The first excursion I chose to go on after arriving for my volunteering program at Glen Afric was a combo trip to Harties Cableway and an animal park called Predator’s Pride, both of which are in Hartbeespoort. The cableway was our first stop, and admittedly I was very hungover this day as we had had lots of drinks the night before, so I was feeling rather delicate, shall we say, for most of the morning. But I was determined not to let this dampen my spirits, so after a couple of dodgy dashes to the bathroom, I was ready to have a good day! This was my first experience going in a cable car and the views going up to the top of the Magaliesberg mountain range were beautifully scenic, I may have even forgotten my hangover for like 3 minutes…
Upon reaching the top of the mountain we had time to walk around and soak in the magnificent views of Hartbeespoort Dam and the surrounding area, as well as grab a drink and some snacks at the little cafes at the top.
Once we had headed back down the cable car to flat ground, we then drove over to Predator’s Pride to go and see all of the animals there. Now this was a new park that was set up very recently in the area, and Zoi who was in charge of organising excursions at Glen Afric said that no volunteers had ever been there before; we would be the first. She expressed that they don’t know how ethical the place is etc, and made it clear that if we thought it was an unethical place, then they would not send anymore volunteers there afterwards. She encouraged us to ask the people who worked there lots of questions to try and suss out whether they could be linked to canned hunting and whether they breed their animals and sell them on etc. So we went in with a view of finding out whether this was a good or bad place.
From the moment we entered the park, it was quite evident that this place was definitely not good. The enclosures were a hell of a lot smaller than at Glen Afric and as we walked around, a lot of the bigger animals looked groggy and zoned out. We came across a shabby enclosure full of fully grown white lions, all of whom were huddled together laying down in a little concrete cove in the enclosure. They stared back through the wire at us blankly – we all came to the conclusion that these poor, beautiful animals had probably been drugged.
The park also had two leopards on the property who were sharing one enclosure. One of the leopards was actually a black leopard, yet within the enclosure there was hardly any shady areas made for the leopards to escape the boiling African sun. We could tell that they were baking. Another thing some of us noticed was that all of the animals’ water was put in metal bowls, which were left out in the sun all day long – meaning they must have warmed up very quickly, making the water very hot as well as putting the animals at risk of getting a nasty burn from the hot metal. It was just not very nice at all walking around there.
The tour of the property ended with interactions with some animals in two separate enclosures. The first enclosure had two little scruffy cheetah cubs. Their enclosure was quite large seeing as they were only tiny, but it was still quite bare with just a couple of dying trees and a concrete well for their water. They were beautiful little things and it was bittersweet playing with and stroking them, I just wanted to snatch them out of there and take them to a better place.
The second enclosure contained two little lion cubs and a tiger cub all in together. It was a very grotty looking enclosure, mostly made up of concrete and brick and everything was very dirty with not much grass or anything for the poor things. One thing I can mention is that these little guys were definitely not drugged; they were extremely energetic and playful – especially the tiger cub (this tends to be the norm as tigers in general are bigger and bouncier than their smaller lion relatives who tend to be a tad lazier) who was called Parker (after Richard Parker in Life of Pi). Sometimes he would get a little too playful and the staff would carefully step in to prevent us being scratched or bitten too hard. Again, this was another bittersweet experience, the happiness that we should have felt playing with and being up close with all of these gorgeous little cubs was overshadowed by the ominous future that they could possibly face and the potential dark intentions of the park.
All the way round all of us volunteers were constantly firing questions at the member of staff who was showing us around. We found out that the park does breed all of it’s animals, with each female having around 3 lots of cubs a year!! This was obviously awful news to us animal lovers and was a massive red flag. The guide also informed us that they do sometimes sell the cubs on – another red flag that some of these poor cubs are likely to end up in a canned hunting facility.
After out trip here it was very easy to reach the decision that this was in no way a good place for the animals, and no future volunteer should ever visit or support this kind of thing. Glen Afric had also previously stopped sending volunteers to visit Lion Park which was a similar facility that was also linked to canned hunting. So if you ever find yourself heading to South Africa and Hartbeespoort and you consider yourself a lover of animals, please never visitor Predator’s Pride or Lion Park!
Do your research and only visit places who look after their animals very well, who do not breed or sell their animals for any reason and who keep their animals for their entire lifespan!