Simba - a genuine film-star lion
A lion in Västgöta forest
The story of Simba began in Sudan at the end of the 1950s. For many years Sigvard Berggren, who later founded Borås animal park, had been thinking about bringing home a lion to his house in Tosseryd, outside Borås. While travelling in Sudan, he came across a cage where some hunters had placed two lion cubs after shooting their mother. Simba was the larger and fiercer of the cubs and Sigvard quickly decided this was the lion for him.
He bought a secure cage and started the journey back to Sweden, but was stopped in Customs. Sigvard was asked if he had anything to declare, and replied: "Some ethnographic articles, a monkey and a lion."
The Customs officer must have thought he was joking, and Simba's new owner was allowed to pass after stating that he had no alcohol or cigarettes.
It was not easy to get close to Simba in the beginning.
"He accepts food graciously, but he does not want friendship... He eats raw meat when I throw it to him, but when I stretch out my hands to caress him he puts his teeth into them, too," writes Sigvard Berggren in his book, Simba - my lion.
The relationship improved with time, however, and eventually there is something between them that could almost be described as friendship. Simba moved into a room in the house in Tosseryd, and after a few attempts to put a leash on the lion, Sigvard gave up and let Simba walk free by his side in the woods.
The film star Simba
As the word spread that there was a live lion in the Västgöta woods, there were many newspaper articles written about him and Simba gradually became a real celebrity. He took part in the Saint Lucia celebrations on the radio and in 1959 he took part in the film A lion in town. Charlie was played by Nils Poppe and the lion – well, of course it was Simba.
Eventually Simba needed more space, and in 1962 the Borås Animal Park was opened, with Sigvard Berggren as the keeper and Simba as one of the first inhabitants. The lion was one of the greatest favourites with visitors and he lived in the park until his death. This was in 1971, after Simba had been injured in a fight with one of the other lions and had to be put down.
Still a star
After his death Simba was donated to the Gothenburg Museum of Natural History, where you can see him to this day. He has found a place above the steps on the second floor, and is almost as much the centre of attention as when he was alive.