If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll have recently seen me sharing some news coverage of the WWF ‘Living Planet Index’ – a study which aimed to capture a global overview of the world’s animal populations. The index calculated that in the last 40 years, wildlife across land, rivers and the seas has been decimated as humans killed them for food or body parts in unsustainable numbers, while polluting or destroying their habitats. In short, we have lost half of the earth’s wildlife in just four decades.
Is it just me that feels such grief when reading this statistic? Is it just me that feels so angry at, and simultaneously ashamed of my species? Am I the only one who continued to scour the news in disbelief as this story disappeared under a pile of other ‘news’ as quickly as it had arrived? It can’t be just me, can it?
A warning, for anyone who reads this blog regularly – expect me to be harping on about this for a long time. But for now, I want to focus on a charity who are fully aware of the issues that our wildlife is facing all over the world, who have been doing amazing things for almost 20 years to try to conserve some of the best-loved endangered species on earth – the big cats.
The WHF Big Cat Sanctuary
The WHF Big Cat Sanctuary is situated in Ashford, and houses almost sixty ‘very endangered’ big cats including beautiful clouded leopards, tigers, lions and jaguars. Their mission statement is “Conservation, Procreation, Liberation”. But what does this mean?
- Conservation – The sanctuary aims to take in animals who have retired from circuses and zoos or have come from private collections so that they may live out the rest of their lives in a comfortable and appropriate environment.
- Procreation – Many animals in captivity have been bred in unsuitable pairs and are plagued with health problems, others are hybrids or animals with unnatural characteristics – like white tigers, who would never survive in the wild. The Big Cat Sanctuary aims to bring together excellent breeding pairs of genetically healthy animals in order to preserve the continuation of each species through reproduction, whilst also caring for the non-breeding animals in their charge.
- Liberation – Ideally, the park aims to return animals to the wild, but only where their future safety can be guaranteed and the surrounding environment is not considered too dangerous. The sanctuary’s ultimate goal is to be able to breed animals for scientifically based re-introduction projects all over the world.
Visit the WHF Big Cat Sanctuary
The most important thing to know about The WHF Big Cat Sanctuary is that it’s closed to the public – in fact, this place couldn’t be further from the tourist merry-go-round that is London Zoo. This makes for a far less stressful environment for the animals, and also means that anyone who does book to privately visit the park gets to really learn in depth about the animals that are housed there.
One of my favourite ways of seeing the sanctuary is to book in for a Photography Workshop, where visitors not only learn about the cats, but also about the best ways to photograph them at close quarters.
Alternatively, ‘Big Cat Encounters‘ are also bookable at the sanctuary, and will even allow you to get up close and hand feed a big cat of your choice.
Yes I did it, and yes I crapped my pants!
Stay at the WHF Big Cat Sanctuary
Imagine waking up to the roar of a Lion, or falling asleep in the evening knowing that almost 60 big cats are also settling down for the night around you.
Amazingly, this can be a reality in the middle of rural Kent, as the WHF Big Cat Sanctuary have recently built four luxury lodges on site. For £750 per night, per lodge, two people can enjoy a guided tour of the site and all of it’s animals on their arrival afternoon, followed by a specially prepared evening meal plus wine and champagne, and then wake up the next morning to experience hand-feeding one of the big cats. As you can imagine, this is now ranking pretty highly on my life’s bucket list!
Support the WHF Big Cat Sanctuary
My visit to the WHF Big Cat Santuary couldn’t have come at a more relevant time. We are losing our wildlife all over the world, and it’s not just the amazing animals like these endangered big cats, but our indigenous birds and animals too.
Though captivity is an uncomfortable thought for some people, it’s clear to see that the work of the WHF is designed with the benefit of the animals first in mind – this isn’t a theme park, the animals aren’t subjected to hours of noise and stress, and the desire to ensure the survival of these animals and return them to the wild in the future underpins everything that they do. It really is a special place. If you really love big cats, please, pay them a visit.
You donate to the WHF, sponsor one of their amazing big cats, or book in for one of their incredible experience days by visiting www.whf.org.uk.