Rescued animals arrive at bigger and better home
MOTORISTS travelling along the Garden Route were in for a bit more than the usual roar of engines whizzing down the N2 this week, as about 30 big cats, including the king of the jungle, made a 140km journey by truck from Mossel Bay to their new home just outside Plettenberg Bay.
The animals – rescued from the canned-hunting and petting industries – were moved to a 17-hectare property just outside the holiday town after the Mossel Bay- based Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary changed ownership last year.
New majority shareholder Tony Blignaut, who also created the renowned Monkeyland and Birds of Eden just down the road at The Crags, said one of the main reasons for the relocation was to provide the animals with a bigger and better home.
“Because the property is so much larger, we could build much bigger enclosures. The animals also have much more enrichment in their new enclosures – similar to what big cats will find in the wild, like trees, dams, bushes and rocks”
The first animals – three lions – arrived on Monday, with the rest moved during the course of the week.
Blignaut said they hoped all the animals would be settled in their new enclosures by next week, with the sanctuary opened to the August 1.
But the move was not without its challenges, which ranged from attempting to bypass roadworks to battling against Mother Nature, and working through reams of red tape.
All the cats – including lions, tigers, pumas, jaguars, leopards, cheetahs, serval and caracal – were darted and transported in crates by truck, under the watchful eye of veterinarian Dr Howard Pettifer.
The crates were then unloaded by forklift, placed on a tractor and transported to the animal’s enclosure, where the cats were released.
While some took their time taking the first steps out of the crates into their new home, others made a quick dash.
One of the lions, Grompie, needed to be coaxed into his new environment and, after a few minutes of calling by staff, went into his enclosure.
A white tiger, Mich, took an entire day before she dared to go into the unknown.
The relocation process caused its fair share of headaches. “Along the Wilderness area there is a stop-go section, which could hold traffic up for about 45 minutes at a time, so we had to get special permission to go through the section without stopping.”
When the first lions were loaded on Monday, a massive storm hit Mossel Bay.
“The wind was so strong that the darts became like boomerangs. You were lucky if you didn’t shoot yourself.
“We were supposed to arrive in the afternoon, but ended up arriving only that night.”
This was also a very expensive exercise, as each day of transporting, including equipment hire, a truck, staff and a vet, costs between R20 000 and R25 000.
Jurgen Olsen, who has run Jukani with his wife Karen since 2005, said that despite the challenges, the animals were all settling in well.
Olsen and his team, who started Jukani in George before moving to Mossel Bay in 2007, will also relocate to Plettenberg Bay. “These animals are my children – I won’t leave them behind.”
Blignaut said permits were needed for every aspect of the new development, from transporting the animals to creating boreholes. Many departments had to be consulted before the project got the final green light. Staff who dealt with the paperwork said copies of the documentation weighed about 27kg.
Blignaut said the sanctuary was purely a safe haven for rescued wild animals, and there would be no breeding and a strict no-petting policy. The animals were initially brought to the sanctuary by conservation officials, or were confiscations.
Each animal is kept in a large enclosure, custom-made to suit its needs.
Olsen said: “Once they get to know their enclosures, these animals will be very happy. They will have more room, nice views and lots of trees.”
Visitors will be able to take a guided tour through the sanctuary, learning about each animal and its species’ plight.
While the cats are the main attraction, the sanctuary will also be home to animals like a springbok, wild dogs, jackals, zebras, badgers and snakes. – Garden Route Media
FIRST STEPS: A lion is released into an enclosure at the sanctuary.