Bethlehem, South Africa
Bethlehem, South Africa
PHOTOS COURTESY OF FOUR PAWS
* We identify animals in need and create a home and habitat for them.
—Fiona Miles, Four Paws
As a cub in Romania, Jazz spent most of his time being manhandled by tourists who wanted their picture taken with him.
Then, Jazz grew, as lions do.
When he was too big to manage, he was caged on a farm without sufficient nourishment or space to exercise.
But Jazz got another chance with a project launched by Dr. Amir Khalil, international director for project development at Four Paws, a European animal welfare organization.
“We identify animals in need and create a home and habitat for them,” says Fiona Miles, operational director at Four Paws. “We enter into negotiations with the animals' owners and work with the governments to get the questionable practices outlawed.”
One of those animals in need was Jazz.
46 Number of lions at Lionsrock sanctuary
5 Number of lion enclosures, which are grouped to resemble the shape of a paw
Dr. Khalil had long seen a lack of safe havens for big cats that are raised in captivity and then outgrow their welcome but are incapable of surviving in the wild.
In 2006, Four Paws started to take action. The organization began scouting locations and eventually settled on a former lion-breeding farm in Bethlehem, South Africa, about three hours from Johannesburg. The project ultimately resulted in Lionsrock, Four Paws' fourth animal sanctuary, covering 1,242 hectares (about 3,000 acres).
The first phase of the project called for building enclosures for the cats and making infrastructure upgrades. The sanctuary was completed in November 2007, shortly before the arrival of the first inhabitants: 36 lions, a Bengal tiger, two leopards, two caracals, two wild dogs and a wide range of other wildlife. It then made its grand debut to the public three months later in February 2008.
After the team located Jazz, they transferred him from the farm to the Brasov Zoo in Romania until he could be brought to Lionsrock. Around the same time, Four Paws representatives discovered another nine cubs and Aline, a malnourished tiger, at a financially struggling zoo in Romania.
Number of local jobs created by Lionsrock animal sanctuary
By the time Jazz, Aline and the cubs were found, Lionsrock was up and running and ready to take on the 11 new inhabitants. But obtaining ownership and then actually relocating the animals turned out to be a project in itself.
“We negotiated with the zoo and convinced them to release the animals into our care. We do not purchase animals,” Ms. Miles says. “Then we educated them about how to limit breeding and how to care for the animals that still are under their care.”
While dealing with the zoo, the team— comprised of members in Austria, Romania and South Africa—arranged for the preparation of additional enclosures and travel for the cats. Working with the airlines, Four Paws then had to work out transport, procure suitable crates to ensure waste didn't accumulate and secure a vet to travel with the animals, explains Ms. Miles.
The 72-hour transport of the wild cats started in Braila, Romania on Wednesday, 4 June. The cubs made their way first to the town of Brasov, where they were joined by Jazz. The team then continued on to Hunedoara where Aline, the tiger, was picked up. The road trip then wound through Hungary, Austria and Germany to the Frankfurt airport, where the animals were transferred to a cargo plane. On Friday, 6 June, the cats touched down in their new home.
And Ms. Miles reports a solid ROI. “The well-being of the animals is a major indicator of success,” she says. “We monitor their response to the environment. In this case it has been pleasing. They have adapted well. They have all had routine medical checks as well as vaccinations and all are eating well.”
An old flame has also been rekindled. Jazz was reunited with his former companion, a lioness named Mavi who arrived with the first wave of cats in 2007.
“They finally live with the peace and dignity they deserve,” says Dr. Khalil. “We hope that Lionsrock will be the future home of many such big cats from South Africa and abroad.”
Today, Lionsrock is a safe haven for the animals where hunting, breeding and trading are prohibited. It also serves as a tourist attraction. Guests can stay on the grounds and hike, bird-watch, and even host banquets and weddings.
Although rescuing animals represents the lion's share of Four Paws' work, the organization is also helping build the surrounding community, too.
“Lionsrock has created more than 100 jobs and we use only local construction companies,” Ms. Miles says. “We are also developing a mobile clinic to assist the community and to provide support to the government as they educate local people on animal welfare.” –Libby Ellis
CASE BY CASE OCTOBER 2008 WWW.PMI.ORG
PMI research shows project teams that draw from an array of perspectives and skillsets deliver powerful outcomes.