THROUGH THE EYES OF THE KEEPERS (BLOG 10)

29 November 2019

Sandra Kuijmans

 

A long blog this time, because so much happened recently at Stichting Leeuw!

Exciting times

The past few weeks were quite exciting. Simba, Isolde, Hugo and Ambra were moving to South Africa. Working towards this event is like a roller coaster, with occasionally a moment when you realize you’ll have to say goodbye soon. We all had a good relationship with these four lions, each in our own way. After all, each of these four have quite a distinct personality, which we will miss. Totally different from each other, but all of them nice. Two unique couples that so much deserve to enjoy South Africa. For my colleague Daphne it was the most stressful. She arranged all the paperwork for the transport, the necessary inspections and the health checks. Even though she’s done it all before, it’s still a relief when it’s all over. Colleague Saskia did a lot of crate training with the lions, which was going to be put to the test now. Colleague Jurjen did a lot of practical work in the last week; do the crates close safely, do the locks fit, can they be sealed? The crates need to be water-sealed and cleaned. Of course, the four lions were allowed to hunt in the hunting simulator one more time the day before they left.

The transport crates are ready

The moment arrived. Moving day. Everybody was a little bit nervous, hoping the loading of the crates would go smoothly. We discussed the sequence of loading. Early afternoon we closed the Stichting Leeuw building, to load the lions without being disturbed. The vet arrived, in case one of the animals needed sedating. We secured the first transport crate to the inside enclosure and let Hugo come inside.

For Hugo this was ‘just another training session’, the only difference being that the crate was closed after him. We then pushed him outside and into the van. One down, three to go.

Hugo in the transport crate

It was Ambra’s turn, and she too was happy to enter the crate. She was completely at ease and even seemed to enjoy the whole thing. In the picture below she is just ‘killing’ a piece of meat before she swallows it.

She was curious to see where she was going. When she was parked next to Hugo in the van, she lay down, quite relaxed. She even greeted us when we talked to her, by pushing her nose against the hatch of the transport crate. This was a piece of cake!

Hugo and Ambra in the van

Now Simba. Simba also quickly stepped into the crate, thanks to the crate training, which was necessary because Simba tends to be more distrustful than Hugo and Ambra. And then then the tricky one, Isolde. She is, like Simba, also quite wary, so she also needed more crate training than Hugo and Ambra. It took a while, but eventually even Isolde got into the crate without sedation. What a relief! They’re all in the vans, within an hour and fifteen minutes! Simba and Isolde were loaded into a second van.

Simba and Isolde in the van

The two vans (Saskia also accompanied them to Schiphol) drove to the airport. Jurjen and I stood in front of Stichting Leeuw, watching the vans leave. ‘There they go’, we said to each other. Back to the order of the day, because the other animals needed feeding. When we got to the enclosures of the four lions, it was strange to see them empty, especially Hugo and Ambra’s empty firehose bed, where they would lie in together (every day!). Suddenly you realize they’re gone for real.

Hugo and Ambra’s empty firehose bed

At the end of the day, when all lions started roaring at the same time (as they always do after dinner), the symphony lacked a lot of volume.
The next morning we followed the flight on flight radar and as soon as they had landed, there was relief again. Once the paperwork was approved, the lions were loaded onto the truck and were moved to Emoya. We waited anxiously for news and pictures from Robert and Patrick from Johannesburg. Finally the good news came, with nice pictures! That same day the four lions were allowed into their temporary enclosures in Emoya. They all came out unscathed. Finally they can enjoy their peace and quiet. And we too! The whole event was a big success.

Move Simba B

Because the four lions left, we had two spare enclosures. One of them is for Cesar and Elsa and the other for Simba B, who so far shared his outside enclosure with Remy. So, Simba moved to Hugo and Ambra’s old enclosure. Simba had a very busy day. He examined everything in his new outside home and made his acquaintance (through the cracks of the fence) with his new neighbours. There was some roaring going on, but they soon made their peace. Simba B also loves the firehose beds, and he now has not only an extra big one in his inside enclosure (Hugo and Ambra’s), but also one outside! The main thing is, of course, that both Simba B and Remy have their own enclosure and can go outside the whole day. Even so, they spend half the day inside…

VIDEO SIMBA B OUTSIDE

Cesar and Elsa

With the four lions gone, it was time to move Cesar and Elsa from the quarantine to Stichting Leeuw. It took only a few days of crate training to get Cesar to walk into the transport crate, ready to move. Elsa was no problem at all; from the first training session on she played in the crate. Elsa is bold, not easily scared and extremely playful! She immediately took to the transport crate; even more room to play! At Stichting Leeuw they both did so well, that after one night inside, they were allowed to go outside the next morning. That too went very well. They immediately started examining the enclosure and quickly started playing again. Especially Elsa, who challenges Cesar and bites his behind. But Cesar was still busy exploring his new surroundings. Anyway, they seem to like their new home. It’s still a bit strange to see all these new animals instead of Hugo & Ambra and Simba & Isolde, but change is a good thing at Stichting Leeuw. It’s part of our mission. We expect that Cesar and Elsa will soon be ready to go into the big hall and start showing their hunting skills.

VIDEO CESAR AND ELSA GOING OUTSIDE