John's experience volunteering with lions
For four incredible weeks, I have been working in South Africa’s largest lion sanctuary, LIONSROCK, alongside 76 rescued lions, two cheetahs, two leopards and one tiger. I’m not just seeing big cats here. The open parkland is packed with animals - 21 bird species, as well as wildebeest, zebras and ostriches. I’m loving being able to wake up to all this wildlife each day.
My days here are varied and full. My mornings generally involve being set up in a comfortable camp chair and monitoring and watching the social interaction within a group of lions, or between one group and another. On certain days of the week I get to help with the feeding sessions. It is in these moments that you realise these really are wild animals, despite having been stripped of their right to be in the wild. It allows you to see the strength and beauty of the lions up close, and to understand the importance of housing them in natural conditions.
Afternoons are spent building and implementing ‘enrichment activities’ to enhance the cat’s lives at LIONSROCK. We monitor these enrichment activities to see how the animals respond to them. You quickly find that, like humans, each cat has its own personality and what may work with one may not work with another. I often help out with other random jobs at the park- giving educational tours to kids (great fun!), or even taking around a film man doing a documentary on LIONSROCK big cats sanctuary.
Spare time here is relaxing and busy at the same time. I have helped out with weddings at the lodge, been to the Golden Gate National Park(amazing), visited a traditional village and been into the local town. This week I can have a long period of time away- I’m going to hire a car to go to see the Big 5, and maybe hit theDrakensburg mountainsif I can…
The big cats that are fortunate enough to call LIONSROCK home are all in desperate need of help and rehabilitation, to provide a happier life free of suffering. I feel very privileged to be spending time among them and to be able to really do something useful in improving their lives.