The animal mums at IAG Cargo

IAG Cargo has been transporting animals for many years, so it’s no surprise that many of them have grown into adorable families. To celebrate Mother’s Day in the UK, we’ve rounded up three animal mums that we’ve supported across the globe. Meet Ava, a cheetah mum of four cubs in South Africa; British Airways’ CFO Rebecca Napier, who rescued her dog Diana from Greece; and Gemma Sayers, who first met her dog Coconut on Christmas Day in Barbados.

Ava the Cheetah

In February 2020, IAG Cargo and wildlife conservation charity The Aspinall Foundation transported two UK-born cheetah brothers from London to Cape Town. Saba and Nairo previously lived at Howletts animal park in Kent and were moved to Ashia Cheetah Centre in Paarl, South Africa to prepare for the wild.  Since then, Nairo has found a mate, Ava, and they’ve had four adorable cubs. To find out more about the new mum, we spoke with Sophia Fagan, Overseas Projects Manager for The Aspinall Foundation, who regularly checks in on her former cheetah companions.

Sophia said she’d anticipated Ava might be pregnant: the cheetahs’ dedicated monitor told her successful matings had occurred. “We don’t touch these animals or interfere with them in any way,” she explained. “It was monitoring on a daily basis to see whether or not we believed she was gaining weight.” Then she received the thrilling news on 14 November 2021. “Ava is a fantastic mother,” Sophia said. “She’s a great hunter and has provided spectacularly for her offspring. Ever since November, she hasn’t required to be supplementary fed even once.”

As for the cubs (who don’t have names yet), Sophia describes them as “strong, confident little characters.” They’ve started to eat solid food earlier than expected and are slowly spending more time away from mum, who’s comfortable to leave them and go out to hunt. When she brings back food, they’re all so excited, Sophia said. There’s even one extremely confident cub who’s always first to run away from the den towards her. “They’re a very sweet family to observe.”

Rebecca Napier, Dog Mum to Diana

In May 2020, IAG Cargo and Wild at Heart Foundation transported 25 rescue dogs from Greece to the UK. Before flying, they were given medical checks and, upon arrival, driven to the Animal Reception Centre in London to meet their new owners, families and rescue centres that could provide safer and more comfortable conditions. Our British Airways colleague, Chief Financial Officer Rebecca Napier, was one of them.

During the pandemic, Rebecca and her husband were concerned by the number of dogs being abandoned around the world, so they decided to give one a loving home. After searching for months, they found Diana, likely a cross between an Italian hound and a pointer around the age of one. The Foundation vetted their suitability for adoption and, after several weeks, they passed the process. One month later, IAG Cargo united Rebecca and her husband with Diana.

“IAG Cargo were a fantastic help to myself and the Wild at Heart Foundation,” Rebecca said. “Air cargo is essential to animal rescue, with pets being rehomed across the globe every day. Never was this more critical than during Covid, which has played havoc with this mission.”

Rebecca said Diana has fitted well into their family of two young children and first dog, Molly, who Diana enjoys playing with. “She’s very lively, a fast runner, and loves a cuddle. I love being a mum to both Diana and Molly. There’s nothing like coming home to family after a tough day in the office and being greeted by two wagging tails at the front door.”

Gemma Sayers, Dog Mum to Coconut

On Christmas Day 2020, Gemma Sayers and her husband were driving to Freights Bay in Barbados to go surfing when a woman flagged them down. A dog ran out onto the highway and, after they stopped, he came around and sat on the passenger side. “I opened the door and he sat on my lap,” Gemma said. “I said, oh can we have a dog?” Gemma knew about K9 Friends from her sister, who had rescued a dog using the same charity. The clinic helps dogs and owners on the island with food and education, as well as offers low-cost neutering for those unable to afford regular fees.

After trying to find an owner and having no luck, Gemma and her husband decided to bring Coconut home. They took him to the vet for his vaccinations. Then Gemma put a post on Facebook and IAG Cargo’s VP of Commercial, Americas, Pravin Singh, replied. “He was so helpful and got back to me straightaway,” Gemma said. Pravin put Gemma in touch with Francis Lopez, IAG Cargo’s Venezuelan & Caribbean Development Supervisor in Miami, to organise the shipping. “It was really efficient,” Gemma said. “Francis was very good.”

A month later, the four-year-old terrier retriever cross arrived in the UK, and Gemma’s son named him Coconut (it was between that and Rum). “That was the best Christmas present,” Gemma said. “If we had been five minutes earlier or five minutes later going down that road, we probably wouldn’t have found him. So it’s quite amazing.”

Find out more about flying your pet with IAG Cargo