Big cat diaries – march 2019


Glen Vena, Animal Care Manager at our Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa gives his latest update.


King is thriving. Every day is filled with different challenges for him, like how to respond to the small mice under his deck, the noisy Hadada Ibis that fly into his enclosure, or the crows that try to pick off the last bits of meat from the bones they find. Well, King wants none of that and chases after them, not managing to catch any of them of course. This keeps him very busy, and active. As soon as it gets hot, King, like the other big cats at Shamwari, tends to disappear into the coolest part of the natural enclosures. Here they can relax and doze in the shade. Temperatures reach as high as 40°C, but the cats are well adapted to cope with the heat and are instinctively very sensible when it comes to keeping cool and staying hydrated. 

King is also mischievous and kept my colleague Odwa busy a few weeks ago. King removed the pipes by his water trough and got covered in red mud. Unfortunately Odwa was too occupied to capture this moment on camera as he was trying to save water and get the pipes sorted out. Despite these antics, it’s so good to see King enjoying life with us here in South Africa. 

King the lion with mouth open



It was a big shock to us all when we lost our beloved Alam a while ago. Sami and Alam got on very well together, fortunately Sami has adapted quickly, he is less restless and coping well. 

Sami the leopard



We had a close call with Rhea recently. Having shown some signs of illness, our vet Dr Johan Joubert anaesthetised Rhea to conduct a thorough examination. She was diagnosed to have two internal tumours and underwent surgery to have them removed. We’re very pleased that Rhea recovered quickly and just two days later was sprinting and running around. 

It is always a huge relief when we see one of our cats recover so well after an illness.  

Rhea the Leopard



Leda, our oldest resident at 28 years old, is still very fit and looks stunning. I took this picture just after Odwa had put fresh water in her water trough. Leda came over and purred her way around. She started lapping the water up with her tongue and kept looking at me – she is so beautiful. 

Leda the leopard



We have been observing Queen and Brutus getting to know each other, with the hope they would become suitable companions and be able to share the same enclosure. They lived adjacent to each other for several months while we observed them and before we made the decision to properly introduce them. As we all know, big cats can be very unpredictable and we didn’t want them to fight and hurt each other.

Eventually, our patience paid off and when we saw the right moment, we opened the gates to introduce them to each other. This was a nervous time for us all.

Queen was so brave, and took the first steps into Brutus’s section whilst he just continued to sit. Even when she turned around to growl at us, Brutus didn’t even respond, he is so sweet and such a gentle lion. We are pleased all went smoothly, but we have the experience to know if and when we can introduce big cats to each other.

After a few minutes we let them into the main part of their enclosure and I took this picture of them sitting peacefully together. This moment belongs to them and we are so happy for them.