I’d never heard of Lionsrock Lodge & Big Cat Sanctuary before. I was visiting Bethlehem to see a friend and it was on the list of places she suggested I might stay at. Life would have been poorer if I hadn’t selected it. It was one of the most treasured experiences of my life!
But Lionsrock is a very special and rather extraordinary place. It is also home to about 85 lions, 13 tigers, caracals, hyena and a three-legged cheetah. It is a project by Four Paws — an international animal welfare organisation, founded in 1988 with headquarters in Vienna, Austria. It focuses on assisting animals that are directly under human control: stray dogs and cats, laboratory animals, farm animals, wild animals and companion animals but also bears, big cats and orangutans kept under inappropriate conditions.
All the animals at Lionsrock are accustomed to humans and many were rescued from appalling conditions in zoos, circuses or as show pets — for people to have their photograph taken while holding or sitting alongside them. That only works with young animals so they were often malnourished to keep them smaller, suffering the consequences as they got older. This is especially evident in one of the tigers at Lionsrock, where rickets has left it badly debilitated.
At Lionsrock, all the animals are assured a more humane and permanent future. It is probably the most professional setup I’ve ever seen. And it needs your support — which you can give by visiting Lionsrock. It deserves to become one of the best-known (and loved) destinations in South Africa, so please share this with your friends.
Do watch the is breathtaking video showing drone footage taken above Lionsrock Big Cat Sanctuary. That will answer the question, “Do the animals have enough space?” At the bottom of that page, you’ll also find links to other videos. One is the story of Cesar’s rescue from a dreadful zoo in Romania, which embraces everything that Lionsrock Big Cat Sanctuary is all about.
Coda was born on a farm in South Africa. Only a few days after his birth, he was separated from his mother and sold to the former owners of the property now occupied by Lionsrock, where he was raised by hand. For a short time he shared an enclosure with lion cubs, but he separated from them because he got bigger and bigger. Coda is very attached to humans and appears friendly to all people. Since November 2007, he’s had a big and natural enclosure with a little dam, because tigers love water.
I’ve been fascinated by Caracals (rooikat, desert lynx) ever since I saw one in Franschhoek. Or to be more accurate, a live one in Franschhoek, because there is a stuffed caracal at the Simonsberg Conservancy’s offices at DelVera outside Stellenbosch. That one was the first one Beezus had ever seen too, and I had to always carry him past that one, covering his eyes — because he just wanted to kill it! Beezus chased the Franschhoek one away, but you can read about that story here.
So being able to watch them really close was a special treat.
So click on LionsRock Lodge & Big Cat Sanctuary to make your plans to visit!