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.


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.



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


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 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.


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.


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, 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.



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!


30 January 2020

Sandra Kuijmans

Drainage of the outside enclosures

At the moment we’re busy improving the drainage of the outside enclosures. Some of them retain a lot of water after a few rain showers. Fortunately, the water is not all over the enclosure and the animals are not really bothered by it. In fact, some of the tigers like splashing through the puddles. Still, we’d like the enclosures to be and look as dry as possible. This is a sizeable project. We drill holes which we fill up with coarse gravel. We apply a fresh layer of sand, by wheelbarrowing it into the enclosures and spreading it out with rakes. This is hard and time-consuming work, but we do it together, with ardour. Depending on the size, it takes three people two afternoons to improve one enclosure. For a few enclosures these measures are not enough; we’re making concrete plans for structural improvement. We also raise the floor of the cabins with sand and add a nice bed of straw for cold days. After spending a day inside, the animals can enjoy a dry enclosure and a warm bed.

How are things with



Aslan is now four years old. He arrived as a small, scared cub, very intimidated by the world around him. Now it’s a different story. He is an adult now, much bigger than his partner Ayla. He’s not easily scared anymore and is very occupied with his neighbour Simba and vice versa. Hunting doesn’t interest him much. He usually pretends to be busy with other important stuff. When the prey comes close, he uses the element of surprise to catch the prey quickly. He adores his Ayla and the two of them regularly play.



Ayla is five years of age. The days of the tiny cub with the cute spots are long gone. As a cub Ayla was much more confident than Aslan was. And she’s still a feisty lady. She has loads of energy; we sometimes call her the ninja lion, because she can actually run on the walls. She will take off and jump from wall to wall. Four legs against the wall, jump against the other wall, without touching the floor. Sometimes she practises her ninja skills on Aslan, using him as a jumping horse. Aslan is a lot stronger than Ayla, but not fast enough to follow his wife’s antics


Sya and Chen



The sisters Sya and Chen are not often the topic of discussion. They are two shy leopards who like their peace and quiet. They are often active, but as soon as there are people about, they retreat on top of their cabins or at the back of the enclosure. They sometimes tease neighbour leopard Fred, which greatly annoys his roommate Ginger. The ladies do not hunt and don’t go into the big hall. We consider ourselves fortunate that they even come inside for feeding. As these sisters like the outside, we try to often make small changes to their enclosure, by means of enrichment. They are especially susceptible to scent enrichment. They can climb very well and like to be high up, to keep an eye on things.



Bakari is the chief of his pride, which consists of himself, Jessy, Sarabi and Dumi. He is a good leader; a steady, calm lion on whom his ladies can always depend. He is not easily bothered, but once he is, you’d better run! He’s not very playful, but excellent at lazing about. He is a good hunter and always enjoys a hunting session. His unwieldy body reaches a high speed in no time and even though he is quite clumsy, once the prey is close, he is very fast at knocking it from the simulator.


12 January 2020

Sandra Kuijmans

The hunting simulator

The hunting simulator is a great form of enrichment for all animals who like to be in the big hall. It serves as physical therapy for big cats who need it, and as physical exercise for the rest, but above all it is a way for the animals to behave naturally and stimulate their instincts.
We use the hunting simulator twice a day, with four animals, one at a time. The big hall has all kinds of obstacles, like the big rock, tree trunks, ponds and toys. When they’re not hunting, the animals make good use of these obstacles. They bathe in the ponds, play with the toys, sharpen their nails on the tree trunks and relax on the rock. During the hunting sessions these obstacles are important too, for they need to be avoided. Hunting trains the agility and coordination skills. The animals keep an eye on the prey but at the same time they need to see the obstacles and move around or over them.

The system

The system consists of five winches; four in the corners and one in the middle, running through the centre point on which we hang the prey. We operate these winches by means of a joystick. From the balcony we have clear sight of the whole hall, so we operate the system from there. We can move the prey to anywhere in the hall and we can also adapt the height.

The joystick which operates the hunting simulator

From start to end result

Our animals need to learn how to hunt. After all, it’s unnatural to have this thing moving over your head. But then again, it has a nice piece of meat…
When an animal takes part in a hunting session for the first time, we start by just letting him or her get acquainted with this unfamiliar thing. We put up a piece of meat and stop the simulator in the middle of the hall, in front of the hatch through which the animals enter the hall. This means they can immediately spot the meat when they enter, but they can investigation at their own pace. We don’t interfere with this. Moving the system around happens during the second session. The big cat tears off the meat, and that’s it. It’s very important that the whole event is fun for the animal and that they don’t get any negative associations with the system. Should the system start moving during the first session and it frightens them, there’s a chance they become afraid of the simulator. Because there’s no previous positive association and it hasn’t rewarded them yet, it minimizes the chance that they will start hunting. If the first time was a success, we will move the system a little bit the second time. If that goes well, we move it even further the next time, and so on. Every animal is different, and we adjust the pace of process to that. The aim is to get them to enjoy something they don’t know. The hunting instinct is there, sometimes on the surface, sometimes hidden deeper, so as soon as they are comfortable with the system and the prey moves away from them, then in most cases they will go after it.
Some animals, like Ayla, become very good hunters. Others, like Aslan or Brami, are less interested.
Here’s a video of Cesar, who picks a piece of meat off the simulator for the first time.


Dumi is an advanced huntress!

The meat

The meat we use on the simulator is beef. We cut it in long, flat pieces of about 500 grams. This shape and weight ensure that it can be eaten easily and will not get caught in their throat. We tie the meat to a couple of elastic bands, which we attach on a few cotton strings. The meat, as soon as it is caught by the big cat, will tear off, usually leaving the string and elastic bands on the simulator. Sometimes they come off with the meat and the animals eat them. This is not harmful; the string and bands leave their body the natural way. In the very beginning we had to figure out how much string and bands were needed to secure the meat to the simulator so that it wouldn’t fall off but could be torn off by the lions and tigers. After some trial and error, we now know the exact ratio.

Pieces of meat for the hunting sessions

Jurjen attaches a piece of meat to the system


Operating the system is not as easy as it looks. We now have quite a few volunteers who are good at it, but they had to learn. You also have to have a certain feeling for it. You need to get to know the system, know how it responds and know how to anticipate. There is a slight delay between what you do with the joystick and what the system does, so you’re always operating ahead. The system has some safety margins, so that the simulator doesn’t hit the glass of the balcony. If you enter those safety zones, the system will stop and be blocked. We then have to get the animal out of the hall (depending on where the system stops), so that we can fix the failure. When trying to outrun the fastest hunters, it’s quite hard not to drive the system into one of these safety zones. So, someone who is a bit technical and has a good hand-eye coordination could operate the system but hunting with the animals is another matter! The second, even more important aspect, is that you need to interact with the animal in the hall. For that you need to know the animal, know their behaviour and know their weaknesses. You’re also operating ahead, so anticipating the lion’s or tiger’s behaviour is extra important. You have to make sure the animal uses its body in the right way. Jumping is fine, but in the right direction. Some animals are not yet good at avoiding the obstacles while following the prey. All beginners have to learn this. Some animals make weird jumps, so we keep the simulator a bit lower, so they don’t jump. We also do this with beginners. Another strategy is to start high and lower the prey during the session. Tigers and lions hunt in different ways, and also their individual behaviour varies. As an operator you have to be able to make fast and adequate decisions and act quickly. It’s quite a skill! Here’s a video of Patrick, concentrating on operating the hunting simulator.


The talk

Previous to the hunting sessions we play a tape to the visitors, which explains about the hunting simulator. Then the keeper talks a bit about the animal that’s about to hunt, about where he or she comes from and how they usually hunt. This way the visitors know what they can expect. But it regularly happens that the animals do something totally different from what we just talked about. Great…

Patrick doing ‘the talk’


The Dutch local news station NH nieuws have been making a television series for a while now, called ‘Remy en zijn vrienden’. Which means they regularly come to film here. It’s not always about Remy or Stichting Leeuw, but also about Landgoed Hoenderdaell. Last Thursday they came to film Cesar during a hunting session. It was Cesar’s second hunting session. Patrick did the interview this time and he did a good job. It can be quite daunting to do an interview with a camera in your face. But confidence comes with practice.

Patrick being interviewed by NH nieuws


26 December 2019

Sandra Kuijmans

The big move

Occasionally we move some animals around within Stichting Leeuw, to another enclosure. When animals leave and new ones arrive, it is sometimes better to do this, for several reasons. It may be that some animals don’t like each other as neighbours, or that they do! Sometimes there are animals that need more space and others that can do with less. The bigger groups get the largest enclosures. Also, for some of our residents it can be interesting and fun to have a new environment. This is a form of enrichment.
We recently had a big internal move. We wanted to have Bohdana and Bombay next to each other, to see how they would get along. Iwan and Drago needed a bit more space, as they frequently got in each other’s’ way. It’s always nice to see the results, but how does this moving of big cats work behind the scenes? The whole event takes some logistical preparation. As Cita and Aischa take turns in being outside with Tyson, we always have one of them inside. So we needed to ‘park’ her somewhere. This time not only one of these ladies, but also Goha needed to be somewhere temporarily.
So, this is what we did:
In the morning we kept the animals that were to move, inside (Bohdana, Aslan and Ayla did spend some time outside). The rest of the animals were allowed to go outside. We parked Goha in Remy’s inside enclosure. Then we parked Cita (Aischa was outside) in Simba’s inside enclosure. This allowed us to move the first animals. Tyson and Aischa went outside into Goha’s old outside enclosure. Goha crossed the big hall and we parked her in Afrodite’s inside. Now Aslan and Ayla were called inside and directed straight into Tyson’s old outside enclosure. The group Brami, Laksmi and Sita crossed the hall and went straight outside into Aslan and Ayla’s old enclosure. Cita was now able to go back to her inside enclosure. Iwan and Drago moved to Brami’s old enclosure. And finally Goha could move to Bohdana’s old enclosure.
Have you lost track already?
Daphne and I went to walk the keepers’ path, to see how everybody was doing in their new homes. They were all doing well! Aslan was making a bit of a fuss, which made Cesar respond, but after a few days they got along much better.

Video Aslan and Ayla outside in their new enclosure. Aslan is a bit wary.

Special-needs animals

We have quite a number of older animals in our sanctuary, and age comes with discomfort. This means that we have some big cats who have some ailments. We take those into account when taking care of them. These are some examples.

Tyson, Cita, Aischa and Laksmi
Tyson is an ex-circus tiger of 15 years. Tyson has a funny walk; he waddles with his hindquarter and is a bit stiff. He is also a bit wobbly. This can be caused by many things, for example a neurological defect, in combination with arthrosis. We’re not entirely sure. We could have this examined, but that won’t help much as we cannot do much about it.
What we can do, is make things as comfortable as possible for him. Inside he has a firehose bed and straw bed. In the winter we keep him inside at night, to protect him from the cold, which is not good for his sore joints. Every day we add glucosamine to his food, to strengthen the ligaments. Lately we noticed he has been drinking more than usual. For all cats this (in combination with older age) could mean kidney problems, which cannot be cured. These ailments will eventually lead to euthanasia, but as long as the animal is still himself and feels good enough, there’s no reason to consider that yet. In time we will see if Tyson has indeed kidney problems.

Cita is an ex-circus tigress of 12 years. Arthrosis is bothering her, in her front legs as well as her hind legs. She often has problems walking and getting up; after lying down for a longer period, it is hard for her to stand up and she will walk stiffly for a while. After a few minutes this gets better, but the problem is always there. Cold weather is not good for her either, which is why we keep her inside at night, with a soft bed (straw or firehose). We give Cita, like Tyson, glucosamine every day. Cita’s mood is getting worse. Recently we started her on pain killers, which improved her mood a little, but not much. We are keeping a close eye on her.

Aischa is an ex-circus tigress and she is 15 years old. She is Tyson’s sister and like him she walks funny. She has the same waddle in her hindquarter. This confirms our suspicion that it is a neurological problem. The fact that they both walk like this and that they are siblings, can also mean that it is hereditary, maybe caused by inbreeding. Aischa also has arthrosis, which is why she is on pain killers. This has a very positive effect on her; she sometimes jumps about like a little lamb. It also improved her mood greatly. Even so, she is elderly and the arthrosis will remain a problem. We can only soften the symptoms. We also giver her glucosamine daily and of course she has a soft bed.

Laksmi also is an ex-circus tigress, 16 years old. She is part of Brami’s group. She’s a feisty lady, who is healthy, except for the first signs of cataract. We can actually see it in her eyes, but it’s also apparent when she is hunting. If the prey moves quickly away from her range of vision, she seems to lose track of it, quicker than the other animals. Apart from the cataract her condition is excellent, although her slightly greying face shows her age.


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…


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.



7 November 2019

Sandra Kuijmans

Donor Day

On the 2nd of November we had our annual Donor Day. As always, a big success! A good day with enthusiastic people!
The weeks before are usually a bit stressful. Everything needs to be organized, which is a lot of work, mainly for our office colleagues. For us, it was not so bad. We created a hunting programme and made animal presentations (going through many pictures and videos!). In the end, everything worked. We had a wheel of fortune, which meant prizes for many people, the hunting sessions went flawlessly, and the animal presentations were well received. A relaxed day, for the animals, for our team and for all donors.

Patricia presented the wheel of fortune

Aize helped turning the wheel of fortune

Joan, Frodo and Sabra manned the Stichting Leeuw Shop

Sandra gave animal presentations all day long

Removal of Hugo, Ambra, Simba and Isolde

Very exciting news! On Donor Day we announced the opening of the new Lions Foundation in South Africa (so nice that we can finally talk about it!). Eventually Hugo, Ambra, Simba and Isolde will move there, but first they will go to Emoya. As soon as the new location is ready, they will move to their final home there. We did a lot of crate training with them and they all respond well to that. It will lead to a relaxed way of loading them into the transport crates, with little stress.

Update on the cartonboard cathedral

In the last blog I wrote that Joyce donated a carton board cathedral and that we didn’t know yet who to give it to. In the end Sya and Chen got it and they kept it fairly intact. So, we could make another animal happy and we gave it to Fred, with the below result:

How are things with:


Vladimir is doing great. He leads a relaxed life and has his own habits. But he is definitely moving forward! He regularly is allowed to walk through several inside enclosures, to where the transport cart to the big hall is. We keep the hatch to the hall closed for now, but he is allowed into the cart. And lately he’s been doing so! When he is completely comfortable with the transport cart (which may take a while) we might open the hatch, so that our Vladimir too can enjoy the big hall.



Drago is a busy man. He has fun with his brother Iwan and is always doing something. Playing with toys, running back and forth along the fence with his neighbour Vladimir, and investigate everything again and again. Inside he rests comfortably on his plank bed, but he can also often be found in the big hall. There he hunts, takes ages to absorb all new scents, carries toys around and usually takes a dive into one of the ponds. He also enjoys the training sessions!


Simba b

Simba b has only recently joined us and has an unhappy past. The trip to Anna Paulowna was hectic and stressful. But now all these unhappy memories have gone! He is a very happy lion, young, playful and confident. Even though his claws were removed, he is a successful hunter. Even when there are many people watching, he hunts very well. He enjoys his time here; his comfortable firehose bed, the big hall, the peace and quiet outside, but also peeking at the visitors and his neighbours.



Schrikkloof Nature Reserve

Stichting Leeuw in Zuid-Afrika
Recently Stichting Leeuw had the unique opportunity to realise its own lion sanctuary in South Africa. This subsidiary of Stichting Leeuw, which will have the internationally more workable name of The Lions Foundation, is located in the nature reserve Schrikkloof in Limpopo province, only two hours drive from Johannesburg. This foundation will keep close ties with Stichting Leeuw in Anna Paulowna. Together we will be able to be even more active in realising our most important objective: rehabilitating sheltered lions to their original habitat and create room in The Netherlands for other big cats in need. In the African nature reserve lion enclosures of about 1.5 hectares will be built in large areas of bushveld. Care of the lions will be carried out by animal keepers, which reside on the estate, with the help of volunteers. This staff will be in close contact with the keepers of Stichting Leeuw, and will also keep our loyal donors, adoptive parents and followers informed about our lions. Follow The Lions Foundation on Facebook and Instagram!

‘Our’ nine lions which already live in South Africa – Nero & Masrya, Tristan & Nala, Omar, Bruno and the ladies Nora, Ziera en Mahli – will also have a new home at The Lions Foundation. Simba & Isolde and Hugo & Ambra will also move there soon, all very likely in January 2020. There, they can enjoy a wonderful new home. All these lions are still up for adoption – your contribution of a minimum of €10 per month will add to the well-being of all the big cats at The Lions Foundation as well as Stichting Leeuw. See k for more information on adoptions and donations. Thank you!

Visit us in Africa
Did you know you can visit The Lions Foundation? Maybe as part of your next South Africa trip, or as an add-on to your visit to the Kruger National Park.

During a Lions Experience you can see the lions in their new homes. You can visit for a day, but wouldn’t it be nice to stay a few nights at the breathtaking Schrikkloof Nature Reserve? Enjoy the private rooms, the local cuisine, the beautiful estate, the safari drives and the wellness facilities. See for more information and bookings. A large part of the Schrikkloof revenues will of course go to The Lions Foundation.

Volunteer home

Become a volunteer!
Like Stichting Leeuw,  The Lions Foundation will largely depend on the help of enthousiastic volunteers. You too can have the time of your life at Schrikkloof Nature Reserve, helping take care of the lions. We offer an extensive programme and great accommodation. See for more information and bookings.

If you have any questions, please send an email to or