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,