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



Date nights under $50

ACCORDING to The Bachelor falling in love involves helicopter rides, private jets, shopping trips, and we mustn’t forget the hot tubs.

Brisbane's arts and culture events centre stage

You loved the film, now you're about to love the musical. Don't miss The Bodyguard The Musical in Brisbane this July.

THE arts and culture events you don't want to miss.

Homewares stores to fulfil your Instagram dreams

No Caption

You too can become an Insta-star with these fab stores.

Top 10 Brisbane experiences to cross off your bucket list

Do yourself a favour and get amongst the food truck scene. Eat Street is a great place to start.

A GOOD bucket list doesn’t have to span continents or cost millions.

Six mega sporting events you need to be at this year

Don't miss all the action trackside this season.

IF THERE is one thing Brisbane does damn well, it’s play host.

Insider’s guide to the best rooftop bars

Eleven Rooftop Bar is one to put on your hit list.

SEE the world from a different perspective...

Where to get your hands on the best wings

Try out these bad boys at Buffalo Bar.

IS THERE anything better than a wicked bowl of chicken wings? Nope.

McCulkin jury may consider manslaughter as an alternative

Vincent O'Dempsey.

"We know that he's a jealous, violent man,” the court heard.

Council moves into confidential sessions

NEW PROJECTS: Southern Downs Regional Council has been given almost $3 million through the Works for Queensland funding.

Councils are allowed to discuss matters in a closed session

Second drink driving charge in two weeks

Warwick Court House

His licence was immediately suspended

Local Partners

Rebel Wilson says she didn’t have to lie to make it

I’M not glamorous, but that doesn’t make me a liar: that’s the message from Rebel Wilson on her second day in the witness box.

Kim Kardashian slammed over Manchester tribute

Kim Kardashian's tribute to Manchester didn't go down well

Top Gun 2 movie is happening, Tom Cruise confirms

Tom Cruise in a scene from the movie Top Gun.

TOM Cruise delights fans with announcement on Sunrise.

The first Baywatch movie reviews are in

From left, Jon Bass, Alex Daddario, Zac Efron, Dwayne Johnson, Kelly Rohrbach, and Ilfenesh Hadera in a scene from the movie Baywatch.

Critics were less than impressed.

Boyfriend loses it over sex lie

Stacey Louise’s sex lie destroys her relationship.

SEVEN Year Switch’s Stacey told a fib about her sex life.

Why Crowe’s thankful for those ‘bulls**t’ rumours

Russell Crowe and Terri Irwin in 2007.

Crowe and Terri Irwin have been dodging dating rumours for years now

MOVIE REVIEW: King Arthur - Legend of the Sword

Charlie Hunnam in a scene from the movie King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.

Why the critics have got Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur all wrong.

How Toowoomba house prices compare in Australia

For sale sign in front of home.

Here's what $700,000 will buy you in Toowoomba, Brisbane and Sydney

One of Maryborough's most historic homes is still for sale

FULL OF HISTORY: Trisha Moulds is owner of the historic Tinana state known as Rosehill. The beautiful home is currently for sale.

It has been the scene of both joy and tragedies over the years.

The face of the Sunshine Coast's overpriced rental crisis

Alyx Wilson had to rent a $385 unit in Currimundi because the market was too competitive for cheaper rental housing. She is now renting a room from friends who own a house in Currimundi, and says its much more affordable.

Young people feel the strain in competitive, expensive rental market

WATCH: Take a tour of a tradie's dream home

5a Bruce Hiskens Court, Norman Gardens, going for $720,000. INSET: Lea Taylor.

Huge block with potential for anything

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!