The teams at Howletts and Port Lympne are saddened to announce the passing of our beloved Saffiya, who was a true favourite of keepers and visitors to both parks.
Richard Barnes, Animal Manager at Port Lympne, knew Saffiya perhaps better than anyone, and has shared his special memories of this remarkable cat:
"Saffiya, or Safi as she was known to us, was born at Port Lympne in 1999. Her parents were incredible cats; fierce, beautiful and quick to bare their massive fangs to anyone. Sadly, Safi’s mother didn’t look after her and she had to be hand-reared by a team of big cat experts including our Head of Big Cats at the time, former Howletts’ animal director Adrian and dedicated big cat keeper, Pete Thompson.
"Unlike her parents, Safi grew up to become a friendly lioness and quickly became one of the true great personalities of Port Lympne.
"One of my most precious memories of Safi comes from when she helped us to encourage Suliman, her beloved mate, back to health when he fell ill. She refused to leave Suliman’s side and constantly talked to him while tugging and pushing at his head, as if to say "come on, get up”. I wholeheartedly believe that without Safi’s support, Suliman may have never recovered from his illness.
"She also had a habit of bringing her cubs over to show the keepers on the fourth or fifth day after birth, just to show them off and get praise from us. When she was satisfied that we had celebrated sufficiently, she would then quietly take the cubs back off to the den to nurse them.
"She also had a gnarly streak, only seen at feed times. One would be walking a dangerous path if they were to mess with her at dinnertime!"
Safi will be sorely missed by all the keepers and staff as well as the countless visitors who met her.
RIP Safi, you beautiful girl