Animal Survival International (ASI) recently helped relocate a 13-year-old leopard from a defunct animal facility in Gauteng to Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary (PABCS) in the Western Cape. Gabriel is one of many captive big cats in South Africa, most of whom will spend their lives in unsuitable, confined enclosures after being removed from their mothers at a young age and exploited for financial and commercial gain.
ASI is a non-profit organization that raises awareness and takes direct action to protect wild animals from cruel conditions, climate change, habitat destruction, wildlife crime, poor legislation, and inadequate law enforcement. ASI provides practical help to restore habitats, implement conservation projects, and provide safe havens to protect animals in crisis. It holds those in power accountable for actions harmful to the environment, calling them out when policies are weak, and legislation is not enforced.
ASI vehemently opposes the cruel lion breeding and trophy hunting industries in South Africa – industries that continue to expand and remain largely unregulated despite ongoing opposition and recommendations that they be shut down. Commercial breeders have failed to cooperate, continuing to breed lions and other species of big cats in captivity for hunting, trophies and bone harvesting. The captive breeding of lions is a vicious cycle where each growth phase is used for financial exploitation. It starts with naive international volunteers paying to hand rear and care for tiny cubs when they are removed from their mothers at only a few days old, usually for the purposes of human-wildlife interactions. At the sub-adult age of a few months old, cubs are entered into the breeding industry or are moved and used for paid walking tours amongst tourists. Finally, the cats may be relocated to farms to be killed by hunters for an exorbitant price, or slain and butchered for their bones and body parts marketed as ‘traditional Chinese medicine’ for the Asian market.
Panthera Africa cares for tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs, caracals, servals and jackals that are emotionally, physically or genetically impaired and cannot be fully rehabilitated and released into the wild. Once at the sanctuary, the animals are cared for and provided shelter and the right nutrition for the rest of their lives, and no hands-on interaction, breeding, or trade is allowed. These cats are housed in large, natural enclosures based on their species and physical capabilities, with species-specific enrichment. Visitors to the sanctuary are educated on different wild cat species, the threats to their survival, and the importance of not supporting the captive big cat industry. This forward-thinking facility is ecologically conscious and aspires to be South Africa’s first ‘green’ big cat sanctuary and a place of enlightenment where people from all walks of life can learn something from each cat’s story.