Sanctuary Spotlight – Lifesaving LIONSROCK

How LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary provides lifesaving and life changing medical care for big cats.


LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary is FOUR PAWS’ first sanctuary in South Africa. Spread over 1000 hectares, this open and vast sanctuary is currently home to over 100 big cats.  

The team at LIONSROCK focus on the lifelong care and protection of big cats rescued from zoos, private captivity and the entertainment industry, and educates against these situations. Many of the big cats within the sanctuary have come from these backgrounds and require specialist care following a lifetime of cruelty and suffering. Our LIONSROCK team tirelessly provide this individualised and dedicated care. 

Extra care  

Currently around ten residents at LIONSROCK are under constant medical observation and treatment for various reasons and many others have chronic issues which require close monitoring. 

Monitoring is key at LIONSROCK and ensures a good quality of life for the animals residing here. With many having age-related ailments like arthritis, this close monitoring helps the team provide the essential care and medication they need to thrive in comfort day to day. 

The day-to-day care is provided by LIONSROCK’s dedicated team of animal caretakers working together with the onsite vet and her assistant. The team of caretakers clean enclosures and prepare food for the day, sticking to a carefully planned and personalised menus to ensure the residents in the sanctuary each get the essential nutrition they need based on their often-challenging early years. 

Dedicated team 

LIONSROCK’s caretakers know the animals inside and out, and along with their ability to assist with medical issues and knowledge of the basic principles of medical care, this means any new issues or deterioration in a big cat’s condition can be quickly identified and raised to the vet team.  

The close relationships between the caretakers, animals and vet at LIONSROCK are vital and ensure that when something out of the ordinary arises, the team can recognise it, and the vet can treat the animals quickly and even prevent later interventions.   

LIONSROCK’s most common medical procedures

Dental work

This is something almost every big cat needs at some stage. A lot of the animals who arrive at LIONSROCK are no longer young and before coming into our care suffered from malnutrition, which commonly leads to dental issues. 



We thoroughly x-ray the animals – the spine and all the joints - to see if there are any changes, as well as checking on a possibly thickened skull because of vitamin A deficiency due to malnutrition.

With the older animals we also test their kidney function. Sadly, in big cats, kidney failure is common in older individuals. 

Blood tests

Whilst we regularly take blood tests for important organ functions and with every anaesthesia, we also test blood annually for Vitamin A levels. Vitamin A is then mixed into the supplements we provide with meals. Over time, our supplements have been customized to contain all the vitamins and minerals each big cat needs. 


Neutering female big cats from a safe and suitable age is done as standard practice across all of our sanctuaries. 

Above and beyond  

There have been several complex and lifesaving treatments undertaken at LIONSROCK.  

A great example would be the successful blood transfusion undertaken on tiger Tomi (who has since sadly passed). Anaemic Tomi received this unique transfusion from a younger healthy tiger at the sanctuary and at the time it was not known to have been done before in tigers. Thanks to the hard work of Dr. Peter Caldwell - a consulting specialist vet who often supports and assists at LIONSROCK - it was a success and Tomi was gifted another three wonderful years of life. 

The metaphorical walls of LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary are bursting at the seams with stories like these, and the proof is in the happy roster of residents that fill the sanctuary and keep our team busy.  

You can learn more about the resident of LONSROCK here. 

This hard work couldn’t be managed without the incredible help of our wonderful supporters, whose donations ensure this dedicated care and well-appointed home can meet the needs of its residents and further welcome other big cats needing the safety and sanctuary it offers. 

Learn more about our sanctuaries


Sophie Miller

Digital Marketing Specialist (Maternity Cover) FOUR PAWS Australia

Sophie works in the Communications Team at FOUR PAWS Australia. She has a background in Marketing, PR and Communications across the charity sector. Sophie is passionate about animal welfare and utilises her skills and experience in communications, marketing and PR to bring about change.

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