One of our team members knows a local that has a college buddy who is a ranch manager at a private farm that raises mostly lions and tigers and lots of wild game. Johnny and his wife Michelle and a pick up with about 6 blond kids in the back bed met us at our hotel this morning. We followed them out about 15 minutes to this ranch. A young family bought the ranch recently and this is their second home and Johhny pretty much runs the show making sure all animals and acres of animals are safe and of course fed. They rescue some and sell most to professional hunters or reserves. The ranch is over 1800 acres or 900 hectares. No one from the public comes here. There were over 200 species of animals out here. Johnny, the range manager took us on a drive for several hours out on the ranch and we saw herds of everything. At the base near the owners house were all of the lion and tiger pens with cubs and adults. Most have to be about 4-5 years old before they are sold or let go. They have about 230 lions right now and are growing to over 3oo. They are one of the largest breeders in the country. They feed the lions about 5 chickens each twice a week. I wish we could have seen feeding time! They have contracts with chicken farms that when their chickens die they sell them to these guys. Also, kind of gross, they get the fetuses from slaughtered cattle. The big tiger next to Charles is more of a pet on the ranch. He had a huge “kennel” with large pond, etc. His paws were bigger than my head.
The lions were kept in various pens depending on age and sex. Some were kept wild while others were around people and quite tame. We were able to play with a two month old tiger. So cute! He was still pretty sassy and howled when picked up but he did not really try to scratch or bite. His fur was a little course not as soft as I thought. When we all walked away he started crying. In the den next to him/her were a few lion cubs with chicken parts and feathers strewn all over the place. Some of their legs and paws were still “messy” from eating. There was a huge chicken coop next to these and I thought these were what they fed them. Johnny said no that they use dead chickens from other farms. These chickens were for the family for eggs. But the little tiger kitten was already in hunting pose when he was out loose running around and hovered near the coup. Pretty funny. We then all piled in to an ATV and head out to the range.
Driving out on to the ranch brought us really close to a family of giraffes and rhinos. There were two baby giraffes that were one week old and they were already as tall as a tree. Amazing. (Shown in photo) The rhinos stayed far away thank goodness but they were super huge. They are hard to sell anymore because they are poached now. Apparently last year over 800 were poached. Tragic. Supposedly rhinos from this would farm would fetch up to 800,000 Rand which is about $80,000. The lions depending on color and size can get up to $8k. No wonder hunting game here is so expensive. Now these guys require that the hunters who buy the animals for their business must have a minimum of a 4000 acre facility and the hunting is done on foot. Gives the animals more of a chance I suppose. It was hard for me to imagine any of these gorgeous creatures being hunted. Even if it is controlled. There were herds of kudu, Cape water buffalo, Wildebeest, (even golden ones, eland, springbok, (black, copper), black impala, you name it! We even almost drove over a tortoise on our path. Johnny said they only wander about if the rains are coming. Oh boy. Not what I want to hear. Our weather has been so perfect and sunny.
After that adventure we head back in to town to a huge mall called the Waterfront and had a great lunch at a seafood place. It is built around a man-made lake. Sundays here are still sacred and nothing is open except restaurants. So I guess shopping will have to wait. Our days are so long we never get home in time to do anything else anyway. Oh well. I can shop anywhere. Seems the rest of the shooters and British team found the place as well. We also all took over an amazing restaurant we went to last night called Seven in town. The visiting Cape Town Stormers lost their match last night to the local Chittas so our hotel was pretty quiet. But now today there were two football (soccer) teams here. Seems to be the hotel for sports teams. Kind of fun! One interesting thing about our hotel is the center court yard pool area. We all like to sit out there in the early evening after shooting and have drinks. but this flock of birds comes in and take over the trees. They scream! It sounds like you are at a Justin Beiber concert of screaming girls. (No, I have not been to a Beiber concert.) You can’t even talk to each other. As soon as it gets dark they are gone. Just like that. Bizarre.
Tomorrow, Monday is the official opening ceremonies for the 77th SA Bisley Open Championships. Meant to be a cool flag raising ceremony, etc. BUT we have to be there at 7am. The first half of the day is the Free State Cup and individual match and then a team match after lunch called The Dewar Shield. Then we have an awards ceremony right after at the range for Saturdays and tomorrow’s matches. Then our hotel restaurant is hosting a big dinner for the English team and US team. Whew! Another long day. We will find out if my 4 person team did get a record from Saturday.