A heartbreaking lion story with a happy ending

My heart beats wildly all morning on my way to Panthera Africa. Lizaene confirmed I could visit Karlos and Ivana in their new forever home and feelings of happiness, sadness, excitement, and apprehension are all mixed into one big emotional mess.

Karlos and Ivana are the eight months old lion cubs that were rescued by the NSPCA in April 2019 from deplorable conditions at Steinman’s farm in Lichtenberg. Two other siblings weren’t so lucky and were later euthanised.

At the time, these cubs were unable to stand. Paddling on the ground, to try and move away from their own faecal matter. Their front and back legs seemed paralysed. Their heads bobbing involuntarily.

Watching the video footage taken at the time and witnessing the immense suffering these cubs endured by the hands of humans, still shatters my heart in a million pieces.

Dr Peter Caldwell at the Old Chapel Veterinary Clinic has been treating these two cubs and monitoring their progress for months. He believes that they were taken away from their mothers too early and suffered nutritional deficiencies, which compromised their immune system. They subsequently contracted a Meningoencephalitis infection of the brain and spinal cord, severely limiting their ability to move and even use their tongue to drink.

Video credit: NSPCA with footage from Old Chapel Vet, NSPCA, and Panthera Africa.

Sadly, this is not a one-off case of cruelty and neglect, as a follow up NSPCA inspection of Pienika Farm in July 2019 proved. These kind of conditions present at many farms in South Africa are the direct result of the intensive captive breeding of lions (and other big cats) and the increasingly profit-driven commodification of lion products. When the only financial interest is the lion skeleton, breeders have no incentive to keep the animal healthy.

Karlos and Ivana’s recovery has been painstakingly slow and still have a long way to go. For now, they remain wobbly on their feet and have to build more muscle, but they have grown into two beautiful and playful lion cubs. I am certain that with the love, dedication and special care they will receive at Panthera Africa, they are given the best chance of a full recovery.

I need to be honest, I had my doubts when the NSPCA together with Dr Caldwell decided to let them live. Their future looked extremely bleak, but watching brother and sister play in their new home is hugely encouraging and uplifting.

Their sheer will to survive and their fighting spirit gives me hope.
* Hope that they will be the living story of the animal welfare and cruelty horrors playing out in our captive lion breeding industry.
* Hope they can raise further awareness to bring an end to this abhorrent industry.
* Hope that their suffering has not been in vain.
* Hope that from now on they can enjoy a healthy and happy lion life.

The words “thank you” for those dedicating their lives to animals like Karlos and Ivana is completely inadequate. I am unable to find the language to express my gratitude to people like Douglas Wolhuter, Dr Peter Caldwell and Lizaene Cornwall. They bring hope and light to my sometimes dark and broken heart, when dealing with such heinous cases of animal cruelty and neglect.

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