August 10th is #WorldLionDay and we are taking this opportunity to celebrate the lions we have rescued who are now able to live out the rest of their days in peace!
Continue reading to find out about Steph's experience as a volunteer at LIONSROCK, where she was able to learn all about the rescued big cats, and be a part of their second chance in life!
My experience volunteering at LIONSROCK
LIONSROCK is a 1,250 hectare big cat sanctuary in South Africa. It offers big cats who have come from terrible conditions, in places such as breeding or hunting farms, a brand new start in life. FOUR PAWS took over LIONSROCK in 2006, and since then over 150 big cats have been rescued. The big cats live in an area of 60 hectares, and other areas of the park are taken up by other South African species who are also able to live freely there.
Spending time at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary and lodge in South Africa has been a wonderful experience; from waking up in the morning to the sound of the lions roaring, to watching the sunset behind the ‘Lionsrock Mountain'.
Sunset at LIONSROCK.
As a volunteer, my role was to assist the animal welfare team in monitoring some of the animals which needed some extra TLC. These included animals who live by themselves in order to give them some extra company, those with health problems and any others where the team wanted to learn a little more about their behaviour. Big cats are so expressive in their behaviour, and I felt like I was constantly learning about their personalities and needs.
Steph with Lion Scratchy.
My favourite part of the volunteering experience was creating and handing out enrichment to all of the animals at LIONSROCK. It is fantastic to see animals who have such sad backgrounds now enjoying themselves and engaging with the enrichment activities we have provided for them. This is so important to captive animals as it helps to keep their minds and bodies active and encourage natural behaviours. One great example is Motan and Pisa who only recently arrived from Rafah Zoo in Gaza where they were rescued by FOUR PAWS from appalling conditions.
Motan at LIONSROCK © QUATRE PATTES
When the lions first arrived, they were confused by the hay bedding that we had put down for them as if they had never seen it before. I found this heart-breaking as it seemed like they didn’t even have a hay to sleep on in their cage in the zoo, let alone any form of enrichment or toys. Seeing them playing with their first enrichment was wonderful, as you could see their eyes light up as they pounced and ran around together. And just like house cats, lions love cardboard boxes!
One of my favourite animals to work with at LIONSROCK was probably Saeed, a three-year-old lion who was rescued from the Magic World amusement park in Aleppo, Syria. He is a young and playful lion who sadly has some health issues due to poor nutrition and care at a young age. Saeed has such a unique character who always greeted me with happy noises which truly can’t be described as anything but coming over for a chat!
Steph with Lion Saeed.
While there are over 100 animals living in happiness at LIONSROCK, there are thousands more living in poor conditions over the world in circuses, poorly managed zoos, breeding farms and private ownership. Sanctuaries like LIONSROCK are so important as they give animals like Saeed a second chance at a wonderful life. Volunteering there was an incredible experience and I am so glad I was able to play a small part in the wonderful work done at LIONSROCK.
Find out more!
Discover more about LIONSROCK and plan your visit here!