The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve in the Cradle of Humankind, South Africa, will no longer be offering cub petting to the public, with immediate effect.

Under the new ownership of the Bothongo Group, the reserve is refocusing its efforts on animal welfare.

Chief Operations Officer of the reserve, Mike Fynn, said: “Breeding and rearing animals for the purpose of cub petting and interaction is not only undesirable from an animal welfare perspective, it’s also not a sustainable business model. From now on, we will focus on educating the public about wildlife and the importance of conservation. This is why, with immediate effect, we choose to put a stop to cub petting at the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve and sincerely hope that other facilities will responsibly follow suit.”

Over the past few months, while under new stewardship, the reserve has initiated a three-year plan to upgrade all of its public facilities, habitats and wildlife enclosures, which will be remodelled around the welfare and wellbeing of its animals.

According to Fynn, the reserve team will dedicate themselves to a new internal mantra of being a ‘nurture reserve’. In addition, he says they will commit to the following:

  • Strive to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse and contented animal collection, working with local and international institutions and bodies ensuring that it plays its part in managing the long-term survival of endangered and threatened species.
  • Pledge not to sell or exchange any of its animal family, especially its lions, unless it is to a reputable accredited facility and/or licensed wildlife institution.
  • Breed animals only if this serves a conservation purpose.