WITH THE HEART OF A LIONESS
Thank you for visiting this page that is devoted to the book that has become affectionately known to some as ‘Lioness’.
How did it all start?
Well, on one of my visits to South Africa, I became fascinated with its amazing wildlife and decided that I wanted to do my bit for the animals of Africa and the conservation of some of the most amazing animals on the planet.
I searched the internet for organisations that could help me realise this dream and signed up to what was supposed to be a one-off experience, looking after lion and tiger cubs. I went to South Africa to care for the animals, and fell in love with a little lioness. And that is really how it all began.
Myself and my fellow volunteers loved the experience of being up close and personal with iconic wildlife, however small, of waking up to the roar of lions and of falling asleep to the low grunts of the older males who, even in captivity, were staking their claim to their territory and their females.
When I left after my first visit, I was curious as to how ‘my’ little lioness would grow up, how she would develop and so I returned to see for myself. I was reunited with a gorgeous young female who greeted me with a head rub and the bond that we had when she was very small, deepened during that second visit. That was the last time I saw her, but she is always in my thoughts.
During subsequent visits, I met other animals who stood out for some reason and who have a special place in my heart, as Africa does. Africa gets in your blood and I cannot imagine being away for too long, I regularly return to other countries on the continent, there is still so much to see and discover. What always has me firmly in its grip, though, is Africa’s spectacular wildlife and inside me beats the heart of a lioness.
Whilst the early experience with Africa’s wildlife in captivity seemed almost like living a dream, myself and my fellow volunteers have learned that life is not just a dream, it is made up of emotions like joy and sorrow, laughter and tears. We have experienced all of these emotions in our dealings with wildlife and some of the stories are detailed in ‘With the Heart of a Lioness’.
Life is a journey, full of discoveries, a learning process. I am very privileged to have had the opportunity to learn more about the big cats and the perils they face, not just in the wild, but also in captivity. I never imagined how this experience would change my life, I have become a passionate conservationist.
You will find a link on this website to purchase your own personal copy of the story. If you do, I sincerely hope that you will enjoy the read and, like the volunteers, come away with a new appreciation of Africa’s iconic wildlife that we need to treasure for generations to come.
About The Author
Ron is an office manager who currently lives in the United Kingdom but grew up on the European Continent and as a result is proficient in a number of languages, which helped greatly during the research for the story in making sense of documents that were not originally in English.
The author has been a cat lover since early childhood and is passionate about wildlife conservation, especially in regard to the big cats, which are severely under threat. The volunteering experience has only reinforced this and Ron is keen on raising awareness about the plight of the African lion.
The afternoon before I was due to leave the farm I had spent some time in town, and while I was gone there had been a ‘chicken run’ on the farm. Volunteers were always encouraged to take part in it, although I never had, and mostly they would fight over the spaces that were available. The volunteers and some farm hands got in the back of a bakkie that was then driven into an enclosure full of hungry carnivores.
A load of chickens, sometimes more or less fresh from the supplier, sometimes about to go off, sometimes already green, lay around them.
The volunteers and farm hands would throw the chickens off the back of the vehicle to the lions that were eagerly awaiting their feed. Not only were the lions waiting, their acute sense of smell detected what was on the vehicle. They recognized the bakkie and volunteers as the source of food and would follow the vehicle and, if the chickens were not thrown down fast enough, try to climb or jump onto it to grab a chicken, or a volunteer. The only means that farm hands and volunteers had to keep the lions off them was banging the sides of the vehicle with their hands and loud yelling; on occasion rocks were thrown at the hungry and hapless animals. This became more and more dangerous as the lions closed in on the spot where their food was coming from. Jack would usually drive the vehicle and although he had a handgun with him to fire into the air to scare the lions back from the volunteers, he only had two hands, both of which he needed to drive. Normally the chickens and volunteers shared the back, with volunteers battling to find a place to stand and occasionally having no choice but to stand ON the chickens, slip-sliding around as Jack navigated the uneven terrain of the enclosure; sometimes a larger vehicle was used and the chickens were on a trailer. The drives into the camps of hungry lions and tigers, and sometimes into camps of ‘wild’ lions, were a considerable risk to volunteers that they were never really made aware of. They were also a grave risk to whichever poor farm hand had the unenviable task of opening and closing the gates to the enclosures. All too easily, something could have gone seriously wrong here. Again, a case of T-I-A?
I did not really know what to think of this. The volunteers who had participated talked about it with great enthusiasm, possibly fuelled by relief to have escaped with their lives. I began to see events like this with a warier eye, worried about the health and safety concerns and wondering what the future held for the farm, its animals and the volunteers. The fact that Jack was now at the farm virtually every day, taking more of an interest in the running of the place, and Brownie being pushy, wanting to throw her weight around and impress management, seemed to be what caused the change in atmosphere. It would not be too long before evidence of this emerged, causing utter devastation.
A true, heartwrenching story that you must read! This is an amazing story.. . an emotional journey of someone who naively becomes captivated with the idea of caring for young African 'cats' at a refuge only to discover a more sinister business just beneath the surface. The author gives an emotional and troubling account of the dark side of an animal refuge center in South Africa who exploits the good intentions of volunteers and the general public for personal gain and the 'sport' of big game hunting. My heart breaks for the sweet animal souls who were featured in the book yet I am thankful to have read this book. I read the entire book in one afternoon . . . I couldn't put it down!
Author: Ron Thompson
Date: 14th December 2015
Book Format: Paperback
For more information about the issues of captive carnivore breeding and canned hunting, please visit Blood Lions on: www.bloodlions.org