Full circle as two lions return home to LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary
Uhuru and Jua were purchased in 2006 and saved from the canned hunting industry
Cape Town, 21.11.2019 – Two white lions, originally born on the property which FOUR PAWS turned into its LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary, have returned home on Wednesday, 20 November 2019.
Uhuru and Jua, two siblings now 12 years old, are the offspring of Konquela – a white lioness who was kept as a breeding machine on the farm. Michele Higginson, businesswoman from Johannesburg and owner of the lions, visited the property in 2006 only to realise the fate that all the animals then faced. Desperate to get the animals out of harm’s way, she started a long process via a third party to purchase eight lions.
“The one night that I stayed at the farm to investigate a little lion cub came into my room: clearly distressed, tired, in need of mothering and wearing a dog collar. From that very moment, I realised that something needed to be done and that these animals should get out of here as quickly as possible,” says Higginson.
In the process of purchasing six lions, Konquela gave birth to Uhuru and Jua – now also the responsibility of Higginson. After almost a year of negotiations and looking for an appropriate home for the lions, she found a refuge for them on a secluded reserve in the Karoo, Eastern Cape.
“When Konquela was released at the reserve in her new enclosure, I could see her appreciation of finally being able to keep her cubs and being free from the danger she faced. Together, she had eleven good years with her offspring,” says Higginson.
Uhuru (which means Freedom in Swahili) and Jua (meaning Sun) have reached a new stage in their life, needing more frequent monitoring and specialised care – which is why they have come to LIONSROCK.
“When lions reach a certain age, we need to carefully monitor them for any health problems. This can range from dental problems, osteoporosis, arthritis or other problems which could be a result from early development,” says Hildegard Pirker, head of the animal welfare department at LIONSROCK.
Uhuru and Jua has a very close bond and have been released together in the feeding area of a 1-hectare enclosure at LIONSROCK. “As they are already used to freedom and a big enclosure, we will release them in the feeding area first to monitor their behaviour, but in all likelihood, they will be released into the bigger part of their enclosure within the next few days,” says Pirker.
The arrival of Uhuru and Jua reminds Fiona Miles, director of FOUR PAWS in South Africa, about the time when the organisation negotiated the purchase of the farm.
“At the time of negotiating the purchase of the property, we knew that Konquela along with her cubs would leave, but despite this, we knew they were in safe hands and going to a place where they’d be looked after in a species-appropriate way. It is heart-warming that they’ve been able to live a life unhindered by human interaction, and it is a great privilege to welcome them home.”