What is the link between trophy hunting, deadly infectious diseases and traditional Chinese medicine? The not so obvious answer is Lions. Paradoxically, these apex predators are now farmed on an increasingly industrial scale in South Africa by the SA government may change this). The estimated number of farmed Lions in the country is already four to five times larger than that of wild Lions. And there is another paradox – in 2019, the South African government amended legislation to reclassify Lions and 32 other wild species as farm animals. Lions, Bones & Bullets (see video link below) tells the astonishing story of how the Lion farming industry adapted to survive losing two-thirds of their trophy hunting clients following Cecil the Lion’s shooting and the US boycott that followed.
If trophy hunting was dying out, then what was stimulating the boom in Lion farming? Penguin Random House author Richard Peirce and the Jagged Peak Films team went in search of the answer. They discovered that while canned hunting had decreased, a parallel increase in demand for Lion bones from Southeast Asia was fuelling demand, leading the South African government to establish an annual quota for Lion skeleton exports. Richard followed the Lion bone trail from farms in South Africa to street dealers in Vietnam and Laos.
Following the wildlife trafficking trail led to dangerous situations, but the team persisted in their quest for the truth. An undercover informant in Southeast Asia confirmed that Lion bones were being imported and passed off as Tiger to be used in Tiger cake, Tiger wine, and various other ‘Tiger’ products consumed in traditional Chinese medicine. The filmmakers exposed how easy it is to buy ‘Tiger’ or ‘Lion’ products, which are supposed to be illegal by international trade laws. Between the South African skeleton sale value and the end consumer price, they discovered a 60-fold increase. These huge profit margins and the fact that it’s cheaper to import a farmed Lion skeleton and pretend it’s a Tiger than to rear an actual Tiger, drive the South African Lion bone trade.
This timely and groundbreaking film is much more than a straightforward exposé. The threats Lion farming and the Lion bone trade pose to conservation are tremendous. Richard, the author of several books on wildlife, explains: ‘Lion farming and the increasing sale of Lion bones to Asia involve exploitation, cruelty, injustice, misconception, fraud and corruption. They are a threat to wild Lion populations. It is mind-blowing in terms of the huge negativity involved and has no redeeming aspects. Lions are a flagship species; what happens to Lion populations will be a major factor in determining the future of wild animals in Africa.’
The threats to global public health are even more significant. The world is paralysed by a pandemic that came to humans via wild animals. Lions, Bones & Bullets reveals how shockingly easy it is to legally develop an expanding wildlife farming industry and then transport products that could be infected with tuberculosis, the ‘world’s deadliest infectious disease’. The disease is still South Africa’s leading cause of death.
The world festival premiere of Lions, Bones & Bullets washosted by the 60th Monte-Carlo Television Festival in June. The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, competition partners to the festival, is dedicated to environmental protection and sustainable development globally. Olivier Wenden, Vice-President and CEO, notes: ‘Lions, Bones & Bullets sends a clear and vital wake-up call to the world, inviting us to open our eyes and rethink our relationship with nature and wildlife.’
The team behind Lions, Bones & Bullets includes Kiwi director and executive producer Anton Leach, who has filmed in more than 20 countries, including war zones in Iraq, Syria and Gaza. Also from New Zealand is the film’s producer, writer and editor, Jasmine Duthie. Her work focuses on character-driven wildlife stories. Lions, Bones & Bullets is narrated by leading British actor and campaigner Peter Egan (Harry Potter, Downtown Abbey, Chariots of Fire).
LICHTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA: Thirty-four Lions were crammed into a muddy enclosure meant for three. Rotting chicken carcasses and cattle body parts littered the ground. Feces piled up in corners. Algae grew in water bowls. Twenty-seven of the Lions were so afflicted with mange, a painful skin disease caused by parasitic mites, that they’d lost nearly all their fur. Three cubs lay twitching in the dirt, one draped over the blackened leg of a cow, its hoof visible. Mewling, they struggled—but failed—to drag themselves forward. A fourth cub looked on, motionless.
Although the number of captive Lions in South Africa has been estimated at between 6,000 and 8,000, there may now be as many as 10,000, according to conservationist Ian Michler, the protagonist of the 2015 documentary Blood Lions, which goes behind the scenes to examine the country’s Lion-farming industry. At facilities geared to tourists, visitors pay to pet, bottle-feed, and take selfies with cubs and even walk alongside mature Lions. Critics say the cub-petting industry leads to abuse, commercial breeding, and discarding of exotic animals. As the Lions age, they become too dangerous to pet, and they’re often sold to breeding and hunting ranches, which are not open to the public. “It’s this whole macabre, grisly industry with all these little revenue streams, and it’s very, very lucrative,” Michler says.
Some ranches may offer “canned” hunts, in which Lions are confined to fenced areas. Sport ‘hunters’ may pay as much as $50,000 to kill Lions so they can keep the skins and heads as trophies. The bones and other unwanted parts may be exported to Asia, where they’re used in traditional medicine. South Africa sets a quota for the number of Lion skeletons that can be exported legally every year.
In Memory of Impi and Gugu who were killed in the raid.
Françoise Malby-Anthony, who founded the Thula Thula game reserve in 1998 with her late husband, the renowned conservationist and internationally bestselling author Lawrence Anthony recalls the awful night that poachers attacked her Rhino orphanage on the 27th of February 2017
THE NIGHT POACHERS ATTACKED A RHINO ORPHANAGE
“Living alone on a vast African game reserve is not for the faint-hearted. And that night, even after 17 years in the wilderness, I felt a strange sense of unease.
It was 2am . White flashes of lightning were lighting up my bedroom. Thunder cracked like gunshots. As I stroked my dog, Gypsy, trying to reassure her, I suddenly realised that the phone was ringing.
‘Hello?’ I mumbled.
‘The orphanage has been hit. They shot two rhinos and attacked the volunteers.’
I sat bolt upright. Hit? Shot? Attacked? I couldn’t process the words.
I’d created the animal orphanage just a year before in order to fill a desperate need. Increasingly, poachers had been targeting adult rhinos for their horns — to sell to the Far East for useless traditional potions.
Any defenceless babies, whose horns had yet to grow, were left to die in the bush. Or if they were found in time, they were brought to my orphanage.
On that very night, I knew that four animal-mad girl volunteers and a permanent carer were providing intensive nursing for six vulnerable baby rhinos and a young hippo.
Panic-stricken, I ran to my general manager’s cottage and banged on the door.
‘Lynda! It’s me! Open up!’ I yelled, shivering in the rain. ‘Poachers at the orphanage. I’ll never manage the roads in this weather. We need your 4×4.’
She saw the horror on my face and asked no questions. ‘Give me five minutes.’ The rain smacked our faces as we sprinted to her car.
We crept along the dirt track leading to the orphanage, struggling to see, not speaking, hearts hammering. What would we find?
The men who slash rhinos’ faces for their horns are utterly barbaric — far beyond the conception of my trusting young volunteers. One wrong move or word, and an agitated lunatic could well have killed the girls.
Slowly, painfully slowly, we struggled through the downpour. As we arrived at the orphanage, one of my anti-poaching guards ran out.
‘What were you thinking, driving here on your own?’ he burst out. ‘The attackers could still be in the reserve! Quick. Get under cover.’
I stared at him. ‘Is anyone hurt?’ I asked. He nodded, grim-faced, and took us inside . . .
Baby rhinos don’t run. They half-bounce, half-fly as they hurtle towards you with an inquisitive look on their soft faces.
Or so I discovered when I first met Thabo, who’d been a terrified newborn when he was found, his umbilical cord still dragging below him in the dust. His mother had almost certainly been killed by poachers, and it was a miracle he’d survived even a day on his own.
Now Thabo was two months old, and had just arrived from a reserve that could no longer keep him. He nestled his snout gently against my leg — and I melted.
I’d just agreed to give him a permanent home on the land that my husband and I had bought in South Africa, intending to turn it into a game reserve that would keep animals safe from poachers.
We called it Thula Thula — Zulu for ‘quiet’. Within a few years, we’d built a game lodge, started taking in paying guests and had adopted an entire herd of wild elephants — though no rhinos.
But that was about to change: as I stroked Thabo, I knew with absolute certainty what needed to happen next. I was going to create a haven where orphaned rhinos could heal after their trauma.
That was back in 2011. By the time I’d raised enough funds and rhino-proofed an existing building, my husband Lawrence had died tragically young of a heart attack.
For a long time after I lost him, I lurched from one crisis to the next, never feeling anything was under control. Even small decisions felt overwhelming at first, but creating the orphanage gave me a focus, a reason to get up every day.
There was so much at stake. If the heating fails in our game lodge, we might get a bad rating on TripAdvisor, but the guests won’t die. A heating failure in the orphanage’s high-care ward, on the other hand, will soon kill a baby rhino.
Our first call came in April 2015. An anti-poaching unit had just found the carcass of an adult female rhino, with her horn hacked off, but no sign of her calf. Would we take it in if they could track it down? By running away, the six-month old calf had at least avoided being butchered for the tiny horn beginning to grow on his head. With rhino horn fetching £68,000 per kilo on the Far Eastern market, the poachers would have killed him for every gram they could get.
By the time Ithuba was traced, it was a week since his mother had died. Heavily sedated when he arrived, he was covered in infected tick bites and close to death. That first night, he was put on a drip and slept peacefully — but the second night was hell.
It was as if he was going through all the trauma of the past week — his mother’s murder, being transported in a clanging trailer and then finding himself in a strange room with two-legged animals who looked just like the ones who’d killed his mother.
The mere sight of his carers sent him careering around his room in panic — and 200 kilos of agitated rhino can do a lot of damage to a pair of human legs. His high-pitched squeals of terror pierced every corner of the orphanage.
Eventually, we persuaded him to drink milk from a bottle. Then colic struck and nightmares. He’d shiver and jerk about in his sleep; on waking, he’d spin around his room in panic, flinging himself against the walls.
‘What Ithuba’s going through isn’t unusual,’ the vet assured us. ‘People think post-traumatic stress is only experienced by humans, but his emotional recovery is going to be far more complicated than his physical recovery.’
It’s heartbreakingly hard to comfort traumatised animals, but our carers did it with infinite patience and affection. Slowly, Ithuba began to understand they weren’t like the people who’d hurt his mother.
I’ll never forget the day when I saw him trotting happily next to Axel, an easygoing young French carer. Ithuba kept bumping into his leg, as if to reassure himself that he wasn’t alone any more.
Another huge step was the revival of his curiosity. Rejecting other toys, Ithuba homed in on anything made out of tyre, including his food bowl which was a home-made tyre contraption. He’d tip it over, throw out the food, fling the bowl about until it started rolling, then run after it. Finally, he’d balance it on his head, preening and strutting like a dressage horse.
BFFs: The two baby rhinos, Thabo and Ntombi, were soon inseparable
Yet for a long time, he also continued to have panic attacks. He’d be playing happily, then he’d suddenly squeal in fright, latch onto a corner of his carer’s sleeve and suckle it — rather like a baby sucks its thumb.
Slowly, however, his insecurity faded — and his appetite exploded. By the time he was nine months old, he’d doubled his weight and turned into a happy little rhino tank who’d soon be starting a new life in the wild.
The next rhino calf delivered to the orphanage had also lost his mother to poachers. He’d stood by his mother’s body for six days, desperately tugging at her decaying teats while vultures tore her flesh. How do you even start to console a little creature who’s been through that?
Megan, a fresh-faced young British girl, remained with Impi for his entire first night as he ran round and round in circles, crying non-stop, too terrified to sleep, desperate to find his mother.
‘I kept talking to him,’ she said. ‘I told him what had happened to him, that he was safe with us, that there was another baby rhino just like him called Ithuba, and that I was sure they would be friends.
‘He eventually came up to stand silently at my knees. He looked so lost. I longed to take him in my arms to comfort him but I didn’t dare move in case I frightened him. Then he collapsed at my feet and fell asleep.’
Within three days, however, little Impi was on the mend. Ravenously hungry, he’d indignantly head-butt his carers if his bottle wasn’t ready when he wanted it.
One morning, Megan was on her hands and knees giving the floor a good scrub when she felt two little eyes boring into her. Impi edged closer and nestled his chin on her shoulder. And there it stayed, as he shuffled along to keep pace with Megan’s movements.
Some calves are boisterous and belligerent, but not Impi. He was a tender little creature who was afraid of everything and hated being left alone.
Like Ithuba, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and unfamiliar sounds — even a bird’s squawk — would send him fleeing, squealing in panic.
Nights were a terrible struggle. No matter how exhausted he was, he didn’t feel safe enough to lie down until a volunteer had started reading him a book. Then he’d quietly nestle on the hay next to her, burrow his head into her legs and fall into the deepest sleep.
Ithuba, meanwhile, wasn’t happy about losing his pampered role as the only rhino at the orphanage — and particularly jealous when he realised that Impi was in his old room. Again and again, he charged the barrier to get in; only the sound of Axel rolling a tyre behind him managed to distract the cross little rhino.
The next orphan to arrive was Thando, who’d been discovered neck-deep in mud and unable to move. There was no sign of his mother.
It took five men to pull Thando out of the mud, and there were whoops of delight when they saw he was strong enough to stand.
The DIFFERENCE in Thando’s behaviour from that of the other two rhinos was startling. Rather than being petrified when he woke up in a strange room surrounded by humans, he was merely stroppy.
Happily, he hadn’t had to witness his mother being hacked to death, nor had he been on his own in the wilderness for nights on end. As a result, he very quickly became one of the orphanage’s most laid-back little rhinos.
Eventually we decided that Impi and Thando should meet, as they were similar ages. So, one overcast summer’s afternoon, we left the doors and barriers to their rooms open at feeding time. The carers hovered out of sight nearby.
Impi, usually such a timid little rhino, immediately charged at Thando, who didn’t so much as blink. Baffled by this non-reaction, Impi skidded to a halt and stared at him.
After a lot of posturing and strutting on both sides, they headed inside and flopped down on a mattress, their stumpy little legs entwined. From then on, they were best friends, constantly cuddling up or practising charging techniques on each other.
Another successful pairing was between Charlie, a baby hippo found alone in a river, terrified of water, and a newborn rhino called Makhosi, abandoned because he was too tiny to reach his mother’s teats. As both were under a week old, we put them in the same room.
Amazingly, Makhosi scampered straight up to the hippo. For his part, Charlie swayed his big head from side to side in greeting and reached his snout towards her.
First, they exchanged interested noisy snuffles. Then Makhosi lowered her head and Charlie gently chomped her ears. Finally, the tiny rhino clambered onto the hippo’s mattress, nuzzled up against him and fell fast asleep.
After that, they trotted everywhere together, demanded to be fed at the same time, and cuddled up whenever they needed warmth or reassurance.
When Charlie’s teeth started to cut through, his gums became sore and inflamed, and he lost his appetite. His rhino friend knew just what to do: she comforted him with gentle nudges, then fell asleep each night with her snout touching his.
Charlie, the baby hippo who was scared of water standing bravely in his paddling pool with pal Makhosi close by
More orphans were now flooding in. Nandi, our first black rhino, was another newborn whose mother had been killed. She was afraid of the dark and wouldn’t go to sleep without a blanket tucked tightly around her.
If it slid off, she squealed until her carer woke up and tucked her back in again. What a little princess!
Then there was Storm, who’d probably been rejected by his mother. He had so many parasites that we almost lost him.
And finally there was Gugu, a healthy rhino calf who wanted nothing to do with her carers. It was her choice to drink from a bucket rather than a bottle — anything to keep humans at bay.
When she first saw Impi and Thando, however, she broke out into high-pitched calls of delight. And as for Ithuba, our original rhino calf, he became the love of her life.
Poor Ithuba was so much older than the others that we had to keep him in a separate enclosure. Undeterred, Gugu would spend hours walking out with her strapping neighbour, each keeping pace with the other on either side of the fence.
By the start of 2016, our baby rhinos were all thriving and protected by round-the-clock security guards. It made no difference.
On the terrible rain-lashed night that poachers attacked the animal orphanage, I arrived to find our terrified girl volunteers huddled together in an office. One of them had only been with us for a few hours, her dream of working with orphaned animals now a savage nightmare.
Slowly, as they sobbed and cried, I started piecing together what had happened.
Just as the team had finished the first evening feed, five heavily armed men had breached the fence, disabling cameras and cutting cables as they crept towards our security guard. Two of them had attacked him from behind and tied him up.
Then they waited, patient predators, biding their time until the next feed. Axel, the only staff member there that night, had gone to bed while the two girls on feeding duty chatted and laughed as they prepared bottles for the hippo and the rhino calves.
Suddenly, they were ambushed by the poachers, and shoved into a locked office. At gunpoint, Axel was roused and forced to round up the rest of the volunteers.
‘Where are the rhino horns?’ the attackers kept asking. Needless to say, we didn’t have any, but Axel was beaten and one of the girls was severely assaulted.
The poachers must have known that Gugu and Impi — now our oldest rhinos at the orphanage — were due to leave soon. And that meant they’d already have stubby little horns.
While three men guarded the youngsters, two others, armed with guns and an axe, headed for the calves. They pumped bullets into Gugu and Impi for horns no bigger than a child’s fist.
Gugu died instantly, sweet Impi didn’t. The poachers didn’t give a damn. They held him down and hacked his face with the axe.
Were they disconcerted by his terrified expression? Superstitions run deep in rural Zululand, where it’s thought that eyes have memories. So the poachers did the unthinkable — they poked out Impi’s eyes.
Half an hour later, the men and their bounty were gone.
Meanwhile, the guard in the storeroom had escaped and was running barefoot through the reserve to raise the alarm. Petrified of being caught, he avoided roads and tore through the bush in the pitch dark, shredding his feet in the process.
To this day, I can’t bear to think about Impi and the anguish of his carers. They’d hand-raised him, and there was nothing they could do to ease his terror and pain.
Impi was euthanised as soon as our vet arrived. The tragedy was that both calves had been days away from becoming wild rhinos again.
The next 24 hours are a blur. I have flashes of memory: the ashen faces of the girls, the explosive racket of the storm, the atrocity of Impi’s injuries, the chaos in my heart.
For a while, I lost faith in mankind. I lost hope in saving rhinos.
Demand for their horns will never stop; they’ll always be in danger, as will the men and women who risk their lives guarding them.
What I do remember with profound gratitude is the phone call from Megan, the British girl who’d helped look after Impi and Gugu. Now back home, she offered to start a campaign to pay for improving the orphanage’s security.
Donations flooded in from all over the world. The outpouring of love and concern was incredible: more than £45,000 was raised.
The cash has paid for more round-the-clock armed guards and extra protection for staff during night feeds. We’ve also upgraded our entire security system.
Update 2/23: Two male suspects have now been arrested for the killing of two baby rhinos and the assault of the staff at Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage, according to SA people. The men are apparently part of a “notorious gang,” and they were heavily armed when police found them.
As thousands of disabled animals are put to sleep across the UK, animal welfare charity Miracle’s Mission is looking for help to build the UK’s first centre for disabled animals – where they can be rehabilitated before finding their forever homes.
Victoria Bryceson, founder of Miracle’s Mission, says that countless disabled dogs are euthanased unnecessarily, despite the fact they could have a good quality of life with the right physical therapy and prosthetics.
She says, “At the moment amputation of one leg is common practice with UK vets, as dogs can live very well and still be very active with three legs, especially if it is a back leg, as most of the weight is on the front legs.
“However, when it comes to a double amputation leaving the dog with two legs, the general vets that I have seen in the UK have said it’s definitely not possible to do this as the dogs won’t be left with a good quality of life.”
As thousands of disabled animals are put to sleep across the UK, animal welfare charity Miracle’s Mission is looking for help to build the UK’s first centre for disabled animals – where they can be rehabilitated before finding their forever homes.
Many people may not be aware that dogs who have wheels and prosthetics can live as good a life as a fully able bodied dogs – much like Ella, who was found wandering the streets of Egypt, paralysed from the back down after being thrown off the top of a building.
Miracles’ Mission brought her to the UK, giving her a second chance. A wheelchair for dogs was made so she could get around, and soon Ella was running around with other dogs, living life to the fullest. Victoria is looking to let owners know that their disabled dogs could live happily, too, if only given a chance.
She adds, “The specialist hospitals seem more open to it as they have more experience in the area, but even they have problems where most of their dogs in these conditions are euthanased – not because they need to be but because, in their words, it is the owners of the dogs who can’t cope with the thought of a two legged dog. So there is a huge need for education in this area, amongst the public, dog owners and vets.
“General practice vets that have seen my journey with double amputee dogs have said that they have had a huge education on disabled animals and they can now see the possibilities and potential of a disabled dog. They are now much more open to using wheels and prosthetics. Dogs using wheels and prosthetics can live as good a life as a fully able-bodied dog and this is what I want to show people.
“I was stopped so many times when I was with a double amputee dog, to ask about her wheels as people hadn’t seen them before. They told me stories about their dogs back legs deteriorating and they thought the only option was euthanasia, but now they would look into wheels.”
The new centre will provide dedicated care for the most vulnerable dogs and cats. Animals under its care will receive thorough veterinary assessments, MRIs, surgeries, the fitting of prosthetics, and doggy wheels. Their personalised rehabilitation plan will include physiotherapy and hydrotherapy as well as daily massage and TENS machine stimulation.
Victoria says, “The animals coming into our care will initially all be stray dogs with nowhere else to go and no one else to help them. They will either have been born with some sort of condition, such as a bent leg that they can’t walk on or they will have been in an accident – for example hit by a car or they will have been abused.”
Once the patients have been emotionally and physically rehabilitated as much as possible, Miracle’s Mission get to work to find them all forever homes.
Victoria explains, “We will offer a full rehabilitation programme right through from assessment to surgery to rehabilitation, recovery and re-homing. This is again why education is so important, so that people become open to adopting disabled dogs.
“If we don’t re-home the dogs the centre will be full on day one and then we won’t be able to help anymore, so it is really desperately needed that the dogs be re-homed.”
There already is a waiting list of disabled dogs, but Victoria cannot accept them until she is able to finance the centre. She is currently crowd funding to raise £20,000 to secure a deposit for the centre, which if secured will be built in Yorkshire in 2020.
On a twilit night in Juneau, Alaska, in December 2003, and Nick and Sherrie Jans were walking with Dakotah, their yellow Lab, in the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area not far from their house. Suddenly, a young black wolf appeared on the ice—and began running in their direction. Awestruck but scared, the couple watched as Dakotah broke loose and charged the predator, which was twice the size of the dog. The animals stopped yards apart and gazed at each other “as if each were glimpsing an almost-forgotten face and trying to remember,” recalled Jans. After a few moments, Dakotah ran back to her owners, and the three hurried home, listening to the wolf howl
The locals named him Romeo, and soon his presence was noted by the entire town. Most found it fascinating that Romeo was so friendly, while others assumed that this naturally predatory animal would give into his natural instincts at any moment, potentially attacking their pets and children.
During this time Nick Jans started documenting Romeo. When he did, he uncovered an emotional story, the heart of which describes the tenuous relationships between wild animals and the humans around them.
“The first thing I saw was tracks out on the lake in front of our house on the outskirts of Juneau,” Jans said in an interview with National Geographic. “A few days later, I looked out from my house and there was this wolf out on the ice. I’d had 20 years of experience around wolves up in the Arctic and immediately knew it was a wolf, not a dog. I threw on my skis and found him.”
According to Jans, Romeo seemed totally relaxed and friendly.
And it wasn’t just one interaction, either: Romeo remained his curious, friendly self for the better part of six years.
“For want of a better word,” Jans said, “The only thing I can say from a human perspective is that it amounted to friendship. If you wanted to be scientifically correct, it would be “social mutual tolerance.” But it was more than that. The wolf would come trotting over to say hi, and give a little bow and a relaxed yawn, and go trotting after us when we went skiing. There was no survival benefit. He obviously just enjoyed our company.”
Romeo’s behavior was definitely unusual, as many wolves tend to assert dominance by attacking dogs and other animals.
he wolf got his name because Jans and his family noticed how Romeo was kind of a flirt — particularly with their “Juliet,” a dog named Dakotah. Here, they’re standing nose-to-nose in what seems to be an all-too-perfect photo moment.
Romeo survived for years despite many mortal threats: scented traps, busy roads, illegal hunting, and even a poisoning attempt. He also had to contend with the natural dangers of starvation, injury, and attack by another pack of wolves. By almost any standard, his prolonged proximity to humans and dogs constituted incredibly rare behaviour. There was no obvious survival benefit to his socializing, yet the wolf lingered persistently, a late echo of the original process that must have initiated the domestication of dogs.
Romeo stayed in the area for as long as he lived — and he lived three times longer than most wild wolves do.
“Romeo was the single most transformative event of my life,” Jans said. “The amazing thing was Romeo’s understanding. It wasn’t just our understanding and tolerance. It was the combination of his and ours and the dogs’. We were these three species working out how to get along harmoniously. And we did.”
What happened to Romeo? Romeo disappeared in late September 2009. After some sleuthing, a supporter found he had been shot and killed by Juneau resident Park Myers III and his Pennsylvanian friend Jeff Peacock. Both men were arrested and ended up paying fines, serving a few years on probation, and losing hunting and fishing privileges for a limited time. In late November 2010, a memorial service was held for Romeo and this plaque was laid along a path where he once roamed.
“Nothing can take away the miracle that was Romeo and the years we spent in his company,” writes Jans. “Love, not hate, is the burden we carry.”
Nick Jans’ beautiful account of his unusual relationship is now in a book called A Wolf Called Romeo.
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Elephant rides are an attraction regularly offered to tourists in several Asian countries including Thailand. But to get there, the animals undergo a very particular training that is actually akin to real torture.
Between 35 and 40,000, is the number of wild Elephants that remain in Asia, according to estimates. A figure to which should be added the more than 15,000 domesticated Elephants. If you go to Asia one day, you will certainly meet these majestic pachyderms with big ears. You may even be asked to ride on their backs for a ride.
This attraction attracts millions of tourists every year in Asia, especially in Thailand. Nevertheless, it hides a reality that few tourists are aware of: to get there, the animals suffer a real torture. If the words can seem strong, they are not, as all those who have seen with their eyes what is really happening. Indeed, to be trained, Elephants undergo a ritual called “phajaan”.
The principle is simple: “break the spirit” of the Elephant. As two globetrotters, Seth and Lise, explain, “the origin of phajaan comes from the ancestral belief that one can separate the mind of an Elephant from its body so that it loses its reflexes and instinct natural wilderness and be completely under the control of man “. Concretely, it is to submit the Elephant until he agrees to do everything asked of him.
Beaten, hungry and sleep-deprived
From a practical point of view, it is only by using violence that the trainers achieve it. Phajaan lasts between 4 and 6 days and is carried out on young Elephants. The animals are separated from their mothers and locked in narrow cages where they are chained. Without being able to struggle or even move a limb, they are then repeatedly hit in strategic places, the most sensitive.
In addition to being beaten, Elephants are kept awake, deprived of food and water under the eyes of trainers (“mahout”) who recite prayers that can be translated as “Elephant, if you stop fighting, we do not you’ll hurt more, “says a documentary. The torture does not stop until after several days, when the trainers believe that the spirit of the Elephant is broken, that his behaviour has changed.
Out of his cage, the animal appears submissive, impressed by the fear of the man who subjected him to this torture. Then begins a real training that will consist in teaching the Elephant all the necessary commands or gestures intended to amuse the tourists. Once the specimen is formed, it can be used as an attraction for most of its life.
50% of Elephants die during the ritual
It is estimated that half of the Elephants would not survive phajaan. Others would become aggressive: about 100 mahouts are killed each year by their animals. Still others would go insane or have trouble with their experience, rendering them unusable for attractions. Most would then be killed.
The surviving Elephants are used to wander among the tourists, to beg or for work. In order for them to remain submissive, they are given a few booster shots by hitting them or pressing the sensitive spots again. In tourism, an Elephant can spend the day carrying people without a minute to rest, eat or drink. The rest of the time, most animals are tied up so that they are not dangerous.
A life that would often lead to the appearance of disorders including neurological. “If you ever have a chance to spot domestic Elephants, watch them,” Seth and Lise explain. “Chance or not, all the Elephants we’ve seen had signs of recent abuse, scars, obvious signs of poor health, some are more damaged than others, and it’s extremely rare to see one of these well-treated animals. “.
“It is largely because of tourists that this business works, so it is up to tourists to make the right decisions. The future and especially the well-being of thousands of Elephants is at stake,” they conclude in their blog.
#BeKindToElephants ~ Please SHARE this page to raise awareness to the so-called Elephant tourist ‘industry’ in Asia. You can also SUBSCRIBE to Protect All Wildlife to receive news and updates direct to your inbox.
A two-legged street dog from Thailand that was shot in the head and left to die has been rescued by a Canadian family – and now even has her own wheelchair. Lara Pleasence, 51, from Montreal, Canada, first heard about Amira’s tragic story through the Soi Dog Foundation, based in Asia. Administrator and personal trainer Lara first saw Amira in a video posted by the rescue centre in Thailand in October 2020. “This poor dog who was born without legs, lived on the streets having litter after litter, then after nine years of struggling to survive, someone shoots her in the head,” Lara told Jam Press. “I just broke down and cried.”
Amira was treated for her head wound by the Soi Dog rescue centre who shared regular updates of her progress on social media. “Sweet Amira was always wagging her tail; it just broke my heart that she still trusted humans even after everything she’d been through. “I knew I had to contact the rescue to see if I could help in any way, maybe even offer to be her forever family, although they doubted that she would ever be well enough to travel.” After a tense wait, the Soi Dog Foundation contacted Lara to tell her that Amira had recovered enough to be put up for adoption. “I was so stoked and so worried about what my husband was going to say, since we already had three dogs,” Lara admitted. “There was something about Amira, this incredible connection I felt for her from the very first time I saw her. “I wanted to right all the wrongs that were done to her, I just felt compelled to try. “I wanted desperately to show her all the love, security, happiness that she deserved, that every dog deserves, and that this poor sweetie had been denied for so many years.”
To qualify to adopt Amira, Lara and her family had to go through a strict application procedure – including a virtual home visit, interview process and form-filling. “I was made aware that we would have to pay for her to be flown to Canada since, because of Covid, they didn’t have travellers who could take her on the plane for free.” “I think I would have mortgaged the house to get this sweet girl here.” When Amira touched down in Montreal in April 2021 after a 22-hour journey – which cost $2,000 – it was love at first sight. Lara said: “My husband was none too happy about even the idea of another dog since we already had three, but I told him that I had never felt this way about any rescues that I had seen. “I was so excited that we were getting her, I was practically bursting, and he knew that fighting it was a lost cause – happy wife, happy life.” Amira came with her wheelchair, after a man in Vietnam made a custom one for her and it was gifted to the pup by Soi Dog. “She literally came bouncing out of her crate and jumped all over us like the happiest kangaroo you’ve ever seen.” “She’d been in it for over 22 hours and didn’t even have an accident!” “We couldn’t believe the joy she exudes.
She is a true miracle. After everything she’s been through, Amira is fun-loving and outgoing. “She’s so trusting, she loves everyone she meets. “She absolutely loves to be held in your lap and will sleep there for as long as you will let her. “She is resilient and doesn’t let her past hold her back from trying new things or doing something a bit scary like canoeing or going on our paddleboard. “She is obsessed with our bed… If we’re not home, we have to block the stairs because we can’t risk her falling. “How a street dog, with no front legs, knows how to climb stairs is just one of Amira’s many mysteries. “She’ll let me kiss her nose 50 times in a row, my other three dogs will eventually pull their head away, but not Miss Amira, she loves it. “She gets these crazy puppy moments where she runs around on her nubs and jumps up on the furniture then flies right back off it. “These moments make my heart smile because it’s like she finally doesn’t have a care in the world and can just be a dog. “No more struggling for food or to keep her puppies safe and fed or hiding from bad people.”
Now, Amira enjoys a happy life spending her days with her family and playing at her favourite spot. Lara added: “She loves going to the dog park, even though many of the dogs get freaked out by the “transformer dog” with wheels and just bark at her.”
In videos posted to Instagram (@amira.amiracle), Lara shares Amira’s adventures with her new set of wheels. In one comical clip, which has been viewed over 725,000 times, Amira runs after a cat and ends up doing a headstand when she hits a curb. “She just waits for me to pick her back up and she keeps on going like it’s no big deal,” said Lara. Another video shows her gradually getting better at walking in a straight line with her wheels. Followers of Amira’s page are in love with the pup, and she regularly receives gushing comments. One person commented: “So beautiful to see this! You’re amazing, sweet and strong Amira.” “Love u Amira very much,” said another viewer. “She’s amazing and you’re amazing with her,” added another person. Lara is grateful for all the support and says she is touched by the comments she receives. “The people who follow Amira on Instagram are the sweetest,” she said. “They are so happy that she has a family that loves her now. “Some say Amira’s posts are their daily dose of ‘good feels’ or that her videos are ‘good for the soul’. “People feel they need to thank me for taking her, which is so kind, but I always tell them that it is my privilege to give her the best life that I possibly can,” “It’s the least I can do for such an angel. “I can only hope that her page may inspire someone else to help a special needs dog or donate to an organisation like Soi Dog Foundation so they can continue their amazing work.”
This is your chance to bid on beautiful original artworks and signed memorabilia in our ‘Charity Auction To Help Disabled Animals’.
This is a sealed bid auction, so all you need to do is decide which item you would like to bid for – noting the reserve price for each – and send us your bid with the lot number and name by email to email@example.com by 21:00 on the 17th of April . We will email you to let you know if your bid is the highest. Postage costs will be calculated when the auction ends. Good luck!
Kate Ward’s nickname “Camberley Kate” is said to have been given to her by historian Sir Arthur Bryant in his book “The Lion and the Unicorn”. It became the title by which she became known to everyone.
Kate’s early history is somewhat hazy – When interviewed she stated that she was born in Middlesbrough on June 13th 1895, and remained proud of her Yorkshire roots. Orphaned before she was ten, she was brought up by an aunt in a strict religious atmosphere. As a young girl she went into service, in Yorkshire and eventually found her way to Camberley. In 1943 Kate bought a cottage in Yorktown, and soon afterwards took in her first stray, a dog which had been about to be put down due to lameness.
As word grew, the number of dogs in her cottage increased – some being tied to her door, some left in carrier bags, others brought in by the police or other agencies. At the end of her life she estimated that she had looked after more than 600 dogs and local vet Geoffrey Craddock, a great admirer of Kate work testified that they were well looked after. An entry in the 1957 directory FOR Camberley reads “Ward K 218 London Road., Cam., Dogs Home”. In 1976 she stated that she had 34 dogs, although by 1977 she had cut this down to 19, as she had been told to go easier at the age of 82! The growth of other dog rescue centres helped in this regard. She also had at least one cat.
Kate and her olive-green painted hand cart, labelled STRAY DOGS, was a familiar sight locally as she pushed it from Yorktown to Camberley each day, through the town centre and up to Barossa Common, on a route suggested by the police. Some of the dogs were allowed to ride in the cart, others were attached to it with lengths of string, and occasionally a favoured few ran loose alongside. Inside the cart, there was usually some meat for the dogs and a shovel to clean any mess away. The dogs were controlled with the help of a whistle. Locals became used to the sight of Kate pushing her cart along the busy London Road although it never ceased to amaze outsiders.
As a local celebrity Kate and her dogs were much photographed, a situation she tolerated as long as the photographer gave a donation for the upkeep of the animals. She also sold her own photographic postcards, and gave short shrift to those who tried to take their own pictures. Generous supporters gave money to assist her work and some even left bequests. She was scrupulous that this money should be used only for its intended purpose: the dogs had their own bank account, administered by 2 trustees. She left money in trust for the few dogs left at her death.
If you gave her some money, she would INSIST you take a photo. That way she could not be accused of begging.
A diminutive figure with her shock of white hair and her beret, Kate defended herself and her work passionately against her critics, such as those who wanted her out of the town centre or who regarded the dogs as dangerous or a health or traffic hazard. On one occasion she rammed a new car which was blocking her way. She also had a number of disputes with the authorities. These clashes were often recorded in the columns of the press. However she won the backing of the local police for her work in taking abandoned dogs in off the streets.
In 21 August 1969 Kate was in the Camberley News fighting plans to introduce a bye law making it illegal for dogs to be out without a lead. This followed complains from residents of new housing estates, and concerns about road accidents caused by stray dogs. In her customary forthright fashion she condemned “The Council is nothing more than a collection of dog-haters. I think this will be rotten. It means that dogs will be chained up all day”. A proposal to ban dogs from the new precinct in Camberley also met with a terse response, particularly since she was in the habit of shopping at Sainsbury’s and leaving some of the dogs tied up outside. When protests about the local drag-hounds running out of control when being exercised attracted her support Kate, in typical fashion, addressed her complaint directly to the King. The Royal family continued to be a favourite route for correspondence. When a local schoolteacher complained that she had seen her beat her dogs with a stick, Kate immediately wrote in protest to the Queen. This was not their first encounter – when Princess Elizabeth got married one of the dogs sent a present of a dog lead.
As these anecdotes show, Kate was an excellent publicist. A local policemen recalled that occasionally a dog would get loose and be brought to the dog pound. If the Police Station was empty she would pay the fine quietly and readily, but if there was an audience she would protest vocally!
Following a series of strokes old age and ill-health forced her to leave her cottage and her remaining seven dogs were put into kennels. Her last weeks were spent at Kingsclear residential home and she died on 4th August 1979. Her funeral was at St Michael’s, Yorktown.
Despite her avowed dislike of people, Baptist Minister the Rev Chris Russell who officiated at her funeral, remembers her private generosity to those in need. This aspect of her life she kept anonymous, passing on her donations through third parties.
After her death, Camberley vet Geoffrey Craddock was quoted in the Camberley News as saying “Camberley has lost its most celebrated and best known character. She will be greatly missed by those of us who had the rare privilege of knowing her”.
During her lifetime, Kate’s fame spread far and wide. She featured In the national press and on television programmes such as “Nationwide” and “Tonight”. was featured on NBC in the United States and her story appeared in publications across Europe from France to Rumania. She also received the ultimate accolade of a feature in “Time” Magazine, and was photographed by Lord Snowdon. To her surprise, in 1967 she received an award from the magazine “Dog’s Life” for her work. In answer to the inevitable question, why she did it? her invariable reply was that she preferred dogs to humans.
Her home at 218 London Road was just a few doors along from the former Lamb pub, near the present Meadows roundabout, but Is no longer standing. The Katherine Court retirement flats were named after her at the suggestion of a local resident in 2000.
There are so many great lessons we can learn from the life of Kate Ward, both as responsible dog owners, human beings, and as pet rescue charities. Most of all Kate recognized the value of a photograph and how it could be used for the positive influence of others, to bring light to a cause, and to help raise money.
The Limbe Wildlife Centre (LWC) is a conservation education centre in Limbe, Cameroon. Above all, they provide a solution to law enforcement agencies for where to place wildlife seized from the illegal wildlife trade. For all elements of their work, they collaborate with state and national government, communities, and other international and local NGOs to protect habitats and endangered species. In brief, they in-situ and ex-situ activities that include rescue, rehabilitation and reintroduction, conservation education and advocacy, law reinforcement, creating alternative livelihoods to hunting, and research. Through a holistic approach, the LWC aims to ensure the survival of Cameroon’s unique flora and fauna.
Ultimately, there are three main pillars to our work: rescue and rehabilitation, education and community.
The Limbe Wildlife Centre (LWC) is being hit hard by the current Covid-19 pandemic. With no volunteers or visitors coming to the centre, they have lost an important source of income, and much of their grant funding has been cut due to the global economic downturn. With travel and business restrictions happening across Cameroon, like in many other countries, they are struggling to obtain the food and medication needed every day for their rescued wildlife.
At this difficult time, they urgently need your help. They are dependent on your kindness to continue providing daily essential care to the more than 450 animals currently in their care.
Protect All Wildlife are supporting LWC continue their amazing work by selling these unique Ltd Edition tops to raise funds.
The Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park has been overwhelmed by the kindness, good wishes and support from the Australian and international community for the wildlife icon, the Koala.
At least 25,000 Koalas are believed to have died in a horrific wildfire in South Australia that may have devastating consequences for the survival of the species.
The fire on Kangaroo Island, which was considered a Koala safe-haven because its population had escaped a devastating chlamydia epidemic, was described as “virtually unstoppable” on Saturday by firefighters.
Koala rescuer Margaret Hearle stated that another important Koala population, nicknamed “the gene pool” because of its good health, had been “wiped out” in Crestwood, New South Wales.
Due to the recent tragic bushfires, the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park has received a lot of concerned phone calls and messages regarding the impacted wildlife from these fires.
Over the past few days they have started to see a large number of injured Koalas, along with other native species heavily impacted by this event. They have been treating these victims as best they can to supply pain relief, antibiotics, treatment to wounds and basic husbandry requirements. They spent most of January 3rd building extra holding enclosures as well as defending the park from the immediate threat of the fire and will continue to prepare more infrastructure to house the extra wildlife they expect to see over the coming weeks.
They need much-needed funds to help with veterinary costs, Koala milk and supplements, extra holding/rehabilitation enclosures, as well as setting up a building to hold supplies to treat these animals.
Donations go directly towards the Koalas and other wildlife that they have coming in from the fires for their care, triage and ongoing treatments, housing, essential equipment, feed and more.
They are working around the clock with a highly experienced, qualified and dedicated team of volunteers including qualified vets, vet nurses and wildlife carers to rescue, rehabilitate and care for all of the animals coming in from the bushfires.
On admittance to the unit, all efforts are made to rehydrate, treat and assess the wildlife by their vet care team. Many are being treated for severe burns with most burns being to their hands, feet and rumps.
They are providing the best care possible for our injured wildlife and due to the significant habitat loss they will be building exhibits to hold the treated Koalas until arrangements can be made to release them back into the wild where possible.
Kangaroo Island is well known for its thriving Koala population however over 150,000 hectares has been lost due to recent events, this will effect our Koala population dramatically. We ALL need to pull together to save this Australian icon. Once conditions improve and they are granted access to fire ground, a qualified team will be going out to rescue wildlife caught in the fires and relocate those left without a food source or home.
PLEASE HELP RAISE MUCH-NEEDED FUNDS FOR THE KANGAROO ISLAND WILDLIFE PARK
To help raise funds for this vital project we are donating ALL proceeds from the sale of Badges, Brooches, Car Stickers, Tote Bags, Jewellery and Conservation Packs to help the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park treat animals affected by the #AustralianFires.