Just an hour north east of Johannesburg and half an hour from Pretoria lies Welgedacht Private Game Reserve. Nestled between the Bobbejaansberge and straddling the Boekenhoutspruit, the reserve forms part of the Dinokeng Game Reserve, and is the home of the ‘Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary’s.
The sanctuary relocated here and one of its aims is to ensure the animals live out their lives and open doors for new opportunities to continue the conservation efforts through the wildlife film making and the volunteer program.
The sanctuary is made up of 13 predator enclosures and a large central enrichment area to which the predators are rotated through every couple of weeks. This is to change their environments regularly which in turn stimulates their senses as they smell the scents of the previous groups of animals that were housed there. Boredom is thus prevented and the animals all get turns to roam the bigger area. The 1300 ha game reserve also makes for an incredible backdrop and filming location.
The facility predominantly houses adult predators as we do not breed lions at the sanctuary. Kevin is actively campaigning against the mass breeding of cubs for petting for the commercial tourism and volunteering industry that all too often end up being hunted in the morally repugnant practice of ‘canned’ lion hunting.’
The Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary transforms the way humans think, interact and behave toward the keeping of large carnivores. The sanctuary’s ultimate goal is to minimize the number of large carnivores being kept in captivity and to highlight the direct link between the cub petting industry and the ‘canned’ hunting industry, by educating the unsuspecting public to the horrors associated with this unscrupulous practise. Ultimately we would like to see both practises outlawed. The sanctuary aims to maximize efforts towards keeping carnivores in their natural habitats and is currently home not only to lion, but spotted hyena, striped hyena and black leopard.
The lion population occupies less than 20% of its former range in Africa. Numbers are estimated between 15,000 and 30,000 depending on who is asked. More recently scientists have started to settle on a number of 20,000 however more research is needed in to the actual numbers. If allowed to carry on declining at the current rate we will have no lions left in the wildlife in as little as 20 years.
Our vision is to raise awareness about the plight of lions and other carnivores in the wildlife and help prevent their habitat loss via human encroachment and conflict (revenge killing), unscrupulous hunting and illegal trade. The sanctuary’s efforts are buttressed by its many collaborative efforts with other like-minded international organizations that provide care, support, academic and scientific research and other such programs that support the shared values of the sanctuary.
The sanctuary provides the animals in its care the ability to live out full lives, in an open and natural environment, by providing cutting edge enrichment programs and health care. Education of both adults and children are at the bedrock of how the sanctuary aims to accomplish its goals via documentaries, films, social media and tourism.