Bella was Malawi's most famous lion until Simba came along.
Bella's arrival in 2009 was covered extensively by TV channels and newspapers around the world and over 30,000 people visit her each year at Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, a rescue and rehabilitation centre that since 2007 has taken in and released hundreds of orphaned and injured wild animals.
When we got Bella, she was our first lion, and little wonder that she was lonely. In the wild lions live in prides and among cat species, this is unique. Within their prides, lionesses are mostly related, typically working together to hunt and kill for their families. It was imperative then that Bella get a friend soon and Simba seemed like a good bet.
Simba's story, like Bella's was not a happy one; he had been confiscated from an animal trainer in France in October 2012 and had been living in a temporary home in Belgium since then. Bella, herself a rescue from a run-down zoo in Romania had been living alone and distraught since 2006, after her mates and cubs succumbed to disease.
The gentle Simba, with his magnificent mane, seemed to everyone to be the perfect match for Bella and together with the Born Free Foundation and the Natuurhulpcentrum Sanctuary in Belgium we began working on the lengthy process to bring them together. We all imagined the two would be delighted to be so close to each other, but alas, the path to love is not always so smooth.