Where do I start to write a blog like this, when my heart is breaking yet filled with so much love and gratefulness for having had the privilege to have been one of your best friends, Zorro?
One of my friends told me today “Life is pleasure. Death is peaceful. It is the transition that makes it difficult”, and I guess that is where I am right now – trying to make peace with that your physical form is never going to be with me again <3 You have been my rock, my buddy, my comfort and strength for so long, and even though I know you are still with in spirit, I really would have loved more time with you here, my bombompies <3
I feel that THANK YOU is what I want to say to you, Zorro – for all the things that you have brought to my life <3 Here are just some of them <3
Thank you for giving me the honor of your friendship, love and respect <3
Thank you for showing me what pure kindness and compassion is all about <3
Thank you for always filling me with strength, love and comfort <3 Always in your presence I feel my heart rate sink and my body and soul reconnecting to the present moment, and just being <3 I remember you telling me that this is what life is all about – human and animal, side by side, in respect and honoring of each other <3
Thank you for always being happy for seeing me and walking your loving slow yet excited walk towards me <3
Thank you for sharing your talks and beautiful heartfelt squeals <3 I am smiling here I am writing and that gorgeous sound, and as I now continue my tears are flowing for the longing of hearing it again <3 How I wish to just see you and hear that sound once more, Bombom <3
I feel you around me, my beautiful man, and I know you will be with me forever <3 During the last week of your journey here with us, you brought me to a higher level of consciousness and showed me that in spirit we are all connected <3 And for this I thank you deeply – for giving me the courage and strength to reach out, believing and understanding more about the beauty of Mother Earth and all living beings, and experiencing the power of the universe <3 I sat in your camp praying out loud with the wish to save you, and I am so sorry that this didn’t happen, but I understand that there are higher purposes and meanings with everything that happens, even though we not always understand it right away <3
I thank you for guiding me to greater harmony with and understanding of life and everything there is, and for the change in my perspectives <3 I will honor you by trying to guide the people the fall onto my path, and I will do it with a heart filled with Zorro-love <3
I honor and celebrate your life and your time here with us <3 I have been beyond the moon and back-lucky to have been with you every step of your life here, and for that I will forever be grateful <3 All our memories are rolling like a movie in my mind and heart, and I will every now and then, sit down and enjoy a movie date of you, together with you <3 I will tell your and our stories and spread your love further, and I will everyday try to climb to your level of kindness, honor, respect, compassion, and the ability to be right here and now <3 Through you and because of you and our journey together, I will do my best to become a better person <3
Sitting in your camp today, I felt you there so clearly, and I did as you told me; to close my eyes to see and feel you close – and there you were <3 sat next to Lizaene and myself by your favorite logs, before you climbed your tree and laid on your favorite platform, with your legs crossed, keeping an eye on all your Panthera Africa friends <3 You are the kindest being I have ever met, and thank you for sharing this with me! Thank you for showing me what gentleness, kindness and love is all about <3
I believe one of Zorro’s purposes was to show us pure kindness and compassion <3 So I ask everyone out there that is reading this, let’s honor and pay our respect to Zorro by showing each other and all living beings pure kindness and love <3 Let’s respect every living being, whether it is your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife, friends or family, human or animal – let’s spread positive vibes, thoughts and actions <3 strive to be the best version of yourself <3 always choose love <3 do what is best for one another <3 show respect <3 BE KIND – just like our superhero Zorro <3
With all my love and kindness,
I woke up on a Monday morning thinking of all the dreams we have but that we don’t put into action. Maybe because we are scared, maybe because we do not want to go outside our comfort-zone or maybe we do not believe in ourselves. One of my dreams was to go to South Africa. Experience the beautiful landscape, culture, nature and of course the wonderful animals. Now I’m here in paradise and I’m so glad that I found this amazing project and that I had the courage to fulfill my dream.
Cat and Lizaene , the founders of Panthera Africa, are two powerful women with big dreams and a will that can take them to any length. I’m really impressed of how much they have achieved in just one year, but if you want something you have to work for it and I think Panthera Africa is the perfect symbol for that.
I would like to share a quote written by Walt Disney that I find inspiring.
“If you can dream it, you can do it!”
Stina Lindgren, Volunteer – Nov 2015
I first came to panthera africa in march 2015 and after only spending 1wk here, I knew I
would be back!
I am now back in big cat paradise and straight away feel at home. Both the staff and animals
give you the best welcome.
It is great to see how settled and content all the animals are and how well they all look.
Panthera hadn’t started their education tours last time I was here but now they are in full flow
and they are spreading their words worldwide.
I am back as a volunteer and have the pleasure of getting to know each of the animals. They
all have their own personality. Neptune and Oliver just love to tell you about their day, whilst
you walk by or sit and enjoy their company.
The caracals love to play. Pardus and Zorro enjoy going up and down their tree and the
jackals play hide and seek!
Beautiful Bella and Raise love to walk with you around their enclosure, and Achillies and
Jubatus are happy for you to sit outside their enclosure and just enjoy their company. They
have the kindest eyes for such huge animals <3
My days are filled with chores around the sanctuary, from cleaning, making enrichment for
the animals, painting and learning about these beautiful animals. I say chores it doesn’t feel
like work, as it is rewarding to be able to help and offers a great retreat away from the office
and the daily grind of work back home. There is no better way to refuel your mind and body
than by coming to such a beautiful, rewarding Place!
Nicola, Oct 2015
Listening to the powerful roars of a cacophony of lions and sitting in changeable weather, minute sunny and hot, the next cloudy with a brisk breeze is how I spent the afternoon today. Perched on a tyre outside Oliver and Obi ‘s enclosure while they slept it had been a busy morning for us all.
It’s Oliver’s fourth birthday on Sunday and his first at the sanctuary. It needs to special and it will be. We had a brainstorming session to devise an ‘enrichment’ birthday cake. It will have three tiers including a rolling ball made from tyres filled with goodies. It will be painted in three colours (made with flour, water and food colouring) and be topped with candles made from empty loo roll holders. Not to be left out, Obi will have a tasty birthday box. I have to say, constructing the cake is taking all our team building skills with each volunteer playing to their strengths. Needless to say, I’m a labourer as those who know me I’ll testify to my DIY expertise. Pics to follow of the finished cake.
Afternoon tea has a different meaning in South Africa, no scones, sandwiches and delicious cakes but chickens flying through the air (not alive). It certainly woke the boys from their slumber for a few seconds before they moved away and played hide and seek with me while I walked back to the house.
It’s going to be an interesting early evening, I’ve said I’ll join a yoga class in what will be the lion’s permanent enrichment area in the middle of their enclosures so there will lots of eyes on us. Whether I manage to complete the class remains to be seen. Many years ago I got up and left my one and only yoga session after 10mins!!
Best get going, it’s almost time and I need a cup of tea to give me strength. I’ll go without the chicken but a chocolate biscuit wouldn’t go amiss.
Whale watching tomorrow . So pleased I packed my travel sickness bands, I hate water but need to conquer demons so I can ride my horse across a Bailey bridge with low sides at home. Talking of riding I’m going on a beach hack on Thursday morning. Need to check out hats are available, first though. It would be very stupid to survive working with big cats to come home injured because of a fall off a horse!!!
Pam Mallender – October 2015
As I sit before Neptune, a magnificent male white lion, I look around at my surroundings and can’t help but think of the opening sentence from the book “Out Of Africa”…
‘I once had a farm in Africa’.
It makes me think of all the past, present, and future staff members and volunteers who will forever have such wonderful, inspiring stories to tell for years to come. Stories of walking around the tigers’ enclosure only to be joined by Bella, a female Bengal tiger who loves the company of people. Stories of being filled with joy when you watched the animals have the time of their lives with the enrichment YOU helped make for them. Stories of not needing an alarm clock, because you have the roars of lions to wake you up in the morning (and lull you to sleep at night!). Stories of meeting new friends from all over the world, friends you would never have come across had it not been for Panthera Africa.
Cat and Lizaene, the two owners of the sanctuary, are two of the most sincere, devoted and caring people I have ever met. I am truly in awe of all they have achieved so far, and will go on to achieve in the future. They have completely dedicated their lives to the animals who live here at the Sanctuary, and also to the other animals out there who still, very desperately, need help.
As soon as I arrived almost three weeks ago, I could see that each animal has his or her own unique personality. They are all incredibly sweet, but I was instantly drawn to Neptune. Not only is he beautiful to look at (they all are!) with his thick white mane, handsome face, and incredibly wise eyes, he is also a very intelligent, funny lion. He makes me smile every day, whether it’s by rolling around lazily in the sun, carrying his enrichment off proudly with his head held high, or by the way he calls very gently and quietly for his treats. When you look into Neptune’s eyes, you can see that he has a very intelligent and caring soul.
The thing I love the most about Neptune, however, is his loyalty. Neptune has been with Lizaene for his entire life, and it is so easy to see that he completely and utterly adores her. He will wait for her by the side of his enclosure when he knows that she is coming to see him, and at that point it would be almost impossible to distract him. Lizaene is his best friend, and I love how clear it is for everyone to see that, while Neptune enjoys the company of others, Lizaene is his one and only.
I thank my lucky stars every night that I have been given the opportunity to be at Panthera Africa. Everyone here is so welcoming and friendly, it’s like being part of a big family. Evenings together after work are filled with fun and laughter. And while the African sun sets behind the mountains, I can feel my heart say
“I am at home, here on this farm in Africa.”
Lynsey – August 2015
It has been three months since my beautiful animals have arrived and somehow it still seems unreal. I see them, I hear them, I feed them and I take care of them, but it still feels like a dream.
Before starting on the Panthera Africa journey I worked with and saw my animal nearly 364 days of the year for 5 years, and all of a sudden I was left seeing them an hour a day maybe 5 days a month, or even every second month. Although I knew we would be reunited, this was just the worst and most heart breaking months ever. I often found myself crying or exploding in anger for no reason. I often found myself longing for them to the point that I felt time is standing still. Everyday I thought of them and everyday I prayed that we would be reunited and that they knew how much I loved them. It has been a hard year and a half from leaving the previous project where my passion started, searching for a perfect piece of land, going for weeks without seeing my animals. In addition we started with the testing and nerve wrecking approvals and through all of this I needed to find the energy and inspiration somewhere. There were many ups and downs, and some days I asked myself: “what the hell are you doing? Have you gone stark raving mad thinking you can setup a sanctuary?” On these days Cat would buy me a bus ticket to Bloemfontein to visit the animals and as soon as I saw there faces – I knew why and for who I am doing this. Everytime I saw my lion boys eyes and heard their roars, my energy and inspiration exploded!! These animals are my life and they have changed me in a way I never knew possible.
Writing my blog outside lala(Pardus), our black leopard’s enclosure, I look at her and the tears start to flow. She is here, she is realy here!! I can walk outside everyday and see her beautiful rosettes and see her climb her tree like a monkey. I look outside my bedroom window and see all my animals happily resting on their hobbit houses. I start my tours introducing our tigers, and Raise chuffs gently. I drink coffee and watch the sunset with my soulmate, Neptune and end of my day breathing in deep as my lion boys roar so close that I feel the vibration in my heart and body.
People say that we have saved these animals, but in fact THEY HAVE SAVED ME!!
I read an inspirational piece at breakfast this morning and it triggered something inside me. Often we find ourselves on auto pilot and just surviving through another day because that is life, but STOP, breath, feel, think and…
LET NOTHING HOLD YOU BACK:
Go forward with your shoulders back, with your head high, and with a smile. With your enthusiastic spirit, perseverance, and integrity of character, put your intelligence, talents, and passion into action.
Never let setbacks excuse you from trying again. It often takes many attempts to be a success.
Never let negative people influence you or direct what you do. Always face forward and see your whole life shining bright for you. Never let go of your character, ideals, or activism for the good of this world.
Never let go of the passion that inspire you, guide you, and always smile on you. These passions will lead you to reach your fullest potential. Hold on to them, and they will keep you honest, caring, kind, and generous with the finest gifts your heart can give. – Jacqueline Schiff –
Love and light,
– June 2015 –
Mhh, what a nice morning it is today. After all this rain and wind it’s finally quiet. Where is Pardus? She must be in our tree, waiting for sunrise. I should probably get up as well. I have to walk my round and see, if everything in the enclosure is alright. But first, some morning stretching. Oh yes, that’s it. Way better.
Before I start, I should say hi to Pardus “Good morning, honey. I’m doing my round now.” Alright, the grasses and bushes seem fine. But some more marking is never wrong. Let’s move on to the swing and tunnel. Oh I definitely need to mark the tunnel again. How are the other animals supposed to know that it’s mine, if it doesn’t smell like me? Ok, how is my tree? It looks like yesterday. But does it smell like yesterday too? Yes it does, awesome morning. Everything seems good and it’s a beautiful sunrise. I will watch it fro m my platform. Climbing is a good exercise as well. I have to get these muscles working.
I’m getting better and better. I made it up in no time. Ahh, I’m such a great Leopard. And I’m so good looking too. But enough of that, I have to investigate the neighbors. Ok nothing special this morning. Everyone is still in their enclosures. But wait, I hear something. It’s the bucky. That’s always interesting; I wonder what the humans have on the back today. What’s that? I smell meat. It must be feeding day. Awesome news, I have to get down this tree and go to the fence. I love feeding days, I can eat, relax and I get attention. I really would say feeding days are my favorite days. Cat, Lizaene, Andreas and all the volunteers are always so nice to us. We must be something really special to them. They do so much and we don’t have to do anything for them. I hope they can see how much I love them too.
But why are they always feeding the lions first. Come on, throw that leg over here. I’m hungry. Ohh, there it comes…Yeah, I got it. Let me just make sure, that Pardus has the smaller piece. Yes she has, now I can eat in peace.
That was a nice breakfast. I will save the rest for later. It’s probably the best, if I have a nap. Time to go back on my platform…
…Oh that was a great nap. I should have some more bites of that leg for lunch. I love my life. I think I should have another nap. Considering the heat it’s probably for the best…
…Oh look at that, humans are watching me. It must be tour time. Yeah, I know I’m pretty. “Hey guys, do you see these muscles? Are you here to see how strong I am?” I should get down and pose a little bit. Yes, feel free to take photos of me and my girlfriend. That’s my favorite rosette by the way.
Oh hey, they’re throwing a red ball in here. Pardus seems to like it. She loves to play and she’s always so active. I’m so lucky, that she loves me like I am. I’m not that much into playing with that ball, so I will walk some more rounds to check my territory and do some marking. That should be enough work for one day.
Tim – June 2015
I felt it as soon as I arrived…the passion, the dedication, the commitment and the pure love that the founders Lizaene & Cathrine have for their project and their animals. As two ex volunteers themselves, it was a refreshing change for me, a full time volunteer for 2 years now, to feel so valued and respected as a contributor to the project and also to the ’cause’. The ’cause’ being the education of the volunteers and the public to be fully aware of the constant challenges on all levels facing big cats in Africa today, both in captivity and in the Wild.
I had come here based on a search for a truly ethical sanctuary, and also on a very strong gut instinct, initially inspired by the blog I had read on the Panthera Africa website, written by Cathrine, and detailing the trials and tribulations that had faced them setting this place up. I felt that anyone who had gone through all that blood, sweat and tears, and not only still be standing strong but also smiling at the end of it all, was everything I believed that a true santuary should represent, and that the ladies involved had real lions hearts.
The animals here will take your breath away with their beauty and uniqueness, and their stories can fill you both with sadness and also pure joy, knowing that despite their often poor start in life they now live in a forever home, safe and sound, full of kindness and love. An animals eyes have the power to speak a great language to those who want to listen, and the animals here all tell a story of hope and inspiration, not only for them but for their future generations also.
For me, being around the lions and especially the spiritual white lions, makes me feel like I am in the presence of greatness, yet also like I am finally home with my fellow Leo’s. Their magnificence is astounding for those who wish see it. Lion symbolism is used in cities all over the world to portray raw power and courage, strength and pride and that is exactly what they were born to be and represent, regardless of their beginning in life.
And all these animals now, thanks to Panthera Africa, have a happy ending filled with multiple layers of love from everyone involved here… the many nationlites of volunteers who come to help, the public who come to visit and learn, the people who donate, the wonderful farm worker Joseph, and in particular the girls who made it all happen, Lizaene and Cathrine.
A true big cat sanctury.
Suzanne Scott – June 2015
I knew Zorro when he was younger; I spent three months with him at a previous project. To be completely honest – I came for the cheetahs that were there, but I gave my heart to this gentle, beautiful guy. I had never before had anything to do with leopards, so the only knowledge I had about the species was mainly from the internet, where they seem to be big, unpredictable hunters. Not something that I thought of as “cute”. So I was very surprised that this species turned out to be “mine”.
It’s been one and a half years since I’ve seen my boy. During this time I’ve thought about Zorro a lot – known that a big part of my heart was left behind in South Africa. But it wasn’t until I came to volunteer at Panthera Africa, and Cat and Lizaene showed us around on the property, and when I caught a glimpse of him that I realized exactly how much I’d missed him. I could not keep my attention on the tigers that Cat or Liz was telling us about, and I got surprisingly emotional. It was kind of embarrassing, especially because I had not expected such a big reaction, but Cat, Lizaene and the other volunteers understood completely.
At the last project I was allowed interaction with Zorro and Pardus, and there is nothing I miss more than being able to give Zorro a big hug and a good scratch… But seeing how happy he is with Lala in their new enclosure, with a giant tree to climb – I think they are happier without the stream of volunteers coming through but never staying for longer then a couple of weeks or a couple of months.
I’ve only got a couple of weeks left here at Panthera Africa, and I know that saying goodbye to all the animals, especially Zorro, is going to be extremely hard – but I know that every single cat on the property is happy and well, which is going to give me peace when my time to leave comes.
Lilo – June 2015
We arrived here about 3 weeks ago, unaware of what we had let ourselves into. We weren’t sure of what kind of labor we would do or how we would “connect” with the animals.
I will always remember our first working day here. We were killing some “Port Jacksons” (weeds), later we were headed to the house for lunch. I fell a bit behind, as I was fascinated by the lions in one of the enclosures. I walked a bit more to see the lions more up and close. One of the lions rose up and started walking beside me on the other side of the fence. This was my first meeting with one of the many predators. The huge lion and I walked together for a few meters and as the walkway was coming to an end, I turned around and he followed.
The feeling there and then was remarkable and indescribable. You just have to experience it yourself to know what feeling it is to have a lion walk beside you.
Being here at Panthera Africa has been the trip of our lives. Being so close to all these beautiful predators and get to know their personalities is so amazing. And lets not forget the people, the other volunteers and of course the owners Lizaene and Cathrine. Liz and Cat are some of the warmest people you can meet, they do everything on the farm with a great passion, and in all interest of the animals. They greet you the day you arrive with such a big and open heart that couldn’t be measured with any money in the world.
Linus has as well had the time of his live. Back at home we don’t have any special routines, because we work during the evenings. However, here you get up at around 7.30, eat breakfast, morning meeting and then get to work. Physical labor. Even though the things we do down here are considered work, it doesn’t feel like it. We clean, feed, make toys for the animals. Linus has got to experience twice – wait for it – slaughtering a cow. Of course the animals we feed is donated and died of natural reasons. So, during the day we can suddenly get a call from some farmer in the area saying that one of his cows has died today. So Linus takes the truck and drives to the farm, picks it up, come back and slaughter it. And those who want to help or look are more than welcome.
As I was writing this down we had activity day, and got the time to sit with the animals in the morning. We each chose “our” animal to sit with. I chose Achilles and Jubatus. Since the first day I’ve felt there was a deeper connection with especially Achilles than with any of the others. We have had a couple of walks together and it seems like he is listening to every single word I am saying – which is a good feeling compared to the responses from many other humans.
Right now I am sitting here writing this, Linus runs around the enclosure with Achilles, and he hasn’t got the look you get sometimes when they think of you as a meal. However, it is more like a friend, playing together. They take a few rests, as both Killie and Linus is quite tired, and then they start over. This is also what the predators needs, stimulation – as if they where in the Wild.
It seems like both Achilles and Jubatus (or Killie and Jubs as I call them) has accepted us as part of their pride (not as food) and protecting us. As I came down today to Killie and Jubs, Ollie another lion stalked me on the way down. As I sat down and called at Killie and Jubs to say, hello, Ollie was on the other side still staring at me. My boys came, and they had a good eye on Ollie even though he just lay on the other side of the walkway. I felt safe.
A bit description of our experiences and feelings;
Falling asleep and waking up to the roars of lions, every day.
Sometimes feeding them – still warm – fresh red meat.
Seeing a tiger jump which you didn’t know that they could do. Especially that high.
Cleaning the enclosures and see how they live.
The most amazing sunsets over the “African” trees.
The farming work, that’s actually making a difference.
Get to know them.
The feedings when you could see the wildness in them again.
Having a lion roar strait into your face and you get some of the spit on you. What an indescribable feeling! It goes strait into your heart and soul. You say “thank you” to the lion, and he’s like “this was for you”…
And… their amazing stories when it’s told by the two women who were there and rescued them…
It’s no wonder why Cat moved down here from Norway. You get a certain peace and happiness in your heart and soul.
Linus and I are already planning on coming back this year to this piece of heaven on earth, Panthera Africa. We are so grateful for choosing the right sanctuary with the right people.
No interaction, No breeding – a true and pure sanctuary.