With immediate effect, the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve in Gauteng will no longer be offering cub-petting to the public.
Not far from Joburg, the nature reserve in Kromdraai is located in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. Under the new ownership of the Bothongo Group the reserve is refocusing its efforts on animal welfare.
‘As new owners, we have acknowledged that what was acceptable in 1990 when the reserve first opened to the public, may no longer be acceptable in 2019,’ says Jessica Khupe, Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve Brand Manager. ‘Human beings have always wanted to get up close and personal with wild animals,’ says Khupe. ‘Understandable as this is, studies have shown that it is not good for animal welfare.’
‘”Recent campaigns have highlighted the global problem of cub petting and unscrupulous operators both locally and abroad. Simply put, it is not necessary to touch an animal to connect with the importance of wildlife conservation. We’d also like to make it very clear that we are utterly opposed to the abhorrent canned hunting and lion bone trade.’
Mike Fynn, the reserve’s new COO, explains: ‘Breeding and rearing animals for the purpose of cub petting and interaction is not only undesirable from an animal welfare perspective, it’s also not a sustainable business model. From now on, we will focus on educating the public about wildlife and the importance of conservation.’
The reserve recently introduced a three-year plan to upgrade all of its public facilities, habitats and wildlife enclosures, which will be remodelled around the welfare and wellbeing of the animals, many of which are endangered due to habitat loss and human activity.
According to Fynn, the reserve team will dedicate itself to a new internal ‘mantra’ of being a ‘nurture reserve’, by working on the following:
- Maintaining a healthy, genetically diverse and contented animal collection
- Working with local and international institutions and bodies to ensure the management of the longterm survival of endangered and threatened species
- Pledging not to sell or exchange any of its ‘animal family’, especially the lions, and if so, only to reputable, accredited facilities and/or licensed wildlife institutions
- Breeding animals only if it serves a conservation purpose
‘To those of our visitors who are disappointed that they can no longer cuddle a lion cub at our reserve: this is the right thing to do,’ says Khupe. ‘As animal lovers, we understand how charismatic African wildlife is. But the truth is that our love for our animals may inadvertently harm them, even though we don’t mean to.’
Khupe added that she feels that ‘our wildlife family now has a voice again’.
Featured image: Ross Couper/Getaway Gallery