My Pride and Joy (part one) by Erin Rainey

When I decided I wanted to go to Africa, all I wanted to see was lions. I looked specifically for projects that were centered around lions. I thought I'd found 'the perfect place' several times. There was a project in Zimbabwe. Awesome! Very African. Very lion. However, becoming part of project 'fascist dictator' was not something I nor the Australian government were keen on. Then there was a lion breeding project in South Africa which was having "managerial issues", which I later found out meant that this particular project were raising cubs and selling them into the canned hunting industry. Anyway, back to my naïve and narrow minded ideals about Africa. Lions. Africa was all about lions and everything else was just decoration. After about five minutes of having landed, I was quickly learning the difference between the real living and breathing Africa and the Africa represented in travel brochures (or by D grade celebrities on highly contrived 'reality' tv shows). Once I reached Harnas, I realized there was more wonderment than just lions and I just so happened to be lucky enough to meet the future (furry, four-legged) love of my life. She was a cheetah with a wonky mouth (after losing an upper canine early in life) and was ever so aptly or ironically named (I'm not sure which. Maybe a bit of both), Pride.

Pride and myself. I definitely needed her more than she needed me.

Pride and myself. I definitely needed her more than she needed me.

Working as part of the research team, Pride essentially became my work colleague and ultimately my best friend. Apart from the one time she pissed off for 2 weeks over Christmas due to a broken VHF collar making it impossible to find her and her cubs (I naturally assumed she was dead and the cubs had been eaten by hyenas. There's that completely unhinged emotion I was talking about), she was extremely proficient at making me look like I knew exactly what I was doing even though she was the clear star of the show. The earmark of a true professional. I was also fiercely protective of her and occasionally found myself in trouble as a result of this loyalty. When working with large, wild and mostly unpredictable animals, emotion and all the highly strung bells and whistles that comes with it becomes a big part of life. Usually it will just ambush you whilst you're trying your hardest to be a well balanced human being. Before I travelled overseas, I probably could've counted the number of emotional meltdowns I'd had on one hand. In the few years I worked in the Research Department, I lost count. You develop bonds with animals that when you try to explain to people, you see that shift in their demeanor that goes from, "Oh, wow. That sounds amazing!" to "Umm...yeah, ok. Whack job." 

Pride is the first success story of Harnas' release program into their protected reserve, The Lifeline. In 2012, Pride gave birth to two cubs and the success story came full circle. A hand raised cheetah, hunting on her own giving birth to two cubs, to be raised solely by her. I didn't sleep that first night, worried if these tiny cubs would survive. And Pride. Would she even know what to do with them?! She was fine though. She was meticulous and my heart exploded with joy and pride every time I saw her and her new family. In the first few weeks, another researcher and myself took turns in monitoring the new family. 

Pride's first born cub. I arrived only minutes after she gave birth to this first cub

Pride's first born cub. I arrived only minutes after she gave birth to this first cub

Pride may have been the first time mother but we no doubt felt much more bewildered and unsure. I remember one afternoon I tracked her down through several hundred meters of thick, low lying thorn bushes (like a good mother, she kept her cubs sheltered. Not so good for the thin-skinned and clumsy homosapien) and found her purring and the cubs sleeping less than a meter away. She looked up at me as if to say "oh good, you're here", pulled herself up from underneath the thickets, gave the 8 day old cubs a quick once over and kept walking. I whispered gruffly after her, "where do you think YOU are going?!" then realised I was trying to reprimand a species that had absolutely no concept of what I was trying to communicate (not the first nor last time either). So I sat there in complete silence as she weaved through the thickets and eventually disappeared from view whilst her cubs laid sleeping, interwoven between each others tiny little limbs completely unaware of the inadequacies of the being their mother had left them with. I probably only sat there for a few minutes but it felt like hours. Watching their little chests rise and fall with each breath. "Shit. Is that one breathing? Oh yeah, there it goes. F#*k. It's stirring. Please go back to sleep. Ok. Good." I carefully backed out of the lair and made my way back to the Land Rover. I found Pride hunting a few kilometres away, she'd caught a steenbok (small antelope) and was happily chowing down before she'd make her way back to her cubs, just in time for sunset

Pride watching over her 8 day old Cubs before she assigned me babysitter for the afternoon

Pride watching over her 8 day old Cubs before she assigned me babysitter for the afternoon

Over the next year, I experienced the most euphoric highs and depressing lows watching Pride and her new family. Some nights I would cry for hours in my room, torturing myself and wondering if I could've done anything differently. At the other end of the spectrum, I'd be energized on only a few hours sleep because I'd been too excited to sleep, chomping at the bit to see what the new day would bring for Pride and her family. The highs always outweighed the lows and that's what kept you going. The animals were what I loved about my job (even when I hated it).

Merci (right) and Beaucoup (left) which is French for 'Thank you very much.' Four weeks old

Merci (right) and Beaucoup (left) which is French for 'Thank you very much.' Four weeks old

Shelter Cat Sunday

Meet Zac, a young cutie at Sydney's Cat Protection Society who is looking for his special someone.

Zac has lots of pluck! This teenage boy loves to play, so will need lots of toys to keep him entertained. Zac is a sweet boy but can get a little spooked by unexpected loud noises; however he has boundless energy to shed, so an active household who enjoy cats thundering around the home will love this gorgeous cat.

If you'd like to meet Zac, you can pop on down to CPS today or give them a call to find out more, contact and adoption details here

Born Free - a special fundraiser

I am SO excited to announce our very first real life fundraiser! Together with Event Cinemas and Animal Works, we're presenting a very special screening of the 1966 classic, Born Free. I don't know about you, but its one of my all time favourite movies.

"what happens when you raise a wild animal with love and then have to train it to kill"...
Based on Joy Adamson's book, this moving true story filmed entirely on location in the savage jungle of Africa tells the story of how Joy and her game-warden husband George Adamson raised an orphaned lion cub as their own. Unwilling to send their beloved lioness Elsa to a zoo, they decide to teach her how to hunt and survive in the wild.

Join us, along with our good friend Ace Bourke of Christian the Lion fame, at Event Cinemas in Sydney, on Saturday 18th April 2015 at 3.30pm, to raise money for the king of the jungle, the mighty lion!

100% of the profits from the screening will go to The Global White Lion Protection Trust in South Africa.

Each movie ticket includes a free show bag and raffle ticket for our lucky door prizes - a chance to win a framed original lion drawing by Nafisa AND a chance to win a ticket to the upcoming Kevin Richardson talk in Sydney - which will be drawn at the end of the movie.

Click here to book your tickets now, and you can RSVP to the event on Facebook here.

Watch the Born Free trailer above.

We here at The Feline Foundation look forward to seeing you and your friends, family and colleagues. It will be a wonderful afternoon and funds raised will greatly assist us with our African lion conservation goals.

Shelter Cat Sunday

This little cutie is Abbey, a sweet silver tabby located in NSW with Save Our Strays rescue group.

A shy little girl who longs for some love and care, Abbey is definitely the introvert amongst her Sisters. She's very gentle and timid, unlike her Sister Tigerlily who is super cheeky. Abbey needs a kind home where she will be shown some love and affection. She is a little afraid of new people and unsure what to make of them, but at such a young age she is very impressionable, so when in a loving home environment, she should do well.

If you would like to meet Abbey, check out her profile or send an email enquiry to find out more.

Shelter Cat Sunday

Meet the aptly named Fluff. What a cutie! She is a Russian Blue mix and is located in Victoria with Grounded Paws Animal Rescue.

Her gorgeous gentle nature makes for the sweetest girl. She loves cuddles and purrs like crazy. She doesn't mind being picked up and will happily jump on your lap. She's pretty confident and curiously explored the house whilst jumping from the corners to play. Fluff loves playing. Stick and string toys are her favourite as she loves to jump and chase them. She thinks scratch posts are the best invention and they keep her occupied to ages. She's a cheeky monkey.

For more info about this sweetie, have a look at her profile or call Shannel on 0431 713 244.

Global March for Lions

On March 13th and 14th, the second annual Global March for Lions will take place in cities across the world again. This year we have once again been organising the Sydney event and we’re so excited to march will all you lion lovers again! Our march will be held on Saturday 14th at NSW Parliament House at 11am and we will march to Town Hall. We have a few very special guests – Ace Bourke of Christian the Lion fame, and James Aspey of Voiceless365. You may have seen him on Sunrise in January where he spoke for the first time after being voiceless for an entire year in the name of animal welfare.

John Rendall, Christian the Lion and Ace Bourke in the 1970's.

John Rendall, Christian the Lion and Ace Bourke in the 1970's.

James Aspey

James Aspey

I’ll be there from around 10am setting up a mini-stall with the Animal Works team. They’ll be selling raffle tickets to their upcoming luxury Kenyan safari, where you can see actual lions where they belong – in the wild, as well as some other goodies too. 

What is the point of this march you might be asking? We are marching to raise awareness and hopefully end the barbaric practice of canned hunting. Canned hunting is the hunting of wild animals in a confined area from which they cannot escape. It is not only legal in South Africa, it is flourishing. Hunters from all over the world (but notably from the United States, Germany, Spain, France and the UK) flock to South Africa in their thousands and send home lion body parts, such as the head and skin, preserved by taxidermists, to show off their supposed prowess. The animals involved are habituated to human contact, often hand-reared and bottle fed, so are no longer naturally fearful of people. Such animals will approach people expecting to get fed – but instead receive a bullet, or even an arrow from a hunting bow. The animal is sometimes drugged so it can’t run away, and often lioness mothers refuse to leave their initial enclosure (where it grew up) because it is leaving cubs behind, so the mother lion is shot right there in front of them. It is really a disgusting industry that we need to raise awareness about. Absolutely disgraceful I know! That is why we need as many people as possible there marching with us.

This image brings me pain, both the sad look in the lions' eyes and the losers below celebrating the death of such magnificent animals. 

This image brings me pain, both the sad look in the lions' eyes and the losers below celebrating the death of such magnificent animals. 

We hope you can join us on this momentous day! The more people that attend, the louder our ROAR.

Some of us at last year's march

Some of us at last year's march

More info on the Sydney march here, and more info on all other cities here. One last thing, please check out our shop, we have some limited edition tees available this month to celebrate the march by Gary Hodges featuring a stunning male lion.

'Last year's Global March for Lions created unprecedented public awareness world-wide about the plight of the lion. It was really extraordinary. During my almost thirty years fighting for the lion, never before I had I seen such a public outpouring of concern for the King of Animals. It was so heartening, and is making a difference. With this year's March we must build on this. The lion needs us like never before'.

Gareth Patterson, Author of My Lion's Heart.

The Feline Foundation Welcomes Emma Smeets

We're very excited to be welcoming Emma Smeets as well as Gary Hodges to Artist Exchange this month! Emma is an illustrator from Amsterdam and has kindly donated her drawing of her two cats Bailey and Bouchra.

"My name is Emma Smeets from Emma's Illustrations. I am a self-taught artist from Amsterdam. I enjoy drawing animals in my tiny studio (my dining table), with my cat by my side. Cards and prints of my illustrations are available in my Etsy shop."

Thanks so much for joining us for Artist Exchange Emma! You can get tees, totes and longsleeves in our shops featuring Emma's adorable design from now until the end of April. 

The Feline Foundation Welcomes Gary Hodges

We are so excited to welcome Gary Hodges to Artist Exchange this month. He is world renowned for his stunning lifelike wildlife drawings and we can't thank him enough for agreeing to be a part of Artist Exchange

To celebrate the Global March for Lions which is happening for the second year in a row (more info here) on 14th March, Gary has very kindly donated his drawing, LION. The limited edition print of this drawing sold out in 1993 so these tees and totes really are one of a kind!

Visit out shop now to get your LION tees and totes!

Visit out shop now to get your LION tees and totes!

Gary Hodges is the UK’s best selling and most collectable pencil artist. Throughout his groundbreaking career, his art has won him many prestigious awards.

Since 1987, 127 limited editions have been published from his drawings, practically all have sold out. This represents nearly 108,000 signed limited prints – few other artists across the globe can make this claim.

He has an international and star-studded following and his drawings hang in homes all over the world. Gary has demonstrated a remarkable generosity towards wildlife charities and has given over half a million pounds towards the protection and conservation of wild animals, an important part of his ethos of giving back to the creatures that inspire him.

Three film documentaries have been made about his art, the most recent, Wild at Art, presented by his long time friend and collector, actress Rula Lenska.

He has exhibited his drawings and prints in galleries, charity shows and auctions for the last 33 years, with solo shows in Paris and London. His most recent accolade, Drawn to the Soul, was a retrospective exhibition of his art, at the prestigious Nature in Art, the world’s first museum dedicated to art inspired by nature. 

His next major solo show will be at the Mall Galleries in the heart of London, in April 2016. Two thirds of the profits from the exhibition will benefit wildlife.

Heart & Soul is the title of his third, eagerly awaited limited edition book, the others having sold out. It is an intensely intimate autobiography, lavishly illustrated throughout with Gary’s unique drawings and personal photographs. Virginia McKenna OBE, co-founder of the Born Free Foundation, collector and friend, has written the touching foreword for this book.

He is a self-taught artist.

Gary's beautiful drawing LION, will only be available for the month of March, so pop on over to the shop to get your merchandise now. As always, 100% of the profits go to the charities we support, and from now until 3rd March you can get $5 off when you spend $30 or more. Just enter coupon code GOGREEN at checkout. Huge thanks to Gary for supporting cats, big and small, with his participation. 

Shelter Cat Saturday

Eeeee look at this pretty girl! Its not often I start my blog posts with 'eeeee' :) This is Maple and she is in care with Melbourne Animal Rescue in Victoria.

She's a friendly young lady who loves a smooch and a snooze in the window. She is quite relaxed and is enjoying being in foster care with another adult cat. She had three kittens in tow when she first came into foster care a few months ago, and now that they're all grown up (and so cute!) and not needing mum's milk she is ready to find her own home.

If you'd like to get to know Maple you can find more about her here or get in touch with Melbourne Animal Rescue here

Lions and cheetahs and dogs - oh my! by Erin Rainey

I am under no illusions that the lifestyle to which I became accustomed to in Africa is not the norm. On one hand, it was liberating to find out just how little of the 'mod cons' I really needed to survive. I didn't know what Instagram was until I came home in 2013, I still have no idea who won or played in any AFL Grand Final from 2008-2012 and I'm sure I'd still have no idea who One Direction are if I'd stayed in Africa (#thirdworldbenefits). On the other hand, I did have to constantly stop and remind myself that the activities that became part of my job were beyond the scope of anything I would probably ever get the chance to do again. Although the most incredible experiences I had were a result of a lot of trust and a light sprinkle of insanity, there was a lot of hindsight in my job, like "in hindsight, I'm surprised that didn't end in disaster".

Teaching a pissed off, fully grown lioness to walk again after a lower back injury following a fight with another lion is definitely a unique experience. After complicated back surgery, the decision to start some sort of rehab was made. We had to get quite creative as the rehab had to rely on her motivation to move. At 180kg, I wasn't keen on allowing her to use me as structural support. And yes, she had teeth and claws and was in a lot of pain which made her rightfully cranky, so there was that. It took several months to gain Elsa's trust. At first, just the sound of my voice pissed her off, so we'd just sit in silence on either side of the fence. As her pained eased and the rehab started to show results, she would allow me closer. The pinnacle of trust was sitting along side her and brushing her coat. She LOVED to be brushed. At one stage, we had a visiting German Vet who specialized in alternative therapies and he suggested trialling acupuncture as well. All well and good for him because it took many months to gain a good relationship with Elsa so it wasn't possible for the vet to administer the treatment so my instruction consisted of the vet describing what I should feel for and just a "quick, hard flick of the needle." Although Elsa has since passed at the ripe age of 23, she did learn to walk again even if it was only short lived. I remember trying to coax her to get up and getting frustrated because it didn't matter what I waved under her nose, she wasn't having a bar of it. Then she started to move, pushing herself up from her front legs and then her hind legs lifted and she started staggering towards me at quite a pace. "Oh shit! Elsa can walk! Oh f*#%!" I forgot all my training, instinct kicked in and I ran. Elsa eventually lost her balance and fell to her side but she looked so confused and heartbroken that I had run from her.

Elsa received acupuncture 3 times/week and was rather relaxed about the whole thing

Elsa received acupuncture 3 times/week and was rather relaxed about the whole thing

We had a lot of film crews visit the foundation. And they had a lot of strange requests. I've stood in my bright yellow Tweety Pie pj's at 6am in an enclosure with nothing but a large (but nowhere near adequate) stick to defend myself and a cameraman from a pack of wild dogs that'd been riled up 'for effect.' Wild dogs have been well studied for their social and hunting habits. I'll leave those details for Sir David Attenborough to fill you in on but I will just let you know that the scientific name for the African wild dog is lycaon pictus. Lycaon is a character of Greek mythology who was punished after 'acquiring' and then offering human entrails to Zeus. It's this desire to 'acquire' that always makes me nervous around these dogs.

African wild dog (lycaon pictus). Lycaon is for the way they disembowel their prey. Pictus is because their coat looks painted (like a picture) #themoreyouknow

African wild dog (lycaon pictus). Lycaon is for the way they disembowel their prey. Pictus is because their coat looks painted (like a picture) #themoreyouknow

A large but essentially useless stick wasn't the most ridiculous form of self defense utilized to protect the welfare of high paying film crews with expensive equipment either. How about a wheelbarrow with a few rocks thrown into it? Our lions were terrified of it. "You stand there and if he come, you run at him, shaking and yelling. You got it, lady?" Frikkie casually instructed me as he let said fully grown lion out of the truck. Aaaaaand action!

Wheelbarrow? Check. They seemed more preoccupied with the cow they captured anyway.

Wheelbarrow? Check. They seemed more preoccupied with the cow they captured anyway.

The most bizarre was probably when we had a Japanese TV crew visit to film a segment for what was apparently one of the most popular 'light entertainment' shows in Japan. Now these are the people that blessed the world with Takeshi's Castle so when they came to us and said the host wanted to race a cheetah like it was the 100m final at the Olympics, all you can do is say, "Sure. Seems legit." 

When I first visited Africa as a volunteer, sleep outs were a huge highlight. You'd take a a pee stained sleeping bag (although hand raised, none of these animals were house trained), lay down in the dirt and wait. If you were lucky, the furry object of your affection would saunter over and throw all of its weight onto you and that's how they (but most likely not you) sleep for the night. When there's a fully grown cheetah perched on your chest, purring loudly and nuzzled into your neck or you're being spooned by a couple of pre-adolescent lions, sleep becomes quite counter productive to the whole experience. Plus there's the pee. When you're pinned down by 50kg of cat, you just have to grin and bare it. Then it goes cold. Mint. You try to slowly slide your leg or arm out from under the cat and reposition yourself but this is of much discomfort for your furry bedfellow and you cop a paw to the face and instead just accept the fact you're now marinating in (what feels like) several litres of cat pee.

Shelter Cat Sunday

Meet Mera, a pretty young lady currently looking for the one with Sydney's Cat Protection Society

Mera loves to smooch. She’s a confident and curious feline so will be a great addition to a busy household or a quiet home with anyone who appreciates kitty kisses. Mera would prefer to be your only pet so you can shower her with all of your attention and love.

If this smoochy tortie looks like the right kitty for you, click here to find out more or give CPS a call on (02) 9557 4818.

And while I'm at it, let me give a shout out to some dogs you've probably seen in the media this week. Greyhounds. I have been beyond disgusted at the live baiting scandal that has just come out, as I'm sure you all are too. Please sign this petition to shut down greyhound racing once and for all, and if you're looking for a dog to call your own as well, please consider adopting an ex-race dog.

Shelter Cat Sunday

This gorgeous kitty reminds me of my Bosco. His name is Marty and he is located in Victoria with Robyn's Nest Animal Rescue.

Marty is an adorable cat who's cuddly and well behaved. He has the most beautiful and hypnotising eyes that you can just stare at for ages. He's very chatty, he'll always let out a meow or a purr, when he wants food, when you pick him up, when you wake him up, or when he stares out the window. 

If you'd like to know more about this handsome boy, visit his profile or call Lorraine on 0403 143 009. Purring for Marty!

Shelter Cat Sunday

I love this guy! Look at that face! This is Tigger, located in Victoria with Maneki Neko Cat Rescue.

Tigger is a very special boy with soft tabby fur who just wants his very own person(s) to love. He's a very calm and relaxed cat who enjoys his food and games, but most of all he wants to hang out with YOU!

If you're looking for a kitty then I think Tigger sounds like the purrfect one for you! To find out more about him check out his profile or send an email enquiry.

The Feline Foundation Welcomes Susa Talan

I came across Susa Talan's beautiful work last year and knew we had to have her join The Feline Team. Luckily she agreed! Susa is a mostly self-taught artist (though she has spent time studying drawing and painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston) and she has a book coming out this year. Wear Gratitude (Like a Sweater) has a kitty on the cover and is available for pre-order now, more info here.

Susa very kindly donated her lioness in the rain drawing to us for the month of February, and it is available on tees, hoodies, phone covers and more in our shop now. 100% of all profits goes to saving cats, big and small, as always. Thank you Susa!

WINNERS! New Year GIVEAWAY

Thanks so much to everyone who entered our new year giveaway! We had a lot of entries from all you lovely people, so I'm glad I didn't have to choose the winners myself (Rafflecopter does it for me)! 

Before I announce the winners let me remind you that if you weren't one of the lucky two, but have your eye on a tee or tote etc, please hop on over to our shop and treat yourself! I'm asking on behalf of the cats of course, because every cent of every profit we make goes to them.

Huge congrats to Helen Tyack and Deedee Warner! You will both get to choose anything you like from our online merch shops. Please email me to claim your prize! hello@felinefoundation.org

Shelter Cat Sunday

Today you get to meet a king! This is King Louis, a regal young man looking for his forever home with Sydney's Cat Protection Society.

King Louis proclaims that his subjects show your devotion through head rubs – lots and lots of head rubs! He is a kind and gentle ruler. He takes a genuine interest in his lands by thoroughly surveying all of your paddocks and castles but requests that any adventures be completed by sundown and return to your castle for his sumptuous banquet by nightfall where he is to be entertained by jesters and games. He cares not for furry creatures; they hold no interest for young King Louis as he is only interested in his human subjects and their happiness.

If you're looking to add a bit of royalty to your family, you can find out more about King Louis here or call CPS on 9557 4818.

New Year GIVEAWAY!

Happy new year! We have some new products and new feline-saving projects on the horizon this year so we're celebrating with a giveaway!

We're giving TWO lucky winners the chance to win ANYTHING from any of our online merchandise shops (wine not included, sorry).

This giveaway is open to everyone around the world and starts today, Monday 19th January and will run until Australia Day, Monday 26th January. There are several entries up for grabs, some you can do every day, just enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

Shelter Cat Sunday

This is Alice in Wonderland! A pretty name for a pretty girl. She is looking for love via Sydney Animal Second Chance Inc.

Alice is a sweet loving girl who was abandoned by her owner when her owner moved out of an apartment block. Alice was rescued by one of our fabulous foster carers and has now had all of her vet work done so is ready to go to her second-chance home where she will not be abandoned again. 

If you would like to know more about this kitty, and can give her the loving FOREVER home she deserves, check out her profile or call Patricia on 0404 690 014.

Nambia? No, Namibia. Where the hell is that?! PART 2 by Erin Rainey

Read PART 1 of Erin's adventure as a volunteer in Africa here.


If Harnas was a game show I would've walked away with the million dollars AND the entire showcase. I trawled and read through every volunteer based Facebook page, every review and even ordered a book called For The Love of Wildlife. I was ready to ace this Africa thing. What I wasn't prepared for was missing my connecting flight in Johannesburg, a volunteer agency that wasn't interested in helping a hysterical and stranded tourist (what the hell did I pay these people for then?!) and 4 hours of sleep in 36 hours. How smug that the Harnas volunteer motto is: "Expect the Unexpected."

When I finally got on the shuttle bus for the final (3 hour) leg of trip, everyone was so excited and already making friends. I, however, was sleep deprived and was no doubt emitting a smell that had been carefully crafted over 2 days sans shower with undertones of stress sweating and that subtle tang that only comes from being soaked in 14 hours of recycled airplane air. I also sufferer from chronic resting bitch face. A few of the girls later told me, obviously after they got to experience my sparkling and witty personality, that they thought I was a stuck up bitch when I crawled onto that bus and were all quietly hoping I wasn't going to be sharing a cabin with them.

We were greeted at the volunteer village by the program coordinator, Frikkie. A 60-something, quite thin, almost frail-like man, unshaven with a face suitable weathered by a harsh Africa sun. You'd be forgiven for underestimating his capabilities. As a retired High School superindentant, he had a unique (and very rarely understood) way of pushing you so far beyond your breaking point and then just like that, he'd pull you back in and rebuild you. You know those boot camps they send juvenile delinquents to? Yeah, like that. Only difference was I was stupid enough to pay a lot of money and fly half way across the world to voluntarily enrol in such a program. I'm not a particularly religious person, but the amount of risks that man took, it's hard not to think that there wasn't some sort of higher power keeping watch.

Frikkie - "I will kill you, but you will learn."

Frikkie - "I will kill you, but you will learn."

I'd been on the farm for 3 days so I had received my introductory lessons in the Frikkie School of Life. I was in the office, trying to send an email and I was already late for the afternoon meeting. "Hurry up, you are late!" I heard Frikkie's voice boom behind me. Part of his whole old school thing was that any sort of technology was a waste of time. I think this was the second time that day I'd pissed him off with my new world advances. I rushed out of the office but was stopped dead in my tracks by Frikkie, who was leaning casually against a large pot plant with a lit cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth. He looked me straight in the eyes, removed the cigarette from his mouth and said, "Come with me." The only thing worse than getting eaten alive by a lion was being reprimanded by Frikkie. A lion wants to take you out as quickly as possible, one swift 600psi blow and you'll fold like a deck of cards. Frikkie liked to play with his prey before deciding what do to with it. He lead me into the kitchen of the family home. My heart was beating. What kind of serve was I going to receive if it warranted him taking me into the house away from witnesses?! He lead me over to a large wicker basket with a blanket draped over it. I knew exactly what was in there. Four perfect little 3 day old orphan lion cubs. Barely able to muster a stumble, falling over themselves and each other, ears and eyes still closed, the only identifying feature was a piece of different colored string around each their necks. I was utterly dumbstruck and Frikkie was beaming like a proud father. "Ok." he whispered "Let's go before the others come looking for us!"

One of the cubs (Brad) at 10 days old

One of the cubs (Brad) at 10 days old

The cubs were now about 2-3 weeks old and volunteers were allowed to interact with them but they were suffering from constant diarrhea and dehydration. I thought it might be a good idea to write a 'clean hands' check list so I went into the main office to see if I could use one of the computers. When I entered the office, the only person in their was Schalk, the owner's son. Now, if I only had one word to describe Schalk, it would be "Tarzan". He is also a man of few words but can have quite an intimidating presence about him. I made a few pathetic noises and pointed at the computer. Schalk gave me a pitied look and said "ok?".

The signs went up and I quickly heard along the Harnas grapevine that Frikkie was on the prowl for the person responsible for the signs. It was late in the afternoon and I had gone over the bar to get a cold drink. Frikkie appeared on the far side of the bar and I could feel him staring at me.

"So you are the one who write the signs for my lions?" "Yes...?" "Hmmm...and what is your name?" "Erin..?" "Hmmm." He grunted as he looked me up and down. "Good." Then he got up and left.

I still maintain it was that one act of initiative that started my obsession with Africa.

The volunteers wanted a pool. 'Ok, but you will dig it out and cement it yourselves'. 2 weeks at 6 hours a day in 35 degree heat later...management took pity on us and bought a pool insert for our terribly excavated hole.

The volunteers wanted a pool. 'Ok, but you will dig it out and cement it yourselves'. 2 weeks at 6 hours a day in 35 degree heat later...management took pity on us and bought a pool insert for our terribly excavated hole.

*I must stress that none of the organisations I have been affiliated with have ever sold any lions to a third party. Although my opinions and values regarding conservation practices have changed over the years, I know without these early experiences I wouldn't be anywhere near as passionate about conserving African wildlife as what I am today. I am thankful each and every day for every single opportunity I was given whilst living in Africa. I strongly encourage anyone thinking about conservation tourism to do their research before booking, especially if traveling to South Africa as canned hunting is highly prevalent.

Do you know how to butcher a donkey. No? I do. (Food for the carnivores)

Do you know how to butcher a donkey. No? I do. (Food for the carnivores)

Shelter Cat Sunday

Meet young Bessie, a female DSH in care with the Riverina and District Animal Rescue in NSW.

Bessie came into care from a local pound as a small kitten. This poor little girl had a bit of a rough start, within a couple of weeks her and her sibling developed a horrible case of ringworm that has taken many months for fur to grow back completely. This girl now looks stunning, she has the most amazing personality, probably from all the treatment and washing she had to put up with. Bessie is in care with other cats and dogs with no problems, this beautiful easy going girl would be right at home in any situation.

If you'd like to know more about this pretty young lady, click here or call Kris on 0429 684 233.