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.
This post is going to be an absolute cuteness overload so prepare yourself!
In the Animal Crèche at the Lion and Rhino park, you can meet cubs that are being kept safe until it is viable to let them out in the wild. It costs extra to see the cubs. Apart from paying R90 per person to get in, it costs a further R20 per person per cub enclosure, and there are three enclosures.
We decided to pay with a Leopard aka a R200 note, seeing that we were visiting the big cats. We should have perhaps paid with a Lion but they are a lot more common than Leopards. Visit this site for a peek at South African bank notes.
First we visited the majestic and beautiful four-year-old cheetah.
As with all my posts, please click on any of the photos for bigger shots.
We were taught first what this young man does and doesn’t like. He likes being scratched behind the ears but he doesn’t like his tummy, paws or tail being touched. He was so lovely and he purred the entire time we were there!!! The third photo is me realising he was purring and the last photo is me fawning over him and generally adoring him.
He was brought in as an orphaned cub and was quite friendly. Apparently they stay quite tame and laid back in captivity. Unfortunately, this young man will never be able to survive in the wild and so will have to remain in captivity for all of his life. To be honest, he doesn’t seem too fussed about that. If you come later in the day, you can see them “running” him – cheetahs are famous for running up to speeds of 120kph (75mph) and they make sure that he gets his exercise on a daily basis.
Lazing about all day is hard work so eventually we left to give the poor guy some time to rest!
Next, it was time to spend some time with the youngest of the lion cubs. In this enclosure, the brown lion cubs were eight weeks old and the white lion cubs were twelve weeks old. How gorgeous are they???
That’s an oversized tennis ball by the way! They are not that tiny.
(Yes, Stephen basically only wears England, Manchester United and Ferrari shirts. He got questioned briefly at the airport on the way back because they thought he was a returning chav football hooligan. Thankfully his South African accent convinced them otherwise).
It still makes me brim with happiness and glee to know that I played with these little creatures!
You know how one little baby can keep a room full of adults entertained for ages? Well, imagine ten or so maniacal lion cubs! We were in raptures while they entertained us with their antics!
Look at those blue-grey eyes. They are so absolutely beautiful and you know that in a couple of years, these animals will just be formidable!
It was only the little babies that had so much energy. The older lion cubs (by older four weeks) were much more docile and were digesting their breakfast. The white lion cubs just look like teddy bears!
So I can now officially say I have had my hand in a lion’s mouth, with said lion firmly grasping on to it with his paws! Or her paws – I couldn’t tell them apart.
It was hilarious – this little cub tried to climb through this gap but its tummy was too round and fat to allow it!
No worries – he just yawned and managed to look so fierce and then it was time for us to go!
Next was the older cubs, aged 4 months. The cubs are fed twice a day and on a hot day like it was that day, they were still busy digesting their food. They would not budge!! Take a look at how huge their paws are though – almost as big as their heads!!! These are going to be massive animals.
As the lady finally called time and told us we had to leave, one of the cubs seemed to perk up. It didn’t last for long before he crashed again though!
And so our time was up in the Animal Crèche and it had been the most amazing experience. I love animals and nature and I felt filled up with the wonder of life by the time I left. Maybe I’m naive or just simple but experiences like this are what make it worth it for me and this will keep me going for months to come.
One last peek before we left at the black leopard. They are at the centre for breeding and I hadn’t seen anything like this in my life before. This animals is also know as the black panther but the people at the centre specifically referred to him as a leopard. This is another imported animal from South America but still… I had to marvel at his beauty.
Next post – Cape Town!