Lifestyle

Libby has answered the call of wild

Libby shares a quiet moment with Skyla, the two-year-old white lion.
Libby shares a quiet moment with Skyla, the two-year-old white lion. Contributed

LIFE is pretty tame for Libby Cass.

But up until recently it wasn't - and she has the scars to prove it.

For four weeks, Libby, 23, spent every waking hour working with the big cats in Seaview Lion Park in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Volunteering at one of the biggest parks in the southern hemisphere brought the young woman face to face with animals she'd never dreamed she'd get to see at such close quarters, let alone play with - especially when that play had the potential to end badly.

"I was working with Judas the lion and she jumped up on me, wrapped her front legs around me and was cuddling me with her claws," Libby said.

"She was just playing but I had big scratches on my back."

Libby came across the park on the internet and volunteered in a flash.

"You pay to go and work there. It's almost completely run by volunteers. There are only five paid staff, the volunteers do everything.

"It's a park you can drive through - it has giraffe, zebra and wildebeest. It's more like a zoo but they don't call it that."

Libby worked with all of the animals on a three-day roster - tigers one day, lions the next and hyenas on day three, with all the other animals "squished into the roster as well".

Volunteers sleep four to a cabin with breakfast and lunch provided. Dinner is up to them to prepare.

"One day we got 12 new volunteers. Nine of them were Israeli, but none of them knew each other. I shared my cabin with a Canadian girl and a Chinese girl and there were some Americans there as well. And not only young people. There was a lady who was 78 and others in their 30s-40s.

"It's hard work - you can't go there if you're not able or prepared to work."

A typical day for Libby started at 7am with feeding the animals.

After a quick breakfast for the volunteers, it was then project time - doing things that needed doing around the park like painting or building platforms - until 1pm, then an hour for lunch with animal time from 2-5pm.

 

Libby got to know and love the park's two hyenas which were brought in from another animal park when they were three weeks old.
Libby got to know and love the park's two hyenas which were brought in from another animal park when they were three weeks old.

"We just rotated through the animals so we got to see them all throughout a day. Then we fed them at 5pm," she said.

 

"Feeding lions and tigers is amazing. Some of the tigers are only 11 months old so they still got fed from bottles. The lions would get thrown legs of meat. When I first started, it was a bit confronting. You'd open the fridge and there'd be horses' heads and things you didn't really want to see hanging there. People donate their old animals for food which saves the park a lot of money."

As if just being in Africa wasn't exciting enough, Libby says working with the animals was mind blowing.

"It didn't feel real at first. For the first five days I couldn't believe I was patting and feeding a lion. I thought, "Oh my God, it's really happening". Then it all became so familiar and I didn't want to leave.

If she had to choose, Libby would say Sho Sho the 300kg tiger was her favourite.

"I got into the cage with Sho Sho and got to feed him. Normally volunteers wouldn't feed him but one of the paid workers asked if I'd like to.

"And I loved the meerkats. Most people are only there two weeks but when you're there longer, as I was, you get given an animal you have to spend more time with.

"I volunteered for the meerkats because they were just really different. They're inquisitive and try and dig in your pocket and they have a look around if someone walks past. I loved them. I was Meerkat Mummy."

While Libby was getting down and dirty with the big cats, her mum Jenny was home in Gympie following her adventures via phone.

"Mum was excited for me because she knew it was something I'd always wanted to do but she was a bit worried about me too, especially when I rang her and told her I got attacked by a lion!"

A few scratches haven't put her off though.

"I'd go back in a second. I'd like to go back next year because they're hoping to have some new tiger cubs. As I left, they were also hoping one of the leopards was pregnant."

Not surprisingly, Libby found it hard to settle down when she got home.

"I struggled for the first few days just from doing something so amazing then coming back to reality. It was weird not getting to wake up and play with lions," she laughed.

"Our cabins were beside the lions and they'd roar all night. It's so quiet here at home - unfortunately we don't have any lions at home. The cat will have to do. He looked so funny when I came home - so little."

 

>> To read more lifestyle stories

Topics:  animals lifestyle south africa wildlife



Foodies' scavenger hunt: are you up for it?

IF YOU want to give your tastebuds the flavour sensations of a lifetime, here is the ultimate foodie’s scavenger hunt through Brisbane.

5 minutes with Israel Folau on footy, life and love

Israel Folau and Silver Fern netballer Maria Tutaia announced their engagement last last year.

WE CAUGHT up with football star and Brisbane ex-pat Israel Folau.

10 reasons to head to South Bank this summer

Head to the only inner-city beach in Australia!

South Bank has a ridiculous amount of fun things to do.

Five mammoth events you need in your life

No Caption

BRISBANE isn’t known for doing things by halves…

How to make your child's every dream come true...

Take a dip at South Bank in the inner-city beach.

‘I DON’T want to do fun things, Mum and Dad’… said no child ever!

How to do Eat Street the right way

Know where to start and where to end to avoid a huge food coma before you get to experience all the goodies!

EVERY Friday and Saturday night, Hamilton comes alive.

You can do WHAT in Brisbane?!

Talk about arriving in style! Take your pub crawl to the next level with a helicopter!

BET you didn't know you could do these things in Brisbane...

No Prep, but plenty of Kaos at Morgan Park.

Julia Page with seven-month-old Massison Lonergan.

Did we snap your photo at the drags? Find it here.

Pig dogs suffer most in the heat

They won't realise their killing themselves.

They won't realise they're killing themselves.

The British baker with no shortage of apples

SWEET TREAT: Liberty Sanders can bake everything from a multi-tier wedding cake to an out of this world brownie.

She stayed for love and made baking her business.

Local Partners

Rockies owners consider banning visitors

visitors who vandalise and trash The Rockies waterhole have owners considering banning all users.


Action hots up with semis this morning in carnival cricket

Dale's XI will play Dutch's Rudders at noon on Queens Pary Synthetic today.

The draw for final day of Warwick cricket carnival

No prep is about the dragway surface not the cars

Royden Hardcastle will compete in his 1928 Dodge Senior 6 in the No Prep Kaos meeting at Warwick Dragway this Saturday.

Historic day on Saturday for Warwick Dragway

Hurricanes bunny has best of two ducks on a weekend

Hurricanes brains trust Mark Fowler and David Hallman during a carnival game at Dunning Oval.

Batting Bunnies fit in well with Hurricanes Elite fun cricket team

Jennifer Aniston wants to return to TV

Jennifer Aniston is desperate to make a return to TV

Madonna hopes for election unity

Madonna hopes Donald Trump's election will "bring people together"

JK Rowling rules out Cursed Child trilogy

JK Rowling has ruled out a 'Cursed Child' movie trilogy

Buckley's chance in psychological thriller

James McAvoy and Betty Buckley in a scene from the movie Split.

Broadway veteran back on big screen with James McAvoy

Daniel MacPherson: acting’s a bit like channel surfing

Australian actor Daniel MacPherson in a scene from the American TV series APB.

THE Aussie export talks about making his mark in the US.

Shopping isn't fun if you can see dead people

Lisa Marie Woodham will be giving readings in Gladstone until Saturday January 21.

Shopping isn't fun if you can see dead people

By the water's edge

Secure your seachange

HOT PROPERTY: Money to spend on land, buildings

File picture.

Sale, leasing of industrial real estate picks up in Mackay

Why tree-changers want to buy in the Southern Downs

Core Logic property statistics reveal the region's median house price for the Downs dropped 1.5% to $241,250 the September quarter.

Region's median house price drops 1.5% to $241,250

Collapsed Coast company could owe up to $5 million

Staff, ATO, landlords among those out of pocket.

Ipswich block of dirt sells for $582 a square metre

JUST SOLD: A property on the Brookwater golf course sold for a record-breaking $612,000.

Property smashed 2007 record by close to $100,000

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!