.

In 1982, McKenna and Travers went to visit Pole Pole at London Zoo. After seeing her condition and mental distress, they launched a campaign to have Pole Pole moved to somewhere more suitable, with other elephants for company. In 1983, the Zoological Society agreed to move Pole Pole to Whipsnade Zoo, but following complications that occurred as part of the aborted relocation process, Pole Pole was examined under anesthetic and, being unresponsive, was destroyed in the Elephant House.

Her death so deeply affected McKenna and Travers that in 1984 they launched a not-for-profit called Zoo Check with their eldest son Will Travers, supported by Founder Patron Joanna Lumley. Zoo Check was renamed the Born Free Foundation in 1991.

The foundation is served by a board of trustees, of which McKenna is currently a member. Will Travers is the charity’s executive president, the president of the Species Survival Network (see below), a board member of Born Free USA, a board member of Ecoflix (a natural history online streaming infotainment service), and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Born Free manages or funds projects in more than 20 in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. It focuses on a number of working priorities: captive wild animal exploitation; trophy and canned hunting; wildlife trade; rescue, care, rehabilitation & release; community support and human-wildlife co-existence; compassionate conservation; UK wildlife protection; policy development and advocacy; and education.

It also operates its own sanctuaries: two big cat rescue centers at Shamwari Private Game Reserve, in South Africa, Ensessa Kotteh Wildlife Rescue, Conservation & Education Centre, in Ethiopia, and Bannerghatta tiger sanctuary, in India.

With the support of the public, the Foundation has invested heavily in conservation activities such as lion conservation in Kenya, tiger conservation in India, the protection of the world’s most endangered canid, the Ethiopian wolf, as well as elephant, giraffe and rhino conservation, amongst other conservation activities.

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