Below is just some of the correspondence we have received from people that volunteered at captive breeding projects. It illustrates just how careful one should be when choosing a project!
|I would be happy
to tell you about the lion park I was at. It's called XXXXXXX,
and it is right outside XXXXX. I went there thinking it was
a conservation park, but soon realized it was nothing of the sort. They
had over 70 lions living there, and their main tourist "draw"
was that people could come in and "hug a cub". When I was
there, we had three 6-month old cubs, six 3-month olds, and three newborns.
My job was to take care of the cubs, and supervise the tourists playing
with them. When I first got there, the newborns were not born yet. They
had us feeding the other cubs domestic cat food, blended with raw milk.
I questioned this, and was told that the University of Pretoria said
it was a good diet. For the adult lions, they would collect dead livestock
from the community and feed them that, once or twice a week. They would
also go shoot sick livestock and give that to the lions. Luckily, by
the time the newborns arrived, they had hired a girl to work there that
knew about lions, she was a zoologist and she helped change the nutrition
of the cubs. The newborns were bottle-fed an excellent formula, and
the other cubs were put on meat.
I was there during the holiday period, which was the busiest time of the year for them. We had huge amounts of people everyday, and of course they all wanted to play with the cubs. The cubs would get so tired and upset from all these people, and I and my co-workers would try to give them a rest, only to have the owner come out and let more people in. The newborns were kept in the restaurant from the time they were 10 days old, and people got to play with them when they were 6 weeks old.
My co-workers and I became very frustrated with the situation, and also very suspicious about what they were going to do with all of their lions. We confronted the owners as a group, but only received the same spiel about how "they sell their lions to other game parks and reserves, and they would never sell them for hunting". We asked if they could tell us specifically where some of their lions went, and they just hemmed and hawed about this place or that, but could never give us a straight answer. I was there for 6 weeks, and I never heard of any lion going anywhere. When I was leaving, they were in the process of mating two white lions, as that is their big draw, and they tout them as rare.
Besides lions, they had 4 caracals, a genet, a crocodile (which escaped twice while I was there!), 3 meerkats (they had like 20 before I got there until the owner's daughter decided to make them vegetarians and they died), a troop of vervet monkeys, a bush pig, 4 African wildcats, and three malnourished tigers.
I could go on and on about them, I was very upset with the whole experience.