Res­cued an­i­mals ar­rive at big­ger and bet­ter home

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - YOLANDÉ STANDER

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.

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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.

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