Thursday, 23 April 2009

South Africa 2009: Lion and Rhino Park part 1

Update May 2014: I did enjoy my visit to the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve in Johannesburg and will leave this post up but my opinion of this establishment and the Lion Park has since changed. I have come to understand the plight of captive bred lions, how lionnesses are subjected to the traumatic, forced removal of their cubs and how lions bred in these parks eventually land up being victims of canned hunting.

If this concerns you as it has me, then please consider not frequenting these parks.

Part 1: South Africa 2009 - Johannesburg

On Friday morning, 3 April, Stephen, my Mum and I headed of further north-west to visit the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve.  I’m going to post our visit reserve in two parts because I have to uphold a promise I made to post a certain part of the reserve in its entirety.

By South African standards, the reserve is not cheap.  It is R90 per person to get in.  I checked and the Lion Park in Fourways is now R100 per person to get in and I can assure you it was not that expensive when we went in 2006.  Of course, R90 is the equivalent of £4 so moving on swiftly…

First we saw a family of warthogs.  How cute are those warthoglets???

We couldn’t get too close to these little darlings unfortunately.  They have the cutest target-esque ring on their butts! I honestly don’t think I had seen a common waterbuck before so it was quite a treat to see something new.

It was only about 10am in the morning but it was a hot day and there weren’t many animals around.  On the plains driving into the reserve, you will find mostly buck and other herbivorous mammals.  The predators are kept in enclosures with very high electrified fences and a higher degree of security.

We reached the “Animal Crèche” at the reserve.  This is where many of the young animals are kept for people to get a closer look at.  The animals are often the protected offspring that come out of the breeding centre at the reserve.  Because many of these breeds are endangered, they cannot take the chance of “nature taking its course” and risk the young being killed in the wild.  Thus, they are kept in the crèche and breeding centre until old enough and viable enough to be released into the wild.

I think these are marabou storks.  It was quite exciting in that area (for reasons you will find out on Saturday, hopefully) and I forgot to check what type of storks these were.

The blue crane is the national bird of South Africa and if I remember correctly, it is still on the 5 cent piece.

I understand the need for conservation and I think that they probably believe they are being noble, but I am sorry.  They have absolutely no business having tigers and jaguars in an African reserve. Tigers come from Asia and jaguars come from South America and both are used to hot and humid climates.  It is cold in Johannesburg in winter and it is a very dry place.  These pictures were taken 2 months after one of the wettest summers ever and look how yellow and dry everything is!  Summer is the rainy season too with winters being exceedingly dry.

I wasn’t pleased, I can tell you but on the other hand, I had never seen a tiger or jaguar before so I did appreciate their beauty.

The other thing I wasn’t too keen on about this area was that the pens were too small.  This photo gives you a better idea of the size of the pens:

Taken from a distance of about 20 metres, you can clearly see the fencing to the back and side of the shelter.  There were a couple of tourists around and most of us were asking if the animals spent all of their time here.  I imagine that they do – you can see three adult tigers there and these are vicious creatures that do not tame in captivity.  Moving them every days seems out of the question.

I just got the whole idea that the animals were better looked after and more liberated at the Lion Park.

Anyway, I am probably giving the wrong impression with my little tirade.  Seeing these animals was a privilege and it was wonderful.  Later in the week I will post about the highlight of my trip.  I had a request to post each and every single photo and I will do so, with pleasure.  So be warned!  My next post will be ridiculously long but I know you will forgive me and love it!

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10 comments

  1. Emm I find it quite strange and a little disconcerting that they have Siberian Tigers sweating it out in SA.

    I much prefer to see wild animals in the bush albeit in a protected area.

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  2. I completely agree Mike! And the jaguar will suffer just as much. I love what they are doing for lions and rhinos at the park as both breeds needs conservation efforts, but I just don't agree with this. It makes me wonder also about the legitimacy of the transactions - who sold these magnificent creatures in the first place? Even lions in zoos get more space to roam than them!

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  3. I cannot wait for your next one. My fave were the blue cranes. Don't any birds just fly away? There are no ceilings in the enclosures... :o)

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  4. @ Ivanhoe: Yes, that is strange, isn't it? Blue cranes are one of my favourites too! I guess that they (and the other birds) were probably hand-reared at the centre and either live there permanently or return in warmer months.

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  5. This game park used to be a private reserve with semi tame animals kept for the film industry.
    The Tigers are probably waiting for a larger enclosure to be built, and the Jaguars will probably also move at some stage, but I must admit, I would rather see them on Animal Planet and only see African animals in a South
    African Game Park.
    The Birds can fly away, but they will come back as their food is there.

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  6. @ DeeTeeCat: I don't think it is the same place you're thinking of. This article says that:

    "The actual Rhino and Lion Reserve was founded in 1985, with an aim to preserve this beautiful area for private relaxation. It all started off with 2 White Rhinos imported from a German Zoo, from there a few of the antelope species was added. Now 25 different species are accommodated, a total collection of 600 heads of game".

    They have been going for years and have had ample time to build bigger enclosures. They definitely brought the jaguars and tigers there to breed and we know that they had tiger cubs but I am don't know what the benefit of breeding tiger in Africa could be to the preservation of their species. Can they ever go back to their native lands?

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  7. It's a shame about the big cats. I can't imagine why they would be there other than to attract more people. Oh well, things like this happen everywhere. If I recall correctly, the Metro Zoo in South Florida had polar bears.

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  8. Hi Emm,
    Fantastic experience for you and the pictures are great. The cranes did stand out as very special. What a treat this end.

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  9. Thank you for sharing the photos! I like the little rhino myself. :)

    It is terrible about the big cats--but the ones in our zoos here aren't much better off. They have a small inside area and a small outside area. In the winter, obviously, they're mostly indoors, pacing back and forth.

    Over the years, when they get the money, our local zoos have been remodeling and making larger happier habitats for the animals. The poor gorillas and orangutans used to be in these little glassed in areas--now they have a large open area with rock walls and trees and a little creek that runs through it. It's still indoors, so it can be climate controlled, but there's a lot more room to run awround and socialize. There are also birds and other wildlife so it's more like the real thing.

    And I've rambled now! Thank you for sharing your photos...I look forward to seeing more!

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  10. @ Xoán-Wahn: It does happen in zoos but it isn't meant to happen in these conservatin parks which is what made it worse I guess. There were "big cat" enclosures where the lions and other animals could roam free but these enclosures seemed too small for animals that shouldn't have been in SA in the first place. (Long winded repy, sorry!)

    @ Martin: Glad you liked the blue cranes - they have always been my favourite.

    @ Valerie: You are always more than welcome to ramble! I was rambling above! Like I said to Xoán-Wahn, animals are just meant to fare better in this place than in a zoo.

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