Sitting beside Neptune as the sun goes down, it feels a privilege to be in his presence. A true king! His calming aura and wise eyes give me the perfect opportunity to reflect on my time here.
Before coming to Panthera Africa I wasn’t too sure what to expect but from reviews I read online and the conversation with Cat and Liz prior to arriving, I knew it would be a unique experience. Looking back on it now at the end of my time here, not only has it been unique but also rewarding, eye-opening and incredibly inspiring.
Hearing about where the animals have come from can be heart breaking, but in equal measure it so so important to understand their stories and in turn the importance of protecting these beautiful creatures. Seeing the animals at Panthera Africa now totally at peace is a truly wonderful thing.
What Cat and Lizaene have created here is nothing short of incredible. It is an experience I will never forget and I am already so excited to return again one day. In the mean time I will follow their progress avidly as they continue to look after the beautiful creatures in their care and introduce new members to their ever growing pride.
Alice – December 2016
I came to South Africa originally to Kitesurf and to see some friends that I had met on recent trips whilst travelling around Europe. Whilst I had some aspirations to volunteer on this trip, I didn’t expect to come here, and truth be known, I had not really heard of canned hunting, captive breeding, and true Sanctuaries – never mind Panthera Africa!
I came here on a recommendation from a friend after speaking about ideas for volunteering, and after doing some research realized this was an organisation with good ethical practices where it is obvious where time and money spent would be put to good use.
I can honestly say it has been one of the best experiences of my time here and cannot recommend it enough if you are interested in big cats, or wanting to understand more about what happens in this industry, or just simply want to come and put your time and energy into something worthwhile.
The set up is good, a big comfortable shared house, friendly staff, and a good mix of volunteers from all over the world from all age groups, and then there is the animals themselves.
They run a no breeding, no petting, not for hunting and minimal human interaction ruling here, and provide a safe home for these animals who have been taken from other sanctuaries, and perhaps would not be able to survive in the wild.
Part of what the owners are trying to do here is spread the awareness of what can be done to help these animals, and how a business can be set up and be successfully run in this way.
The owners Cathrine and Lizaene are very knowledgeable and passionate about their project, and for saying it has only been open 9 months, it is incredible what they have achieved in such a short space of time.
The animals are amazing to see, and whilst you are not able to interact as such, you are able to sit with them through the fences, and just soak in the atmosphere of these amazing animals! To hear the lions roar in the evening as the sunsets, or witness the tigers chuffing as you walk past the enclosures is not easy to describe, other than wow!
There is a mix of Lions, Tigers, Jackals and Caracals and a Panther, and all have a story to tell. The animals all seem very happy and content, and have x2.5 the minimal required enclosure size.
Volunteers are able to become involved in a variety of work, ranging from the physical (building new shelters for the animals, repairing fences), to helping prepare food and herbs for the animals and feeding, to enrichment activities (for the animals to play with). The pace is good and there is a nice balance of things to do and time to just chill and relax or spend time near the animals. What also works well is a weekly trip out with the team to go do some fun activities away from the farm.
As an experience to help out on a genuine project I would strongly recommend it, and as an opportunity to develop an understanding and awareness of what happens in the world of these animals it is definitely worthwhile. There is so much I am taking away from the past few weeks here, and cannot thank the owners and other volunteers enough for making the experience what it is.
John – January 2016
2015 – What a year! The last day of the year is here, and looking back at everything that has happened, I nearly get overwhelmed. From the highest of high’s to the lowest of low’s – this year has taught us many valuable lessons and enriched our lives in so many ways! So let’s take a walk down memory lane.
We started 2015 in near desperation, we received bad news just before Christmas from the local government, who said we needed to put our sanctuary on hold for the next 6-8 months! With a lot of persistency and begging skills we managed to get 10 people from the Environmental Department (ED) and Cape Nature here to inspect the farm. With very thorough preparations and a lot of “UUMMF”, we passed with flying colours! The OK from ED came through within a couple of weeks, and then it was “only” Cape Nature left.
The first cat to arrive at Panthera Africa was our beautiful Neo that we rescued from the local animal welfare clinic. She was only a small kitten at the time, and I will always remember how she expressed her enormous gratitude with constant purring for the first 48 hours <3 She has grown into an incredible loving yet quite selective tomboy, and is a great link between the cats outside and the house. She still captures many hearts, and sometimes if you are lucky, she accepts your invitation to sleep in your bed 🙂
On the 4th of March THE email arrived, and our dream could finally come true – all approvals and permits were in order and we could FINALLY bring the animals home!! In the early morning of the 16th of March a big trailer drove in to Stanford, and Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary finally became complete! 15 beautiful majestic animals found their way to their new home, and everyone involved could take a deep sigh of relief and contentment – WE MADE IT!!! All the hard work of setting up outside, and getting things in order, finally paid off! I still remember lying in bed that evening and Lizaene and I couldn’t really understand it all – She asked; have the last 48 hours really happened? Are they all really here?!”. A good pinch in the arm and a peak out the window was necessary just to make sure we were not dreaming <3 A big special thank you to everyone that was involved during the relocation – both two and four legged friends – this was truly a day where magic happened!
Our aim was to open to the public on Pardus’s birthday – the 28th of March, but as the days and weeks went by we saw that some of the animals needed more time to settle in. So the opening day was moved to the 3rd of April, which was Good Friday – and what a Good Friday that was J With a small and lovely group, we gave our very first educational visit, and the sanctuary was truly open! Since that day we have been blessed with over 1500 excited tourists, and we thank you all for your kind words, recommendations and most importantly – helping us to spread the word and educate others about animal welfare and how these animals should be respected and treated.
We have had the great pleasure of hosting our two first animal communication courses, which has opened up a new world to us all. We are amazed and deeply grateful for the knowledge and “tools” we have learnt, and how it has and is helping us to better understand and improve the lives of all the animals here. The feeling of being able to truly connect with your soul friends is beyond words to describe, and we are all excited to continue this road together – animals and humans side by side. We will definitely have more courses in 2016, so stay tuned for the new dates!
October arrived and a beautiful little black girl entered our home – Kira is our latest addition to the Panthera Africa pride, and she has stolen all our hearts and souls <3 A more kind, loving and well-meaning dog is hard to find <3 Not knowing her exact breed, we are watching with excitement how she is growing and turning into an incredibly beautiful and clever lady! Soon it’s time for the second Puppy School with more fun for both us and her 🙂
All the animals have truly prospered over the last nine months, and looking back at pictures it is amazing to see the difference! The most incredible and inspiring change that has happened is with dearest Obi! He has risen and grown far beyond our wildest dreams – both in size, condition and health, and off course with his amazing VERY-fast growing mane! Obi, you are a true inspiration and I often look at you and think – anything and everything is possible J To hear your roars at night time warms our hearts and fills us with such respect and admiration! Well done, our kind-eyed man!!
We have had the pleasure of meeting so many amazing people over the past year, and I personally want to thank all of you! Especially to Annie, Andreas, Berna and Lynsey that has walked a long path with us – I hope you feel it when we say thank you from the bottom of our hearts! When Lizaene and I got the idea of Panthera Africa two years ago, we were a bit nervous if we were going to get enough volunteers as we are one of very few places that are a true sanctuary and do not breed nor offer cub petting. However, we are so incredibly happy to say that we have had over 70 amazing volunteers over the last year, and that we are fully booked till the middle of February! The consciousness of the tourism and volunteer industry is changing rapidly, and we are so proud to be a part of this change. It makes us truly happy that people are understanding what animal welfare is all about, and that we are opening our eyes and starting to look at the world from the animals’ point of view! This is the way for a prosperous future – mutual respect and love for everyone and everything around us.
So to everyone that has crossed our path the last year – THANK YOU for making Panthera Africa to what it is! THANK YOU for respecting the animals and helping us to take care of them! THANK YOU for sharing love, fun and laughter, and also some tears at times <3 We are all part of this pride, and everyone is playing a vital role, whether being a visitor, volunteer, technician, animal communicator, staff, founder, animal – we all make Panthera Africa the paradise it is!
So going into 2016 we have many wishes and dreams, and I hope you all want to join us in making them come true! Our first corporate team building will take place in January, and I wish for at least 12 events during 2016 J Our enrichment camp is finally finished so we will open up for enrichment visits, which I know many of you are excited to see J We have made many amazing connections with large and inspiring organisations, so we excitedly picture our first big rescue mission and the building of some new rescue camps J Education is the core of our project, and we are excited for all the children and schools that already have been here. Next year we aim to become partner with many local, national and international schools and make nature and animals part of the curriculum J And may our dream come true on taking the first big steps towards becoming a solar driven sanctuary J
As many of you know, our lives took a real knock this December when our gorgeous leopard boy, Zorro, passed away. I still see and feel him on his platform, and I still hear his lovely talks whenever I visit his enclosure. However difficult and heart-breaking this experience has been and still is, I feel that Zorro has showed me and all of us what true kindness, forgiveness and love is all about. Even though his time here on earth was way too short, he spent his time extremely well and touched many people. We have received a lot of messages from all over the world telling us how Zorro touched them – whether inspiring them to choose a career, or coming through difficult times, or giving them a meaning in life. Zorro gave us the taste of what life is all about – how to be in and value the present moment, and just feel the beauty and love that surrounds us.
So on that note I would love for all of you to take a minute, maybe even close your eyes, and think back to one moment when you were truly at peace and happy inside – whether with an animal or with another human or even alone in nature. Take your time and truly feel how your body felt and actually how you can remember and still feel that feeling inside. Take these feelings and carry them forward to every part of your life, and do everything you do with the intention of love inside. Try this every day, and you will see that change will start to happen <3 To all the volunteers, tourists, friends, family – everyone – that have been to Panthera Africa and taken part of this paradise, and to other people who have experienced other incredible moment, you have the power inside to be what you want to be! So let’s spread the love, and be the change we want to see! Let’s be the best version of ourselves and shine our light and love around us!
Lizaene and I feel deeply blessed to be here and be fuelled with magic from these animals every day, and we are excited to share 2016 with both old and new volunteers, tourists, friends and family, and we are very excited to welcome a new year with millions of opportunities and dreams waiting to be fulfilled!
Love and light,
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