WELCOME TO THE LIONS FOUNDATION
Thank you for choosing to volunteer at The Lions Foundation and our Rescue & Conservation Centre. We will explain everything you will need to know to prepare for your trip and volunteer experience.
The Lions Foundation is located on Schrikkloof Private Nature Reserve in the Limpopo province of South Africa. TLF was founded with the intention of providing big cats that have been used in circuses, in the tourist or hunting industry, as pets or that were illegally trafficked, a safe forever home in an environment as close to nature as possible. The Lions Foundation is a sister organization of Stichting Leeuw in the Netherlands. Stichting Leeuw rescues, rehabilitates, and shelters big cats and if possible, relocates them to The Lions Foundation, for the well-being of the cats and to make room in the Netherlands for new animals in need.
As a non-profit organisation we are dependent on the compassion and generosity of our donors and volunteers, without whom we would not be able to continue with our work. Your help makes it possible for us to continue working to provide direct protection and rehabilitation for captive big cats and other wild animals.
We are very passionate about our work, and I’m thrilled to know that others actively share our mission. You will be happy to know that all funds that are donated, and part of your fee to volunteer with us, goes directly into the care of the animals at the sanctuary, in the form of food, medicine, new enclosures, enrichments and veterinary care.
As a volunteer you will be expected to respect our rules regarding the animals for their well-being and your own safety. We expect all volunteers to work as a team and assist where help is needed around the sanctuary and the estate. Some jobs may not be directly with the wildlife, but they are just as important, and keep us as a sanctuary functioning and working. We also ask everyone to come with a good work ethics and positive attitude, and of course a passion for animals, including their welfare and conservation.
We hope you will enjoy your stay with us and help our animals to the best of your ability.
On behalf of the animals, we thank you for choosing to volunteer with us.
Robert Kruijff Albert Le Roux
Director Stichting Leeuw Director The Lions Foundation Founder
ABOUT THE LIONS FOUNDATION
In the whole world, big cats are abused and exploited for profit and human gratification. There are many examples of animal exploitation within the tourist industry, for example, photo animals, animals performing in degrading shows, and canned hunting. There is still a thriving illegal trade in big cats for pets and ‘medicine’.
The major goals of our organisation are:
- To rescue captive big cats and rehabilitate them as far as is feasible, allowing them to live the rest of their lives in a safe environment, as close to nature as possible and providing them with the best care possible.
- To educate and encourage people to appreciate, understand and protect wildlife and their natural habitats through education. Tours are given regularly to visitors of the lodge at the reserve with the aim of raising awareness for the plight of big cats.
- To assist in and develop new projects involved in the protection, rehabilitation, humane captive environments, and welfare of all wild animals.
TLF was founded in 2019 by Stichting Leeuw, with the help of a few major donors who acquired Schrikkloof Private Nature Reserve, which they made available to The Lions Foundation. TLF is an NGO (non-governmental organisation). We receive help from many individual donors, most of them in the Netherlands, companies, and foundations with a passion for big cats. Albert Le Roux, born and raised in South Africa, heads this project with the help from a team of full-time staff, mostly local, and a team of international volunteers who pay for their stay. Without the dedication of volunteers, TLF would not be able to continue to help these animals. We have volunteers from all over the world. Mostly, volunteers are from Europe, America, Australia, and New Zealand, with a broad age range from 18 to 80. They represent various backgrounds from gap-year students, wildlife conservation/ animal husbandry related students and scientists, career-breakers, and retirees. Everyone must live and work together, so it is important to be considerate and respectful to others and be flexible with an open mind.
We are passionate about the well-being of as many big cats and other animal we can rescue and shelter. We hope you are too.
THE LIONS FOUNDATION
Since the start, The Lions Foundation has given shelter to dozens of big cats. Many of these were rescued from circuses, private possession and zoos by Stichting Leeuw in the Netherlands and were rehabilitated and relocated to TLF to their forever home. These cats can, unfortunately, not be released back to the wild. They have not learnt to hunt, some of them were bottle-fed, declawed and/or defanged. They simply would not be able to fend for themselves in the wild. At TLF they live on 1.5 ha of savannah land and are well taken care of.
The Lions Foundation is the perfect place for volunteering with big cats. We require a team of dedicated volunteers throughout the year. With us, you will have the amazing opportunity to volunteer in South Africa working with animals and helping us to care for a wide variety of wildlife.
South Africa has rich biological diversity. However, sadly increasingly, humans are influencing the lives of many beautiful animals. Big cats are turned into breeding machines, used as entertainment, or discarded by animal parks. Donkeys are being abused or left to die. Monkeys are exploited, injured, or taken from their mothers. Rhinos are poached, orphaning their young. The list goes on and on. TLF is trying its best to get those animals out of the miserable conditions they are living in.
At the sanctuary you will find lions and tigers in enclosures and donkeys roaming free in a very large enclosure. On the reserve, there are many indigenous animal species to monitor and flora to be maintained.
Where feasible we try to provide the rescued animals within our care an environment as close to “nature” as possible. Our overall objective will always be to rehabilitate and release these animals back to the wild. Unfortunately for the big cats at the sanctuary, this is often difficult and, in most cases, not feasible at all.
The sanctuary always needs help from animal lovers and wildlife enthusiasts whether in the form of volunteer work, donations, or professional help such as veterinary experience. Although difficult at times, the volunteer work at TLF is highly rewarding.
We take our rescue and shelter work very seriously. Please be aware the TLF is strictly hands off. Volunteers will have little physical interaction with animals but will provide the essential daily and long-term needs of the animals, such as feeding, cleaning enclosures, and providing stimulation in the form of behavioural and environmental enrichments. Only our donkeys need physical attention in the form of brushing and checking them.
Located on Schrikkloof Private Nature Reserve is also a beautiful lodge, with 10 rooms for tourists, mostly people passionate about nature and big cats specifically. All proceeds of the exploitation of this lodge go to The Lions Foundation. Volunteers are occasionally asked to help the lodge staff if there is a special event.
In 2023 Schrikkloof acquired a derelict predator zoo, bordering on the Schrikkloof Reserve. Here, native predators were showcased and also bred for hunting or illegal purposes. We saved this park and its animals, and are turning it into a Rescue & Conservation Centre. Volunteers will stay at the accommodation at this park – just imagine sleeping close to leopard, caracal, serval, wild dog, hyena, black-footed cat, mongoose and many more South African species. In addition to their work at The Lions Foundation, volunteers will also work and care for the animals at the Schrikkloof Rescue & Conservation Centre. It would be great if you could contribute to this important rescue work.
The big cats
If you wish to interact ethically with big cats, learn more about them and the problems they face, and be a part of the solution, TLF is the place to come to and volunteer. TLF is an NSPCA-accredited sanctuary.
The savannah land of our nature reserve gives our rescued big cats the chance to roam around in near natural surroundings. We have enclosed large pieces of land to make these bushlands their home. Our big cat enclosures are 1.5 hectares with natural bushes and trees. We couple most of them, if possible, so they can live together. They each have a separation area, where they are released upon arrival, where they are fed and monitored.
Most of the big cats were relocated from Stichting Leeuw in the Netherlands. They rescued them from circuses, private possession, and other bad circumstances, like war zones in Ukraine. When they are rehabilitated to good physical and mental health, and when enough funds are raised, Stichting Leeuw brings them to TLF, to live happily ever after.
Apart from Africa’s pride, the lion, we also have tigers. Even though these majestic animals do not occur naturally on the African continent, we feel that the tigers that were sheltered at Stichting Leeuw in the Netherlands, also deserve the very best. The South African climate suits them very well.Both lions and tigers are endangered species. Even though our big cat project cannot help the populations in a practical manner, we can create awareness about the plight of lions and tigers, by educating our visitors and volunteers, both in South Africa and in the Netherlands.
The support of our volunteers is essential to the ER. We have created a sanctuary for big cats to retire and be given the respect that these amazing creatures deserve. When volunteering with the big cats, you will help them by providing essential care such as preparing food and enrichments and assisting the caretakers in every possible way.
However, it cannot be stressed enough that around the big cats we have a very strict hands-off policy. There is absolutely no petting or feeding the animals by volunteers. You will be instructed on how close you are allowed to get to the fencing, and you will always be accompanied by a caretaker or experienced person.
Volunteers with The Lions Foundation will spend their time with the animal caretakers and reserve manager, following a daily schedule. This includes the following:
- Prepare meat for the individual big cats
- Assist the caretakers with feeding the big cats
- Clean the feeding facility and materials after feeding
- Prepare and distribute behavioural enrichments
- Observe animal behaviour
- Clean enclosures, including scrubbing pools
- Assist the security staff at night
- Feed the rescue donkeys
- Groom the rescue donkeys
- Clean enclosures and help build new enclosures at the Rescue & Conservation Centre
- Assist the caretakers with feeding all animals at the Rescue & Conservation Centre
- Assist the reserve manager and staff taking care of and observing the reserve wildlife
- Place, replace and inspect camera traps on the reserve and watch and report on footage
- Carry out general reserve maintenance including maintaining fences, fire corridors and roads, plant grasses and trees
- Educate visitors of TLF
- On occasion help out at Schrikkloof Lodge
To become a volunteer with us you need to fulfil the following criteria:
You must be in good physical and mental condition
– You must be able to speak reasonable English
– You must be 18 years old or over
– You must have a positive and practical attitude towards animal welfare and wildlife conservation
HOW YOUR VOLUNTEER FEE IS SPENT
When you volunteer at TLF, the fee you paid is divided in two parts:
Volunteer housing and food
Part of your fee goes to your stay here, including all your meals, water, accommodation, and the staff that help look after you during your stay.
The other part of your fee goes to helping us care for the animals and the general running costs of The Lions Foundation and the Rescue & Conservation Centre, as well as the staff needed to help care for our animals. Without you, the volunteers, we would be unable to help as many animals as we do.
Our volunteer partner organisations may charge a small commission fee to help arrange your experience here, and without them we would not get as many volunteers to help us.