As the wildfires continue to wreak havoc across the Western Cape, the National Council of Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) has rescued three lions that were severely burnt during fires in Worcester.
The lions were being held illegally at the Fairy Glen Nature Reserve.
NSPCA Chief Operations Officer, Grace de Lange said one male and two female lions were left vulnerable to the raging wildfires, resulting in burns that inflicted brutal suffering.
She said a team from the organisation was dispatched, including a renowned veterinary expert for big cats, Dr Peter Caldwell, to assess and assist the lions.
Dr Caldwell is one of the world’s top carnivore veterinarians and has been instrumental in the wellbeing of big cats in South Africa.
“Despite Fairy Glen procuring veterinary treatment for the animals, the treatment plan was highly questionable, with the lions left under conditions in which continued suffering was apparent.
“At that stage, only one lion was treated. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that treatment for the two lionesses was only initiated on Tuesday, January 30, 2024 – four days after the lions were burnt,” De Lange said.
She said the lions sustained serious burns to their paws, eyes, mouths, and chest, with secondary infections.
“Burn wounds were observed on the male lion’s tongue and the lions were left extremely dehydrated. It was apparent that one female lion was too weak to stand up. The lions were left in confinement for six days after sustaining the burns, with the male having pressure sores from being immobile,” De Lange said.
She said what was heartbreaking to witness was the male lion keeping his hind paw in the dirty water trough in an attempt to relieve his pain, while being unable to stand or move around.
It was Dr Caldwell’s expert opinion that all three lions were supposed to be in intensive care.
After due consideration for the wellbeing of the lions and the extent of their injuries, they unfortunately had to be humanely euthanised to prevent further suffering.
The NSPCA said it ensured the incineration and safe disposal of the carcasses, to ensure that the bones could not be channelled to the lucrative black market.
The nature reserve had no license for the animals.
“Other than the tragic burns suffered by the lions, the camps for these magnificent creatures were too small, while provincial regulations require at least a half an hectare per lion. The camps were soiled with rotting chicken carcasses, and infested with maggots.
“Fairy Glen also held no license in terms of the Performing Animals Protection Act 24 of 1935 for the animals, despite operating as a zoo, with animals confined and exhibited for profit.
“Thanks are extended to the Cape of Good Hope SPCA who assisted the NSPCA Team herein, especially in the preliminary investigation stages, and to Dr Caldwell for his expert and compassionate assistance herein,” De Lange said.
The NSPCA is considering its next steps to ensure those responsible are brought to book.