Sophie’s Diary March 5, Part 2:
I started my day this morning at 9:00 from the Hilton Hotel in Durban. We had a lovely lady who was our tour guide for the day and she picked my father, his girlfriend Gunilla and myself up at the hotel. We drove through Kwazulu-Natal State. There were so many beautiful green hills, and scenery during the drive. It took us three and half hours to arrive in the Free State, which is where Andi’s lion sanctuary is located. Along the way we stopped for coffee even though it was very warm outside. Now in summer it is around 30 degrees but in the winter time it gets up to 17 degrees, and during night it can get as cold as -11. When we arrived at Appin Farm, we could see the guest home, which was a little house.
We then drove a bit further to the main house, which was really big and nice. It reminded me of a bed and breakfast, except it was in the middle of nowhere amongst many picture perfect mountains.
Andi currently lives in a caravan by the mountains with her only lion.
She has not moved into the house yet. The house has 12 double rooms, which were very nice also there was another building with bunk beds for 24 people, so in total the farm can accommodate 50 people. Andi came down from the mountain to meet us at the house, and proceeded to show us around the property. Andi told us that she has been on the Appin Farm since October 2015. Her main problem is that she hasn’t been able to move the lions from Glen Garriff yet as she needs proper documentation to show that the lions were given to her. She finds this very upsetting that she does not have all of her lions with her at this point.
The one lion that Andi has now is just 11 months old, and her name is Mela.
Andi and her staff have built 2.5 enclosures currently. Andi believes that her lions should have 1.5 hectares of land per two lions in one enclosure. The fences are 2.4 meters high and it costs 220 rand/meter for material and labour cost. She has solar panels set up to generate the electric fences around the enclosures.
In each enclosure there will be cliffs, trees that will provide shade, and water. Some will have a dam or stream running through them, and even a waterfall in one enclosure.
She is planning on having a kitchen close to the gates where she can keep and prepare the meat for the lions.
Many lions that are held in captivity are not treated well. For example Andi told me that she got a call from someone telling her there was a lion from a circus in Spain in need of a good home. Andi will within short take that lion under her care. She is trying to create the best captivity for these lions, where it is natural, so that the lions get as much of a normal life as possible. Ultimately Andi is trying to create a safe haven for these beautiful creatures.
After talking to Andi during the day, it was made aware to me that it is legal in South Africa to breed lions, keep them in captivity, and sell them to hunters as long as they have a license to do so. There is no law stating how to ethically take care of the lions, or law for mistreatment of lions in captivity. Andi said that she plans to have good enclosures for her lions, and a protected graveyard for them, as many people would try and dig up the buried lions for their body parts and valuable bones to sell.
I asked Andi how she came about caring for so many lions, and she said that her friend’s father ran Glen Garriff but then became ill. Andi went to visit, and there were 83 lions there. Andi stayed there trying to figure out who was who of the lions, and learned all 83 names of the lions in just one night! Andi had been a midwife/doula, so when there were 18 cubs being born at Glen Garriff, she started to take care of the cubs, and got a crash course of how to raise lions. This was how she first became engaged with lions, and started to fall in love with them. While we were sitting there talking about the lions at Glen Garriff, she started to get teary eyed and had to excuse herself from the table. I could really feel her passion and love for lions.
After sitting around and talking for a while, we then got into a four-wheel vehicle, and Andi took me to the mountain where Mela was. We stopped at one of the cliffs, which is where part of the lion’s enclosure will be built. As we arrived at Andi’s caravan in the mountains, she told me that Mela would be here walking around freely. She asked if I wanted to join them on a walk, or stay in the truck, and I couldn’t resist not taking a stroll with them. Andi told me that Mela would be excited to meet me since I am new to her. She went over what to do if Mela jumped up on me. When I went to get out of the truck, Mela was right there in front of me, my legs were shaking! We started on our walk, and Andi stayed in between Mela and I. We also had three dogs walking with us. Andi was so intuitive with Mela, she could tell exactly what Mela’s next move was going to be. Andi asked me if I was scared, and I said no (but I was), we continued walking up this hill. Andi told me that Mela was checking me out, and told me to just keep on walking.
Once we got to the top of this mini mountain, there was a bush camp prepared for us right next to Mela’s small enclosure by the caravan. There were food and drinks waiting for us, and some chicken for Mela. We sat down for our meeting to discuss the best way for Lööf Foundation to help support her mission.
During our discussion, we came up with three viable options depending on how much money we can raise. The first suggestion being that our foundation can support one enclosure which will cost 100 000 rands (approx. SEK 50 000). The enclosure would be called the Lööf Foundation enclosure, and that the lions inside who were born in February 2012 that Andi calls her Swedish Pride (Andi’s brother is married to a Swedish woman and lives in Sweden) names such as Smila, Lilla Stina, Saphire, Thuleli, and that we would have the privilege of naming a cub within that enclosure. The second option is that we support one lion for 2000 rand (approx. SEK 1000:-) a month which would cover veterinary bills and food for that lion. The third suggestion is that we help support her volunteer programs with social mission trips. This would involve a volunteer going to Appin and helping out on the farm to the best of their ability. The tasks of the volunteer range from sitting with cubs so that they become introduced to humans at a young age, as many cubs come from captivity where they have been mistreated by humans to collecting/cutting up meat for the lions. They could also organize the kitchen for the lions, participate in cooking and baking for other volunteers, help creating fire breaks, or follow her staff and help with any duties/tasks that need to be done around the farm. The cost of staying at Appin Farm as a volunteer would be approx. EUR 70 per night. Volunteers can stay at the farm from one week to two months, but any longer than two months has to be negotiated with Andi. I told Andi that we will be discussing the possibility of supporting her lions and her great work during our next Lööf Foundation board meeting on March 30 and then come back to her on how we shall proceed.
Throughout the whole day we had a cameraman who was from New Zealand filming us for Andi’s second season of Lion Queen that airs on Animal Planet.
Hopefully Lööf Foundation gets some good exposure through Animal Planet, as they air in 240 countries. He said it would most probably air during August this year! I asked Andi why she loves lions so much, and she thinks that they are highly intelligent, intuitive to feelings, very loving, show their affection and love. She feels it a great honour to be involved with the lions and to be given the opportunity to help them the best way possible. I could feel how much love Andi has for these lions by talking with her today. She really cares a lot about them.
I feel very privileged to have had the chance to meet Andi, and her lion Mela today! It was an experience I will never forget.
Hopefully we can come up with a way to support her in the best way possible. Thank you for today!