I knew Zorro when he was younger; I spent three months with him at a previous project. To be completely honest – I came for the cheetahs that were there, but I gave my heart to this gentle, beautiful guy. I had never before had anything to do with leopards, so the only knowledge I had about the species was mainly from the internet, where they seem to be big, unpredictable hunters. Not something that I thought of as “cute”. So I was very surprised that this species turned out to be “mine”.
It’s been one and a half years since I’ve seen my boy. During this time I’ve thought about Zorro a lot – known that a big part of my heart was left behind in South Africa. But it wasn’t until I came to volunteer at Panthera Africa, and Cat and Lizaene showed us around on the property, and when I caught a glimpse of him that I realized exactly how much I’d missed him. I could not keep my attention on the tigers that Cat or Liz was telling us about, and I got surprisingly emotional. It was kind of embarrassing, especially because I had not expected such a big reaction, but Cat, Lizaene and the other volunteers understood completely.
At the last project I was allowed interaction with Zorro and Pardus, and there is nothing I miss more than being able to give Zorro a big hug and a good scratch… But seeing how happy he is with Lala in their new enclosure, with a giant tree to climb – I think they are happier without the stream of volunteers coming through but never staying for longer then a couple of weeks or a couple of months.
I’ve only got a couple of weeks left here at Panthera Africa, and I know that saying goodbye to all the animals, especially Zorro, is going to be extremely hard – but I know that every single cat on the property is happy and well, which is going to give me peace when my time to leave comes.
Lilo – June 2015