As of last week, The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve in South Africa decided to end their cub petting experience.
For 30 years, the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve has shared its love of wildlife with South Africans and visitors from around the world. But times have changed. Under the new ownership of the Bothongo Group, the reserve is refocusing its efforts on animal welfare.
“As new owners, we have acknowledged that what was acceptable in 1990 when the reserve first opened to the public, may no longer be acceptable in 2019,” Jessica Khupe, Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve Brand Manager, said in a statement.
While it is understandable that humans have always wanted to get up close and personal with wild animals, Khupe explained that studies indicate that it is not good for animal welfare.
“Recent campaigns have highlighted the global problem of cub petting and unscrupulous operators both locally and abroad. Simply put, it is not necessary to touch an animal to connect with the importance of wildlife conservation,” continued Khupe. “We would also like to make it very clear that we are utterly opposed to the abhorrent canned hunting and lion bone trade.”
Over the past few months, while under new stewardship, the reserve has initiated a three-year plan to upgrade all of its public facilities, habitats and wildlife enclosures, which will be renovated around the welfare and wellbeing of its animals; many of which are endangered species.
Recently appointed Chief Operations Officer of the reserve, Mike Fynn, further explained that The Rhino and Nature Reserve will now solely focus on educating the public about wildlife and the importance of conservation.
According to Fynn the reserve team will dedicate themselves to a new internal mantra of being a ‘nurture reserve,’ which includes:
Striving to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse group of animals, and working with local and international institutions ensuring that the reserve contributes to the long-term survival of endangered and threatened species.
Pledging not to sell or exchange any of their animals, especially lions, unless it is to a reputable accredited facility and or licensed wildlife institution.
Breeding animals only if it serves a conservation purpose.