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One of the most loved big cats at the FOUR PAWS LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary is the playful leopard, Bakari, who celebrated his 12th year in the sanctuary last November.
The leopard was once known as the little selfie-cub nobody wanted. He was taken away from his mother when he was still a new-born cub at a German zoo. When he was close to two months old, he was used as a live prop at Christmas dinners at the same zoo. Visitors would pay to be photographed with the baby leopard. Very soon however the zoo had no more use for the little leopard.
In 2010, at the age of eight weeks, he was moved to a rescue centre in The Netherlands, Panthera, and now known as FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary.
After FOUR PAWS took the management of the sanctuary over in 2014, life for Bakari took a positive turn. The four-year-old leopard flourished due to being provided with special care, proper food, medical treatments, and enrichment by a dedicated team.
Bakari was carefully prepared to travel in 2016 to come to LIONSROCK in South Africa, to provide him with more space as a growing adult leopard.
At the time, his neighbours at the sanctuary were lions. As these big cats are the natural enemy of leopards and caused him stress, his animal caretakers also thought it best that he should be separated from them.
On the 4th of November 2016 Bakari started his journey to live his best life as a leopard under the African sun. He was sent off in a crate in the pet taxi by the FELIDA team of Juno van Zon and Simone Schuls with animal keeper Erin Timmer as his caretaker on his journey to South Africa.
When he was released on the 5th of November in 2016 in his enclosure at LIONSROCK, Bakari nervously looked around him when he stepped out of his crate, took his first tentative step on African soil, and then made a small patrol of the enclosure taking a moment to stretch and scratch at the enclosure’s willow tree.
Erin said afterwards he adapted beautifully, was calm in a few hours and was soon jumping onto his platform and rolling around in the grass as well as making himself at home in his night house.
“He has always had a natural ability to adapt.”
Erin Timmer. Animal Keeper, FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary
During the years this trait came in handy as Bakari became more and more at home. He however still prefers to eat in private and will mostly take his food aside into his night house to eat or hide while he is eating. One of his other favourite pastimes is to climb the willow tree in his enclosure.
The patterns on his body of his rosettes (rose-like markings) are very specific with darker patterns and larger rosettes which makes the caretakers suspect that he might be of Indo Chinese origin.
His personality shines through as a very active and lovable character. Everyone who encounters him, be it animal caretakers or guests or volunteers, develops a strong bond with Bakari.
He enjoys larger enrichments, like cardboard boxes being placed in his enclosure. Other enrichment activities include the hanging in a tree of an enrichment bag full of dung, sticks and leaves.
The animal caretakers have found that he likes interesting activities and prefers his enrichment bags to be placed in a hard-to-reach-place like hanging from the beams of his platform. This allows him to display his natural capabilities as a leopard and his agile playfulness. For visitors, it is always wonderful to watch the speed with which he can get to such bags or even when his food is given to him by hanging it up in a place that necessitates a big jump. You need to have your camera ready and steady to get a picture of the big confident cat in action!