Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary focuses on the conservation education of big cats. A sanctuary is typically known as a place where animals are protected from hunting. According to the staff at Jukani, however, a true sanctuary should also “be a place of refuge to protect them from much more than hunting and/or the petting trade.” The Sanctuary tries its best to provide animals with the most natural habitats possible, with more than adequate space. We found it noteworthy that the staff cleans the animal enclosures everyday. These animals come from a surplus, from all over the world.
The reality is that people visit Africa to see the Big 5 – lion, elephant, cape buffalo, leopard and rhino; theses are said to be the hardest animals in Africa to hunt on foot. If Africa were to lose the Big 5, tourism would go down, economically hurting the continent as well. There’s a chance of species survival due to wildlife sanctuaries. Having said that, Jukani neither supports breeding nor the touching of animals (both very traumatic), and has all of the female predators on birth control. What I found most impressive and laudable was the fact that Jukani does nothing to profit off their animals – Mitch the White Tiger got buried whole, when his bones alone could have made thousands of dollars.
We took a tour of Jukani with our guide, Robert. He was extremely friendly, helpful, and answered my endless questions with precision and passion. Nick and I came to really admire the fact that Jukani is not a zoo; since it is a wildlife sanctuary, the priorities of the animals are put over that of people. Having said that, it’s fascinating to be able to see a wider species of big cats, not always seen in game parks, up close and personal; they will walk up right in front of you.
Some facts we learned during our tour:
- The government supports cat hunting, or trophy hunting, because it brings in money
- Hyenas can break a giraffes leg with one bite
- Lions have no stamina. While they’re quicker than hyenas, hyenas have twice the heart size and can run for 5 kilometers
- White Lions are on the verge of becoming extinct, and only found in Africa
- Jaguars are the most versatile hunters and can swim with their eyes open to catch fish
- Wild dogs are family oriented and will stay with an injured dog until it either gets better or dies.
- Bengel Tigers kill more people than any other cat combined, making it the most dangerous. They are known to stalk their prey for 6 hours before making the kill.
- A cheetah’s top speed is 120 km per hour, but can reach 100 km per hour in the first ten seconds
The South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance (SAASA) consisting of Monkeyland, Birds of Eden and The Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary are the current winners of the Lilizela Service Excellence Awards – Best Visitor Experience ‘Wildlife Encounters'; Skål International Sustainable Tourism Award – Best Major Attraction; winner of the ‘Best Animal Welfare Initiative' and overall winner of the World Responsible Tourism Awards.