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.
YAAAHHOOOO!!!! Tomorrow is our big day – we are reuniting with our beloved animals and bringing them home!!! Can you believe it?! My feelings inside are truly beyond words to describe and as I am writing the tears of joy are building up… Lizaene!! – WE DID IT!! Over a year ago we started with a big dream and now we are here with a big reward at the end of the rainbow! The establishment of Panthera Africa has been the most exciting yet challenging time of my life, and I will try my best and paint you the picture of how this year has been and hopefully you will get an idea of how incredible this all is for Lizaene and myself <3
After having searched for the perfect land for over four months, Lizaene and myself finally found our heaven on earth in the small village of Stanford, less than two hours from Cape Town. I am smiling here I am sitting thinking about the bargaining process and all the emotions between Lizaene and myself! We had our max limit set out after months of budgeting costs down to the smallest of details. I knew I had to put in a very tough fight to manage to get within our target as the asking price for the property was way to high. But you got to aim high 🙂 So after haggling back and forth for some days we had eventually put in our highest offer and I told the broker; “This is it!”. The broker said, “Well, I am sorry but I am sure this is too low!”, but I still told her to go back to the owner and again tell her about our purpose for this land, and this is as far as we could stretch. Lizaene was jumping next to me saying, “We need to give more, we can’t lose this property!!” and the temperature between us got quite high to say it mildly ;-). I tried to stay calm and collected but inside I was terrified because I KNEW this was our land and we just HAD to get it. After some hours, on our way to Douglas, the phone rang and it was the broker. My heart rose immediately and nervously I answered the phone… Guess what she said; “Well Cathrine, this is your lucky day – the owner finally agreed and the property is yours”!!! We both screamed of joy and got so excited that we nearly drove off the road!! WE HAD FINALLY GOTTEN OUR LAND!!! I will never forget the feeling when returning to OUR property some months later – the tears just started to flow – this 40 hectare of paradise was going to be the home for our beloved animals and the blessed and exciting future for Lizaene and myself!
Over the next half year the events followed – a true roller coaster ride with it’s very highs and very lows. I want to be honest and say that all though I feel truly blessed to have found my purpose in life, it has been a challenging time, even to the point of giving up. But hey, there is no giving up, right? Here is a brief resume of how the events and emotions unfolded… The excitement we felt on the road trip from Bloemfontein to Stanford towards the land of our dreams, the not too excited feelings I felt during the time I spent at the local backpackers, the amazing gesture from my beloved dear friend Janet when she invited us to stay with her until the property transaction was complete, the indescribable despair when we got frauded and the deposit on the house got stolen, the thrill of booking our contractor to start the construction of the enclosures, the indescribable disappointments when having to cancel the TLB and workers because of record reaching amount of rain the week before start up and the property was a swimming pool, the excitement of moving into the new house and getting everything sooo nice, the devastation of feedback from Cape Nature that we needed the tourist approval prior to being allowed to house our animals which meant we had to wait another five months till November, the feeling of a purposeful future when being in dialogue of establishing a partnership with an international animal welfare organisation, the anger when the pole order, three days before delivery, said they couldn’t deliver (8 weeks preorder), and the blessing of Seef, our contractor, who managed to get it all from another supplier in just three days, the frustration of receiving the wrong fencing material, the pure joy of seeing the first pole planted, the total devastation of believing that I had lost one of my fourlegged soul mates, the peace and recharge of my soul when visiting my other soul mates and being reminded why we were creating Panthera Africa, the nerve wreacking situation of seeing the bank account dropping insanely quick as all the bills needed to be paid, the proudness of managing to rearrange our money in order to save more animals, the constant longing and missing of the animals and fear of being driven too far away from them, the overwhelming gratitude for my Norwegian friends who made it possible to save my beloved Oliver, the heartache of knowing Obi needed immediate care yet not being able to do anything about it, experiencing miracles along the way of meeting the right people at the right time and place, the absolute shock of not receiving the freezer container and realising we again were frauded for a lot of money, the gratitude of a helping hand from a close friend to manage to buy another freezer, the testing of patience over and over and over again dealing with the approval processes for municipality and Cape Nature, the tears of joy running down my face when finally receiving the tourism approval, the terrifying news of finding out that the environmental department wasn’t sure after all and that we might need to go through a new process of 6 months (this news we received just before Christmas!!), the blessings from great friends and my aunt from Norway celebrating Christmas with us and making it a very special time, the pressure on my shoulders the day of the inspection from the environmental Department – I knew we HAD to get this accepted both for the life of Obi and for our financial situation, the constant help from permanent and other volunteers who have all become good friends, the fright of seeing the budget showing minus in just two months, the total sense of relief when receiving the approval from the environmental department, the mental and physical complete tiredness after a roller coaster ride over the last year, and now today the ultimate feeling of completion as the light in the end of the tunnel is glowing ever so bright! A new chapter of Panthera Africa is about to begin and I am ready!!! I don’t know how many times I have pinched myself over the last year, and I have done it about ten times during these last two weeks – MY DREAM IS COMING TRUE – I WILL FOREVER BE WITH MY LALA AND KEEP MY PROMISE TO OLIVER TO HAVE HIM WITH ME ONE DAY!!
So with this first blog for Panthera Africa I hope you get a feeling of how the journey has been so far, and we will all keep you posted on everything happening from here on. I want this blog to share dreams, hopes, our ups and downs, and include everyone from volunteers, staff, friends and family, and who ever feels the urge to share some words. Thank you to everyone who has helped, supported, and been there with and for me over the last year! Without you I wouldn’t be here!
My mother’s words are playing loundly in my head – “You can manage anything you want, Cathrine! Put your mind to it, work hard, and focus on the goal! You will see – your dreams will come true!!” And yes, they do indeed….
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