Tag Archives: Caracal

Add Lionsrock to your bucket list.. an unforgettable experience

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!

Lionsrock Lodge

Yes, it is very comfortable. That’s Beezus’ Hills sleeping bag on the floor – a gift last Christmas from a friend. LionsRock is pet-friendly.

Lionsrock Lodge view

The scenery is stunning and children are catered for too.

Lionsrock Lodge

Photographs taken from your room could almost be a painting.

Common Waterbuck at Lionsrock Lodge

View from the swimming pool. Do you know how Common Waterbuck got that white circle on its bottom? When they boarded Noah’s Ark, the vessel’s toilet seats had just been painted white. As usual, the waterbuck had drank too much water and needed to go to the loo… even though the paint hadn’t dried.

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.

Lions @ Lionsrock Lodge

Of course there are lions… about 85 of them in several prides spread across a number of large enclosures.  There are not many places where you will get this close to these magnificent creatures — in complete safety.

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.

Caracal @ Lionsrock Lodge

This is either Tom or Jerry, the Caracal brothers. I was astounded by the colour of their eyes.

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.

Cheetah @ Lionsrock

The three-legged cheetah

Hyenas at Lionsrock Lodge

These guys were the noisiest of the lot at night, although it sometimes felt as though there is some sort of competition between the hyenas and lions. But lions have a more lazy roar… hyenas sound almost manic! But what sounds to go to sleep with…
This guy had caught a sniff of Beezus and was coming closer to find out what he was.

Zebras at Lionsrock

The zebras usually hang about around the road between the main entrance and the lodge.

So click on LionsRock Lodge & Big Cat Sanctuary to make your plans to visit!

Beezus, a Caracal, a Horse & other friends, at his favourite place

Otter’s Bend Lodge in Franschhoek is probably Beezus’ true happy space. Apart from Mark, Mary & Ollie Heistein who he adores, it is an exciting, friendly and unpretentious place. He even gets on with Alex the Doberman, but less so with Sheba the Ridgeback. Maybe he’s just too much, too feisty and too confident for her.

Caracal (Rooikat, Desert Lynx, Caracal caracal) in the pear orchard at Otter's Bend Lodge

Caracal (Rooikat, Desert Lynx, Caracal caracal) in the pear orchard at Otter’s Bend Lodge

One evening I saw an unusual shape moving through the pear orchard right in front of the house.  And the I realised it was a Caracal – but seeing a live one was very different to the stuffed one at the Simonsberg Conservancy’s office at DelVera (where I have to cover Beezus’ eyes when we walk past it).  I’d been warned about them in Banhoek because a friend’s cat was taken by one there.  I’ve been a little nervous about them (for Beezus’ safety) ever since.  It has the mystical quality of most wild animals.

The following morning I took Beezus out to water the garden and the Caracal suddenly appeared in the driveway, and started walking towards me… not furtively or aggressively, but seemingly inquisitive.  Beezus had been off to one side but when he came around and saw it, he took off after it like a pack of wild dogs… or made enough noise for a whole pack of wild dogs in a murderous mood.

I’ve seen him do this before in Fouriesburg in the Freestate, where he chased two Dobermans across the fields because they wanted to interfere with his game with an Anatolian Shepherd dog.

Anyway… the Caracal disappeared.

The following day, after his early morning walk, Beezus decided he wanted to go back to bed and went to sleep.  He woke half and hour later making the anguished noises which mean there’s something out there he’s got to get!  I got up to look outside and there, about 300 metres away, I saw something jumped through the long grass – a small buck perhaps?  No, it was the Caracal again heading towards the furthest boundary of the farm.

Five minutes later I looked up from the laptop through the window, and there it was about 8 metres in front of me!  I grabbed the camera to get a decent photo this time… but its battery was flat…

What have I discovered about Caracals? It is a wild cat widely distributed across Africa, Central Asia, and Southwest Asia into India. The specific name is attributed to the German scientist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber who described Felis caracal in 1776 from a specimen collected near the Table Mountain. The generic name Caracal was first used by the British naturalist John Edward Gray in 1843 on the basis of a type specimen collected near the Cape of Good Hope. They weigh between 7.0 & 16kg. They live mainly on prey smaller than 5kg, including hyraxes, springhares, gerbils, mice, and birds. They are capable of taking antelopes, including species such as mountain reedbuck, springbok, common duiker and steenbok.

Historically, caracals have been used in India for hunting and blood sports. A popular sport in India was to have a captive caracal set upon a flock of pigeons, whereupon bets were made on how many birds could be taken down by the cat. A practiced caracal could ground as many as a dozen birds. Today, as well as in the past, caracals have occasionally been kept as exotic pets in Africa, India, North America and elsewhere. It has been claimed caracals are “suitable as pets” because they are “easily tamed”, but caracals have also been claimed to attack people other than their owner. Caracals appear to have held some religious significance for the ancient Egyptians. They were found in wall paintings, their bodies embalmed, and sculptures of caracals and other cats guarded tombs.

Beezus gets his regular nuzzle from Mac the horse.

Beezus gets his regular nuzzle from Mac the horse.

And then there’s Mac, the horse. He doesn’t take kindly to a saddle or a person on his back, but he’s in his element pulling a carriage which he does with aplomb. He also doesn’t like dogs but suprised everyone by taking to Beezus.

The moment Mac sees Beezus, he runs up and starts nuzzling him gently.  At first, Beezus was very apprehensive (and so was I, ready to scoop him up!) and growled softly  but allowed the horse to continue.  He’s happier about it now.

Some days, Mac comes and whinnies at the door for Beezus to come out.  When I walk down the drive, Mac comes trotting up, and I carry Beezus because I worry about those hooves.  So Mac walks alongside us nuzzling Beezus’ fur.

As Mark asked, “What makes Beezus different to all other dogs?”  I can only think that it is because he was raised by a wolf, and has many characteristics he learnt from Akela.