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Facilities for keeping the larger cats for tourism

11 February 2014

Keeping of the larger cats for tourism in smaller enclosures requires adequate facilities and care. In some provinces, such cats may not be kept for breeding purposes. The guidelines of the relevant latest National Threatened or Protected Species Regulations as published in the Government Gazette should also be followed. For tourism, the animals should also not come into direct contact with any tourist. The following general guidelines are useful in planning such facilities although they may vary from province to province.

There must be a suitable source of food which should preferably be fed without the animals associating feeding with humans. A system that is often followed consists of a pulley system which is serviced from a concealed facility some distance away from the enclosure.

Before a permit will be considered, proof of damage insurance may be required, and some of the insurers have a specific policy for it. Written permission is also often required from the relevant local authority and all the adjacent landowners. A letter of support of a local veterinarian who will care for the animals when required may also often be required. Membership of the Pan-African Association of Zoos and Aquaria is required.

www.leopard.tvDesigns for an enclosure which has minimum specifications is required. This usually involves a minimum surface area of 400 m² per animal. The enclosure should preferably consist of a double carnivore-proof fence, with an electrified overhang towards the inside on the inner fence and a minimum distance of 1.5 m between the two fences.

The inner fence should consist of at least 17 strands of wire and should be covered with heavy-duty mesh with a maximum diameter of 3.15 mm on the outside of the wire strands. The inner fence should be at least 2.4 m tall and the outer one 1.8 m. The inner fence should be electrified with two trip wires 150 mm above ground level 0.5 m on either side of the fence. The first electrified strand is attached 300 mm above ground level to the wire fence with 225 mm double stand-off brackets. The second electrified strand is attached 600 mm above the ground to the wire fence with 450 mm double stand-off brackets, and the third 1.5 m above the ground with 450 mm double stand-off brackets. The fourth electrified strand is attached to the wire fence 2.3 m above the ground with 450 mm double stand-off brackets. The electrified strands should have a diameter of at least 2.24 mm.

www.leopard.tvAn overhang that leans towards the enclosure and consists of three electrified strands is constructed at the top of the inner fence and is furnished with an earth-wire that is attached with a 110 mm double stand-off bracket. The outer buffer fence can also be electrified to prevent contact of people and animals with the enclosed cats from the outside. Where large carnivores can be attracted to the enclosure from the outside, the outer fence should also be covered with heavy-duty mesh wire on the side facing the enclosure. The corners of the enclosures should preferably be rounded off with a diagonal fence of 10 m, and the 3 m wide entrance to the camp should be through two sliding gates in each of the fences.

An energizer which yields a consistent flow of 6000 V over a distance of at least 8 km should be used for the electrified fence. It should yield at least 6 Joules of power upon contact for at least 1 second at a resistance of 500 ohms. There should also be a reliable alarm in case of power failure.

www.leopard.tvEach enclosure should be provided with a suitable shelter from the weather and the sun and it can also serve as a look-out point for the animals. A suitable shallow waterhole is necessary and each animal should be marked permanently with a micro-chip. A register of all the animals should be kept and it should record the age, sex, type of animal, the number of animals and the relevant micro-chip number of each one.

The enclosure should also contain a holding pen of some 30 x 20 m with water and two sliding gates: one of 1.5 m wide from a passage of 5 m wide that runs from the outside fence to the corner of the holding pen, and one of 1.2 m wide at that corner. The holding pen is used when treating sick and injured animals. The passage is closed off with 3 m wide double sliding gates where it enters the enclosure and is entered in turn from the outside through the two sets of 3 m wide double sliding gates in the outer and inner perimeter fence.

www.leopard.tvWarning signs about the presence of the type of cat that is being kept and the electrified fence should be fixed to all the fences, gates and the outer fence of the wildlife camp in which the enclosure has been built. Should any animal escape, they should still be in a wildlife camp with its own electrified fence. Therefore the enclosure should always be built in a larger wildlife camp. This will also prevent escaped animals from moving to neighbouring properties. Any escapes should be reported immediately to all the neighbours, the relevant conservation authority and the SA Police Service. Emergency services should be contacted immediately in the case of injuries.

No tourists should be allowed to approach the enclosure fence on foot and vehicles should kept at least 50 m away from it. The aim of such an facility for tourism is to generate an additional income, but no tourist should be active near the fences. The tour guides should be trained specifically on how to handle tourists at large cats, and should also be fully qualified professional hunters.



Anon. 1962. The Animal Protection Act (Act 71 of 1962) and its later amendments. Cape Town: Government Gazettes.

Anon. 2003. National Principles, Norms and Standards for the sustainable use of large predators in South Africa. Cape Town: Government Gazette 25090.

Anon. 2005. South African National Standards for Zoo and Aquarium Practice. Cape Town: Government Gazette 10379.

NEMBA 2004. National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (Act 10 of 2004). Cape Town: Government Gazette 467 (26436).

Article by Prof J du P Bothma



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