News

Through the eyes of the keepers (blog 16)

Sandra Kuijmans

11 September 2020,

Curtains

Downstairs at Stichting Leeuw, around the big hall, there are curtains we can close. They are made of sturdy materials, which are urine-resistant (since our animals spray a lot) and can easily be cleaned. These curtains make the daily activities much easier. All inside enclosures are located around the big hall. Thanks to the curtains we can have animals in their inside enclosures and at the same time have animals in the big hall. Without curtains the animals will want to fight each other. They can’t reach each other of course, as there is fencing and a hallway between them, but they might hurt themselves trying. Also, it would give them a lot of stress, which is not good for their well-being. Before we had these curtains, we had to choose: animals in the big hall and the rest outside or animals inside and the big hall empty. Thankfully this is all in the past. We can have things happening in the big hall and at the same time clean outside enclosures or feed animals inside. We can also close animals that don’t want to go outside, off from the big hall. So, if you see curtains closed, it means that there are animals behind them in the inside enclosures, for whatever reason.

Deworming
Treating and preventing worm infections is something we pay a lot of attention to. This is important when you have so many animals close together. Our colleague Daphne regularly examines scat, so that we can detect new infections quickly. We also deworm all animals twice a year and make sure we disinfect all our cleaning equipment daily. Maybe you’re thinking why don’t you deworm more regularly so you don’t have to do the scat examinations? We prefer not to, for two reasons. The first is that we try to do everything in the most natural way possible, so we don’t want to give unnecessary medication. This makes scat examinations very important. The second reason is that if you use a certain deworming medicine too often, there’s a chance that the parasites gradually become resistant to it. If that happens the medicine becomes useless and you have to find another one. For dogs and cats this is not a problem, as they need only small doses, but for tigers and lions it’s a whole other story. We use a liquid medicine for our animals, which we inject into the food (meat or goose). This way we can control the dose and can be sure the animals eat it.

How are things with

Akilla

Akilla

Akilla is quite shy. For a long time, she would hide in a corner of her inside or outside enclosure as soon as she saw someone she didn’t know. She would only relax, play and talk in the company of the keepers. Now, it’s quite different! She likes going outside and comes running if we call her in. She talks a lot, also to people she doesn’t see often, like the volunteers. She loves to play with everything that moves. When we arrive with the food cart, she will be waiting at the hatch. She eats anything, but prefers beef, rabbit and poultry.

Fred and Ginger

Ginger

Fred

A couple which can’t live without, but sometimes also not with each other. The size of their enclosure doesn’t help with the latter. Fred can be quite dominant, and Ginger has to become invisible if that happens. Usually this quarrel is about a bit of leftover food or a lost bone. They each have their own favourite spot in their outside enclosure, but they always keep a close eye on each other. Both want to be the first inside when it’s feeding time. They’re not choosy when it comes to food, they both will eat anything, but Fred tops everything. He’s a real greedy guts and leaves nothing but some tiny pieces of bone. If fed whole animals he will leave nothing, except the feathers of geese. At the moment their new enclosure is being built, which is a lot bigger than their current one. It will be not only big, but also high. Our colleague Jurjen has been very busy decorating their new home, with climbing options, a pond and greenery. It’s going to be stunning!

Sya and Chen

Sya

Chen

Sisters Sya and Chen lead a quiet life. They’re definitely a duo, but don’t spend much time together. They just live together, without fights. They keep an eye on one another and regularly pay each other a visit in one of their cabins. They do not like crowds and visits. They like to lie high up so that they can watch everything. When it’s feeding time, they have a set routine. Sya comes inside first through one hatch. Then Chen enters through the other hatch. Always the same. These ladies aren’t particularly choosy either. They eat it all, from chicken necks to tripe and from rabbit to beef.

Vincent and Noelle

Noëlle and Vincent

A love story. These two have been inseparable since they were matched. They follow each other everywhere and always sleep close together in one of their cabins. Vincent is always the bellwether. Curious as he is, he always comes racing in when the hatch opens. Noelle follows a bit later and needs to know if it’s worth the trouble. Vincent eats everything and sometimes likes to play with his food first. Noelle is a bit choosier and is not always hungry. She also eats more slowly than Vincent, which is not hard, as he eats as if his life depended on it! He comes running inside so fast that he brakes against the fence with a sliding. And no, that doesn’t make him unlearn this habit.

Donor Day 2020 cancelled

We are sad to report that this year we will not organise a Donor Day. We tried to find a solution, but as we expect more than 1000 people at Stichting Leeuw, we cannot guarantee 1.5 meter distance. Only 80 people fit on the balcony to watch the hunting sessions. Some animals have more than 100 adoptive parents, so it would be impossible for everyone to watch their adopted animal in action. Also, the restaurant cannot fit everyone while adhering to the distance measures.
We will try to have the Donor Day in the spring of 2021. This is of course dependent on the development of Covid-19.
We hope you can understand our decision.

We mailed this message 9/9 to all our donors and adoptive parents, but unfortunately sometimes the email gets lost or ends up in the spambox.

Too hot for hunting sessions

6 August 2020

It will be hot the next couple of days. There’s a good chance the hunting sessions will be cancelled. We apologize for the inconvenience, but the well-being of our animals alwasy has priority.

THROUGH THE EYES OF THE KEEPERS (BLOG 15)

Sandra Kuijmans and Patrick Bos

26 July 2020

How do we keep our animals busy and mentally strong?

The answer: Enrichment!!

What is enrichment and why do we give it?
In the wild, big cats deal with new stimuli in their environment every day. They are curious by nature and like to investigate everything. This is how cubs learn what is dangerous and what is not, for instance by meeting snakes or porcupines, a stray twig, a bush, things like that. Scents are very important too. Through scents they can detect prey, but also the presence of rivals. Like we read a newspaper, big cats ‘read’ their environment through scents.
If we wouldn’t provide enrichment for our animals, they would be reading the same newspaper every day. You can imagine that they would get bored quickly. To investigate the same object every day, or lack of objects, means a lack of stimuli, which causes boredom. This could lead to stereotypical behaviour.
Boredom and lack of stimuli are two different things though. An animal can be presented with new toys regularly, but not be interested at all. There is no lack of stimuli, but the animal still gets bored. This brings us to the answer to our question ‘What is enrichment?’
Enrichment is only enrichment if the animal is interested in it.

Types of enrichment

Food enrichment
Food enrichment simply means presenting food in a less accessible way than usual. This can be done is many different ways. For instance, we hide small pieces of meat in the big hall, so the cats can search for them, or we put bigger pieces of meat in toys or cardboard boxes. We can make it easy or very difficult. Easy would for instance be a big piece of meat under a traffic cone. The animal ‘just’ needs to push or pull the cone over to reach the meat – easy for most, hard for some. Hard would be a piece of meat in a cardboard cylinder, blocked on both sides with small boat floaters. The animal first has to remove the floaters and then try to get to the meat in the cylinder.

VIDEO REMY

VIDEO DUMI

Scent enrichment
As we mentioned before, scents are very important. Fortunately, we can apply scents in many different ways. We can use natural scents, like prey animal dung or certain herbs, but also pure ethereal oils. These oils can be applied on toys or fixed objects in the enclosures or the big hall. We avoid our cats getting into direct contact with the oils. The herbs we can hide in something, or fix a herb plant to the fencing. Of course, if an animal is in the big hall and another animal was in there earlier that day, investigating their scent is also a form of scent enrichment.

VIDEO SIMBA with scent bench

Toys

Toys come in all kinds of shape, size and material. Examples of toys we use are boat and ship fenders, floaters, (very sturdy) balls, traffic cones, car tires, gunny sacks, paper bags, cardboard boxes and cylinders, toys made out of firehose and small tree trunks. Many toys we can fill with things like straw, smaller toys, dung and fur of prey animals, oils or herbs. Of course, the toys have to be safe for our big cats and preferably they are a bit lion and tiger proof, so that we can use them more than once. ‘Indestructible’ is not a word we use; these animals eventually destroy all toys, which is fine.

VIDEO SIMBA WITH BALL

VIDEO KUMA AND VALESCA (you can hear Vladimir playing with a ball in the background)

VIDEO ‘THE MAKING OF’ A FIREHOSE TOY

Dung, blood and fur from prey animals
These three enrichments are really part of scent and food enrichment, but we’d like to mention them separately. These specific, natural scents have a huge effect on the big cats. Many of our animals love to rub the scents all over themselves by rolling in them. We can put the fur and dung into old toys, which makes them very interesting again. The blood we use is deer blood, which we put into a syphon with a long, bent straw attached, for use during the training sessions as a special reward.

Vegetables, fruit and ice lollies
Obviously, we don’t feed our animals vegetables or fruit. But we do use these as a combination of scent enrichment and toys. In summer we use for instance oranges and watermelons and in the autumn pumpkins. The big cats investigate them and play with them. Not all animals like fruits and vegetables. Like we said before; enrichment starts being enrichment if an animal is interested in it.
When it’s hot, we give the animals big ice lollies. We fill buckets with water and pieces of meat, deer blood, fruit, etc., which we put in the freezer and then we have huge ice lollies.

Fixed objects and plants
Fixed objects can only serve as enrichment once. As soon as they are investigated, they’re not interesting anymore. But we can use them in different ways. We can move the wooden beds around, to change the interior of the inside enclosures. We make hammock beds out of old firehose. The fixed wooden plateaus in the outside enclosures cannot be moved, but we can attach other enrichment to them or hide something in them.
The greenery is part of the interior of the enclosures. But planting something new with the aim to let it take root and stay upright is quite a challenge and a bit of a gamble. Not because of the soil quality, but because of the animals. Most lions demolish everything. A newly planted tree is extremely interesting and is usually pulled out within an hour. If we’re lucky, it comes out in one piece so we can try again in another spot. Occasionally we try small trees or bamboo in the big hall, but these usually don’t survive either. A pity for us, but it’s still fun enrichment! The animals pull the greens out of the soil, throw them into the air and run around the hall with them. In winter, Christmas trees are very popular too. In theory they are trees, but the animals use them as toys.

Training
Training is also a type of enrichment. Most animals love to use their brain and find out what they need to do to get a piece of meat. We make use of this to do health and crate training with them. The purpose of health training is that we can take a good and close look at an animal, to determine his or her health. For example, we train the animals to stand on their hind legs to examine their paws and their belly. We can also spot joint problems this way.
Crate training is done with animals that will be moving in the near future. We familiarise them with the transport crate by making it fun and interesting by means of food or toys. The aim is that they do not need sedation when they are leaving for their new home. They will voluntarily walk into the transport crate!
Training is always completely voluntary, and we always make it a fun exercise. It is, after all, a type of enrichment. If an animal doesn’t want to cooperate or is not interested, we do not push them. Sometimes they just walk away int the middle of a training session, sometimes they don’t respond at all, sometimes they don’t find it very interesting and sometimes they are really enthusiastic and can’t wait to start. Cats will be cats…

Hunting simulator
Hunting with the hunting simulator is a way of practising an animal’s natural behaviour. It is also a type of enrichment and most animals love to go hunting. We have a rotation schedule to ensure that all big cats that like to hunt, get their turn. Some animals are not interested at all and that is fine too. We don’t push them. Enrichment is only enrichment if the animal finds it enriching. But most of our big cats enjoy the hunting simulator. Each session is different, because the simulator is controlled by means of a joystick, operated by different people. A hunt is therefore never the same and quite unpredictable. We usually use a piece of meat on the simulator, and sometimes a toy or a goose wing. The latter flutters through the air, with fanatical hunting sessions as a result.

We are open (with restrictions)

Landgoed Hoenderdaell (the animal park where we are located), is opened for a restricted number of visitors, so you are welcome to visit Stichting Leeuw.

You can only visit us after planning your visit on www.hoenderdaell.nl/en
This applies to annual pass holders as well as for day tickets. Please check the above mentioned site for all the frequently asked questions.
NB: It is not possible to buy a ticket at the entrance!

We hope to welcome you soon.

THROUGH THE EYES OF THE KEEPERS (BLOG 14)

19 March 2020

Sandra Kuijmans

The corona virus

It’s the talk of the day, everywhere. The corona virus. It affects everyone in many ways. Us too. The park is closed. But the work stays the same. We have just as many animals, just as much cleaning and just as much feeding to do as always. We do have less volunteers around, to keep to ‘social distancing’. It is very sad for many volunteers, who work here with so much enthusiasm, passion and compassion, that they are not allowed in.
The hunting sessions carry on, as this is something we do for the animals. Training sessions are also held as normal. Actually, everything is as normal. The days pass quickly, but every time it’s a strange sight when you walk outside and there’s nobody there.

Vladimir in the training hall

Breaking news behind the scenes! After a long period of familiarizing and training with the corridor cart, Vladimir finally walked into the big hall. He’s been there a couple of times no wand is still careful. He is getting to know the environment and seems quite relaxed. After a while he strolls back inside and watches everything from an inside enclosure. He even picked a piece of meat from the simulator once. Good man! We will keep practising with him when there are no visitors, so nothing can scare him. One step at a time works best for him.
In the short video below you can see how Vladimir picks a big fender from the pond and runs off with it.

VIDEO VLADIMIR IN THE BIG HALL

Cita and Sita

Until a few weeks ago we had a Cita and a Sita in our sanctuary, actually as neighbours in the enclosures. Unfortunately, Cita passed away a couple of weeks ago. She had painful cysts on her kidneys, which couldn’t be cured. She also suffered from severe arthrosis and hip dysplasia. Painkillers couldn’t help her anymore and the only thing left to do for her was to decide to euthanize her. Always sad, but it’s part of our work as animal keepers.
A week later Sita had an operation on inflammations in her mouth. Also, some teeth and molars were taken out. After antibiotics and painkillers, Sita is now back to gnawing on sturdy bones, and her mood is a lot better than before the operation.

How are things with


Remy

Remy, our little man. Well, actually not so little anymore, but we still tend to see him as a big cub. He is now almost two years old and is bursting with energy. He looks great and he’s getting much better at hunting. He had to learn how to contain his energy and enthusiasm a little, and that works well. He’s also getting more agile while hunting. But he also still loves to stay inside and watch us work. Hopefully, now the weather is getting better and it’s warmer, he will want to go outside a bit more often.
His vocal skills are improving, which you can hear in the video below, when he’s roaring along with the rest.

VIDEO REMY ROARS TOO

Iwan

Iwan also made some big steps in the past few weeks. Crate training is improving and he now occasionally joins Drago in the big hall! He doesn’t hunt, but him going into the hall is already amazing. We leave the corridor crate open, so he can leave whenever he wants. Iwan behaves the same as Vladimir; some exploring and then move back into the safe inside enclosures, although Vladimir is more relaxed than Iwan. One step at a time also works best for Iwan. For Drago it is much better now, because he is no longer always alone in the hall.

Kuma and Valesca

Valesca enjoys sunbathing

Kuma keeps an eye on Vladimir

Kuma and Valesca needed some time to get used to each other when they first lived together. There seemed to be some kind of cohabitation agreement, which worked for both of them. Now their relationship is changing, for the better. They are more affectionate towards each other, they sometimes tease each other and look for each other’s company more often. They’re turning into a right couple! Valesca has some competition from neighbour Goha, who often flirts with Kuma. Kuma is very interested in her, so Valesca has to really make an effort. On the other side lives Afrodite, who is also quite distracting. Both Kuma and Valesca love our training sessions. As soon as one of us walks past, they both come running. So these two are doing very well!