It is important that we explain our purpose as a facility with regards to our conservation ethics and preservation mission. For that reason as well, we are always open to queries and/or concerns as it provides us with a platform to further expand on what we do.
What sets Cango Wildlife ranch apart from the rest:
Firstly Cango Wildlife Ranch is an accredited institution, this internationally recognised accreditation awarded by the African Association of Zoos & Aquaria (PAAZA) has only been awarded to 6 facilities in the whole of Africa, it is extremely prestigious and difficult to achieve and is reviewed every 4 years, having been awarded this accolade since 2003, we will shortly be going for our next review.
This award also ensures that Cango complies with extremely stringent conditions regarding our animals and what happens to them as well as the quality of our facility and the safety of our visitors. Alongside this award is our membership of the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA) and which is by invitation only. Representing the top 300 organisations worldwide, we are one of only a small handful in the whole of Africa to have been invited to join this prestigious organisation, to give you an idea of the level of excellence these awards require, we are in league with the South African Association for Marine and Biological Research (Ushaka Marine World) and the National Zoo in Pretoria.
Cango Wildlife Ranch conservation and breeding programs:
For over 28 years our organisation has worked tirelessly for the conservation of cheetah and other endangered species - we are one of the 5 biggest cheetah centres in the world and have for many years had the highest survival rate of cubs produced globally. In our 28 years of breeding endangered animals, Cango Wildlife Ranch has produced more cheetah cubs than that of the entire United States and we have therefore had a dramatic and vital impact on assisting the conservation gene pool of this species.
Cheetah, as a species, are very specialised hunters who need flat grasslands/savannah’s in order to hunt and survive, most of which have been converted into farming areas. We simply cannot release cheetahs into the wild, as there is nowhere safe to release them. People are intruding on their land faster than introductions can take place. However we as a facility focus on breeding to increase the in-situ populace. The purpose for this is important, and is something that the public (in general) are not aware of/don’t understand. Should something happen to a particular species in the wild, captive facilities will be able to supply genetically diverse species to rectify and assist the collapsed genetic pool. Just recently this has been done for the Radiated Tortoise species. In other words this species would be extinct if captive facilities had not bred this specific tortoise. This is vital in ensuring an international genetically diverse populace. In the future when release is possible, measures will be taken in order to have animals raised in a wilder state in order to start off the process of re-wilding animals once again.
As none of our cats are intended for release into the wild, the majority are hand-raised by our care givers for a multitude of reasons, and sometimes circumstantial. It can happen that first time mothers (especially in cheetah) neglect the cubs. Additionally, cheetahs in general, are especially vulnerable as babies. We monitor them very closely and if we notice a serious drop in weight, or pick up on any unusual symptoms/general illness then we pull the cubs immediately to encourage survival rates.
Furthermore, by hand-rearing cubs, they grow to be very calm and relaxed animals which helps for medical or husbandry management and additionally encourages a strong relationship between animals and curators which ensures a stress-free animal/environment. These animals generally form part of our Ambassadorial program. Ambassador animals play a major role in assisting to educate the public and highlight the plight of its species by going to schools and other public events alongside our controlled encounter programs. (It is important to note that not all the cubs born at the Cango Wildlife Ranch are hand reared.)
As far as our breeding programs are concerned the health of our animals is our greatest priority and as a result our females are usually only bred every 2nd or 3rd year in order for them to fully regain their strength and ensure quality of life.
Many of our Cheetahs reside on our premises for life; either at the Cango Wildlife Ranch or at our Jill Bryden-Fayers Reserve and a number are moved to alternate facilities if there is a need for them (see below). It is important to note that we only breed with select species where we can increase and contribute positively to the genetic pool of the genus.
Animals that leave Cango Wildlife Ranch:
In line with our conservation program and in order to expand the gene pool of ex-situ populations, we do sell, exchange or donate species to other institutions but only if they comply with and are recognised by CITES (Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Species) and/or the Department of Nature Conservation, as well the Department of Environmental Affairs. Any animal which leaves our facility only goes to other CITES or Nature Conservation authorised/recognised organisations, they cannot (neither would we) send them off without this approval. We are also bound by the PAAZAB & WAZA code of ethics which absolutely forbid the sale of any animal to hunting concessions or members of the public. Apart from this our dedicated and professional animal staff would never allow an animal that leaves our facility to go anywhere where it may be harmed, neither to un-registered or unrecognised facilities. Additionally, any of our animals’ movements have to comply, not only with CITES, but also our Provincial Nature Conservation authority, which ensures that the receiving facility is registered and recognized.
In addition, if we were to purchase animals, we do so to introduce new bloodlines. They are not purchased for the use of interactions. Additionally, we do not discard of any animal due to old age or ‘lack of use’! We care very deeply for all of our animals and take our responsibility to care for them exceptionally seriously. We house a number of animals that we commit to care for, for their full lifespan.
Any and every animal’s well-being at our facility is paramount. We house over 90 species of animals that are all in excellent condition and are cared for by a large team of experienced people who are animal lovers and activists in their own right. We commit to caring for all animals young, old or sick as that forms part of the responsibility of an animal-loving facility.
Should any animal leave our facility - they will leave on a basis whereby we have a surplus and they are needed by another accredited facility to form part of their programs. In the event that there is a demand (from an accredited facility) for a specific species, then we would potentially breed the animals, and they may temporarily form part of our natural encounters program. However we do not believe in breeding species should there be NO demand. By demand we are purely referring to animals that would be used at ACCREDITED facilities for educational programs or to enhance genetic diversity.
Animal Encounters and the standards thereof:
Cango Wildlife Ranch was one of the first centres in Africa to promote safe and educational ambassador animal programs however sadly doing this, a number of extremely ‘shady’ operations have opened up and have tainted what is & should be a powerful tool.
We believe strongly in the positive effect created by our ambassador or animal contact programs for the conservation of certain key species. We feel that our encounter opportunities, strictly controlled by our experienced staff, stringent protocols and advanced ambassador training programs are in huge contrast to regular ‘pettings’ which we do not condone. Our encounter programs in fact have greatly assisted us in raising awareness, as there is no doubt that the majority of people who experience an encounter are more motivated to react positively towards conservation issues, especially the species they have had a physical encounter with.
We only use select ambassador species for our encounter programs.
They are trained and conditioned from a young age and are fundamental in our education programs... for example, we have taken cheetahs to wheelchair races to meet people who would otherwise never be able to have that experience, we have taken snakes and cheetah to schools for educationals and so forth.
It is undeniable that the funding generated through the encounter program is essential to the on-going preservation programs at the Cango Wildlife Ranch. Furthermore, it enables us to donate a portion of our encounter proceeds to other recognised conservation bodies working in- situ (who are doing the work that we are unable to do). Not only are funds donated to these organisations, but their work is also highlighted to our visitors, thereby exposing their vital conservation work to the over 3 million visitors who have come through our gates since our programs began. This would include the Cape Leopard Trust, the Madagascan Fauna Group, VULPRO as well as Cheetah Metapopulation.
The Natural Encounters program at the Cango Wildlife Ranch takes all measures to ensure the animals’ wellbeing during the event of a Natural Encounter, namely;
- We do not allow anyone but trained staff to bottle feed our cubs due to the risks involved
- We do not allow for visitors to pick the cubs up or to play with them, the visitors will also only be permitted to at most touch the animals on their backs, sides and top of their heads.
- We have a strict hygiene protocol where visitors are treated with anti-bacterial and anti-fungal sprays in order to prevent the possible spread of germs
Our staff members have received training from internationally recognised bodies in order to create an environment which is safe for visitors and the animals involved, not only during encounters but also in general husbandry practices.
We have strict safety protocols in place and in order for a staff member to qualify to take visitors into an interactive animal exhibit they have to do the following;
- Write a theoretical test of which the pass mark is 90%
- Do a practical exam which is performed to senior management whom will do the assessment
- Bond with the animals involved in order to build a relationship with the animals
Our animals are trained through operant conditioning/positive reinforcement practices and under no circumstances are the animals forced into doing anything that they have not been trained/conditioned to do
We do not breed cubs for the sole purpose of having an encounter. If we so happen to have cubs available and they have received the necessary ambassadorial training, only then will we consider the possibility to incorporate the cubs into the Natural Encounters program. Once ambassador animals grow up and reach sexual maturity they will form part of our endangered species preservation program or will move to another accredited facility for the purpose of maintaining an international genetically diverse captive population of the species.
To ensure both humans and animals are comfortable at all times, we do frequent conditioning training such as wheelchair tests etc.
Cango Wildlife Ranch animal collection:
We house species from around the world as we try to educate people on the plight of endangered animals on an international level. In addition, there are a number of people who will never have the opportunity to travel the world and see many of the species. Alternatively international guests often learn a thing or two on guided tours, about species native to their own countries. We pride ourselves in the variety of species that we house, if for no other reason, that we can share them with over 40 000 school children per annum. We house in excess of 90 species who are fundamentally crucial to our schooling education program. We have teachers who have been bringing children to us for over 25 years, and as a facility we feel it is an honour to be able to provide preservation insight to all these children for a large variety of animals. Additionally, we provide one of the world’s most unique intern experiences for veterinary/nurse/zoological orientated students due to our variety of species which is vitally important from an experience perspective.
We have a full-time volunteer program where they focus mainly on enrichment to mentally and physically stimulate all of our captive animals by enhancing their enclosures with activities that encourage natural and instinctive behaviour. This is fundamental in healthy and happy animals. We recently attended the International Enrichment Conference where we received the latest training in improving lifestyle for in-situ animals.
Cango Wildlife Ranch animal record-keeping and archives:
Being an internationally accredited facility, all our animal records are placed on an international database where like-minded and accredited facilities can view these records. All responsible facilities should do this. We record everything on this database, from the injuries, to illness, to relocation and so forth. All our cheetahs are also included in the International Cheetah studbook and all our cats have transponders.
Cango Wildlife Ranch housing, rehabilitation, releases and so on:
We frequently have animals brought in to us or assist animals that we come across. We also have animals at our facility that have gone through rehabilitation and tourists frequently query this.
Firstly, the rehabilitation process (as far as releasing back into the wild) is an extensive process highly dependent on the nature of injuries that the animal faces. If the animal can be released there needs to be a guarantee of a high chance of survival. All of the above needs to be done in accordance with Cape Nature and involves numerous permits and very extensive rehabilitation processes, often done by specialised rehab centres. The animals generally, that cannot be rehabilitated, need to be homed by permanent facilities who can provide them with the care necessary and that is where we come in. We have released wild dogs into the wild in the Pilansberg Nature Reserve which was a huge success; however it is simply not possible for all animals.
- We have rescued a number of species that have obtained injuries in the wild and cannot be released again.
- We have received animals that people tried to keep as pets and were confiscated by Cape Nature.
- We house animals that have been injured, rehabilitated and have been sent to us for sanctuary/to provide a permanent home for them.
- Often people bring wild animals that are injured to our facility, and we assist where we can.
- A number of species were born at our facility
- A number have been exchanged and bought
There are a variety of reasons for us housing species however many of the species were captive bred with a few exceptions like the vultures, porcupines, etc. which were rescue cases.
Cango Wildlife Ranch Volunteers and staff:
We have a large base of full-time staff at our facility that care for our animals, maintenance, marketing, reservations, our restaurant etc. 4 of our staff are dedicated to our volunteer program. Our program hosts up to 26 volunteers who have set schedules where their work includes cleaning, gardening, food preparation, and animal enrichment. At no point do we rely on volunteers for the centre to run. They are here to learn and assist. Under no circumstances will volunteers be allowed to care for cubs (or any baby animals) as they do not have the knowledge and experience equipped to do so. It is careless for a facility to allow volunteers to hand-rear animals as it can go horribly wrong, very quickly and very easily. These little lives are valuable and should be treated as such by knowledgeable and professional staff only. In addition, our staff have attended international enrichment conferences and use these skills to educate the volunteers on how to enrich the lives of in-situ animals by encouraging natural behaviours through constant mental and physical stimulation.
Cango Wildlife Ranch funding:
In comparison to similar facilities, our entrance and encounter tariffs are in fact much lower. One entrance ticket entitles you to a full day pass, a guided tour where you can view over 90 species of animals, a snake park, a bird aviary, a touch farm, a kiddies play park and jumping castle, two on-site restaurants and a number of amazing encounter opportunities (which are additional extras). When compared, we proudly boast best value for money!
As a proud conservation and education facility we receive no government funding, which is an enormous challenge with the overheads that we face. People seldom comprehend with the massive costs that we face on a daily basis. Our facility is owned by a family, and receives no government financial aid/funding as a zoological premises. Every day we are faced with exorbitant running costs of maintenance, water, electricity, etc… in addition our primary focus is to ensure that all the animals receive the highest standard medical attention and a calculated varied diet (species-specific) good enough for any human to eat. Our standards are exceptionally high and it all comes at a cost, as do the many hours of labour put in by our over 100 dedicated and animal-loving staff. Some months are good for us… but unfortunately some months are not as kind, however, we continue to work hard to provide the best for our animals and our tourists.
We receive very few sponsorships and donations in general, but are always grateful for the help that we do receive. Recently, we have built our own on-site Animal Care Centre (hospital) which is of massive assistance to us, and the animals. This building was kindly sponsored by Mr Pierre Zimmerman, and there are simply no words to describe how grateful we are.
Cango Wildlife Ranch’s position on Canned Hunting :
The reason for addressing this topic is due to the number of queries that we have had regarding our stance on this issue. Cango Wildlife Ranch does not condone, encourage, support or supply to the canned-hunting industry in any way.
Firstly, lions are not a target species for our facility. We focus our energy on endangered species and strive to conserve species by ensuring genetically diverse strong captive populations. In addition, our tours are unique in that they are structured as a platform whereby we educate the public on the species that we house and the plight that they face in the wild. We stand firmly against this and make it very clear on our tours, within the company, and when queried. We have two ambassador lions that form part of our tours and are fundamental in shedding light on the canned-hunting industry.
We recently attended the Global March for Lions in George. We had about 20 representatives there from staff to volunteers and so on out of an overall turnout of about 40 people. We have also been in correspondence with Chris Mercer (founder of Global Lion March) as to how we can become more involved as a facility.
We are exceptionally open about the work that we do, and furthermore, we encourage that people ask questions to the facilities that they support as all of them should be very simple to answer. We are always open to questions... and we will continue to raise awareness and be a voice for the species we house. We encourage the public, and the media to continue to shed light on the canned-hunting industry which is another one of South Africa’s dark secrets. In the process though, we request that they also continue to support facilities, such as ourselves, who are doing things for the right reason.