The Lions Foundation aims to provide a comfortable life to all lions that arrive in the sanctuary. All animals have different requirements. From the start, when the lions arrive at the rescue facilities of Stichting Leeuw in the Netherlands, we aim to stimulate their natural instincts and behaviour, by means of our hands-off policy, strict rules around the lions, natural fencing and structural enrichment.
Stimulating natural behaviour
In the interest of the animals, The Lions Foundation tries to imitate the natural surroundings of the lions as closely as possible. These animals spent most of their lives in a circus or an animal park. Their lives changed dramatically when they were given a home at Stichting Leeuw, with much more space to live in and room to develop their natural instincts. This was achieved by a strict hands-off policy and as little interaction with the lions as possible.
At Stichting Leeuw
When the lions arrived at Stichting Leeuw, some of them were displaying stereotypical behaviour. Some were scared, nervous or even aggressive. They physical state varied from underfed and ill, to overfed and apathic. Everything was undertaken to improve the well-being of the lions. Their physical health was improved by feeding them the right kind of meat and the right amount of food, enriched with food supplements. They also get the right amount of exercise, by letting them play in the big hall or letting them ‘hunt’ with the hunting simulator. Their mental health was improved by surrounding the outside enclosures with a natural fence, so that the animals feel safe, by adhering to a strict hands-off policy and by continually bonding with the keepers. The animals receive health training, which means that each lion is being trained, on a voluntary basis, by the keepers a couple of times a week, to enable the vet to easily do routine checkups and treatments, without having to sedate the animal. The training also improves the bond of trust between lion and keeper, and it is enrichment in the daily lives of the animals – it proved to be a lot of fun for them!
The effects of all efforts on the animals’ well-being is continually being studied and observed, by for instance biology students and of course by the keepers and volunteers. The results of these studies are used to improve the quality of life of the rescued animals wherever possible. The research on the well-being of the lions doesn’t stop when they are returned to their natural habitat.
Home at The Lions Foundation
After a life in the circus and some time at the rescue facility of Stichting Leeuw in the Netherlands, living at The Lions Foundation in South Africa is the closest these predators will ever get to living in the wild. Because all lions at the foundation were kept in captivity their whole lives, they cannot survive in the wild. They are not used to natural enemies, have not learned to find their place in a pride and have never had to hunt for their own food. Therefore, Stichting Leeuw relocates the lions to an enclosed natural reserve in their land of origin, where they can be closely observed.
At The Lions Foundation, the lions thrive in the climate and habitat that they are naturally equipped for. The foundation, like Stichting Leeuw, has a strict hands-off policy and there is as little interaction with the lions as possible. The lions live in round enclosures, so that they feel there’s no end to their relative freedom when they are walking around. There are enough bushes and trees to hide or find shade from the African sun. The lions are regularly given enrichment, prepared by the volunteers at The Lions Foundation. They are normally fed six times a week and they always have clean drinking water. The training they received at Stichting Leeuw continues at The Lions Foundation.
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