PHOTOS What a treat to actually see the rescued lion cubs George and Yame knowing we helped a bit to make it possible.
“Do you think we could see the lion cubs?” I asked Linda Park on our arrival in Johannesburg.
Leaving right at dawn Russ, Margie Kolver (with One More Generation SA) and I set off in the Landy to find the Kevin Richardson Sanctuary. After getting lost a bit we arrive as scheduled.
“I hope you don’t mind joining us to see the other lions before visiting the cubs?” Kevin asks as he meets us at the bush camp.
Do we mind!
My goodness! The next two hours we spend listening to Kevin’s stories and experiences while in the most beautiful bush veld observing the most spectacular lions I’ve ever set eyes on. But wait… that’s for another story!
Later that morning as we come round the corner… there they are. The cubs!
They’re right behind a smaller enclosure, the temporary accommodations, for a recently rescued hyena cub. George and Yame are also in temporary ‘housing’ a nice enclosure with trees water and grass. Keven tells us they recently received the funds to build their large forever home (which should be completed by now.)
Why are these cubs in captivity?
Have they ever grown! Both have tripled in size since they arrived at the sanctuary a few months ago after their long journey from Spain to South Africa. In Spain, they were supposedly being used as cuddly props for tourists to take cute photos. We also heard that they were not properly fed and were thus kept small. Fortunately for them they were rescued from a life of exploitation. (Read “A Tale of Two Lion Cubs in Spain“.)
What I didn’t know before this rescue (and most people don’t) was that lion cubs bred in captivity are frequently removed from their mothers and used in the cub petting industry. After all, isn’t it tempting to have your photo taken cuddling an adorable lion cub? However, this is not a good thing, don’t do it.
These cubs are often not well looked after I’ve heard and purposefully kept small. That’s not all, when they get too large (as they of course will) for petting they can’t be released to the wilds so many are sold off to outfits for canned trophy hunts. As you can imagine, these lions are unafraid of humans and even though they are by law ‘released’ into an enclosure that is large enough to be deemed ‘wild’ by officials it still is in no way a ‘fair chase’ hunt. If that weren’t enough, supposedly these ‘enterprising’ game ranchers then sell the lion bones to Asia to be ground up and used in tea. So, don’t be tempted to pet lion cubs… or any young wild animal!
Happy Cubs! What a joy to see them looking so good after following their story.
What is the future for these two cubs?
Just 12 days prior to our visit George had eye surgery. Kevin administers drops and tells us that before the operation you could wave your hand in front of his face and he didn’t flinch.
Jade who is the cubs’ primary handler smiles and says he has gotten so much naughtier now that he sees better!
Because the cubs were taken from their mothers and hand reared they can never be released into the wilds. Kevin tells us that humanized lions if released gravitate to populated areas and get far too close to people. Not only scaring people, but putting themselves at great risk for being shot or poisoned. After all if humans don’t feed them the lions might just eat them!
So George and Yame will live out their lives as the other lions and two black leopards do at the sanctuary… roaming around a large enclosure with trees, brush, grass and water, as well as being taken out on 45 minute walks in the bush.
During these enrichment walks the lions move freely in the bush and at times even hunt. Contrary to popular belief even captive bred lions can hunt, albeit a bit clumsily.
Except for being in the wilds these two rescued cubs couldn’t ask for a better life it seems. Thanks Kevin. What a privilege to see them and know that our contribution made a difference in the life of these two lion cubs.
[Even more about our visit on the Campaign Against Canned Lion Hunting blog.]