Fiona Miles_FOUR PAWS Director of South Africa

The year 2022 in review by our Director Fiona Miles

For the Director of FOUR PAWS in South Africa, Fiona Miles, 2022 was the year that the largest number of big cats, ever, at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary, could be released.


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Looking back over 2022, Director of FOUR PAWS in South Africa, Fiona Miles, says that her sixteenth year at the head of the organisation, has been a historical and remarkable one. “It has been an amazing period and I am proud of our accomplishments in 2022.”

2022 was the year that FOUR PAWS South Africa in collaboration with international teams of the organisation rescued 19 animals, the highest number ever in one year for South Africa and brought them to LIONSROCK. More than 150 000 signatures were also logged for the #BreakTheViciousCycle campaign, demonstrating how much FOUR PAWS supporters want to effect a positive change for big cats in South Africa and end the commercial trade and exploitation of all big cat species.

In addition, FOUR PAWS supporters rallied enthusiastically behind the organisation, in the submission of recommendations on the draft White Paper on Conservation and Sustainable Use of South Africa’s Biodiversity, to support us in urging the Department for Forestry, Fisheries and Environment to ensure a phase out of the captive big cat industry and better wild animal welfare.

“We are so thankful to the public for their support in our recommendations to the Government and we believe this is vital to creating the positive change we want to see for animals across the country.”

To Fiona, it is the support from the public and dedication of staff at FOUR PAWS and LIONSROCK, that helped to overcome the challenges of a post-Covid-19 world.

“No one person can change the world on their own. In 2022 we needed to take hands as a team of FOUR PAWS supporters and staff. One of the biggest challenges ever needed collaboration. We, as so many other individuals and organisations, had to adapt to life after the pandemic. The framework we now work within, required agility and flexibility to put together and that is something the team has worked hard to achieve.”

Many of the projects needed extra commitment in 2022, such as the negotiations around the transfer of the #GoldenPride to LIONSROCK from a captive breeding facility in Gauteng.

“The planning required to help these ten lions to be transferred took a lot of determination as well as many sleepless nights. It was an incredible feeling to see them released one by one at LIONSROCK knowing they will now have a safe and happy life.”

She says not everything was ‘sunshine and roses’ throughout the year and singles out the weather at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in the Eastern Free State where inclement and rainy days often made the terrain difficult to navigate.

Another highlight of the year for Fiona was welcoming the four tigers from South America to LIONSROCK. Sandro, Mafalda, Messi, and Gustavo were kept in a train carriage on the Argentinian plains for more than fifteen years until the international FOUR PAWS team brought them to South Africa in March. They now live a life free from exploitation in as natural a captive environment as possible.

“Working on an operation that has taken so long and completing it finally for the tigers by getting the logistics into place, was most rewarding. Working as partners seamlessly together for the project, was also truly gratifying.  I am hugely proud of our contribution.”

On an international level, FOUR PAWS in South Africa has been able to participate in several important global arenas to push for better animal welfare. At UNFFC CoP27 in Egypt, the organisation took part in the first ever Food Pavilion to urge for the transformation of the global food system.

Not long afterwards, FOUR PAWS presented research on the commercial trade of tigers from South Africa and the implications for other big cats at the Wildlife Trade Conference in Panama (CITES CoP19).

Fiona also highlighted international FOUR PAWS projects such animal welfare projects during the ongoing war in Ukraine where a convoy with food and medication brought much needed relief for some animals, as well as the campaign to end the Dog and Cat Meat Trade in Southeast Asia, that led to two cities making commitments to banning the trade.

One of the most heartwarming achievements was the rescue of lion cub, Nikola, by the international team. The small cub travelled 2 000 kilometres from Southeast Europe after being rescued from private ownership to his new home in FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary in the Netherlands.

“The suffering of any little animal is heart wrenching. Knowing Nikola is now safe and happy makes it all worthwhile.”

She says welcoming five Romanian lions from FELIDA to LIONSROCK in August, once again demonstrates how co-operation between the two FOUR PAWS sanctuaries can better big cat welfare worldwide.

“Those five siblings are going to have an incredible life at LIONSROCK in the African sun after their life in a small enclosure in Romania. Seeing them reconciled after a long trip during their release was such a fulfilling experience.”

Going forward towards 2023, Fiona says it is the welfare of animals, humanity and the planet that remains close to her heart.

She is excited about the relaunch of the FOUR PAWS #LiveKinder movement with the key massages to make the world wonderful.

’With this we can start a movement to eat kinder, travel kinder and live kinder and change mindsets.”

On the radar is also diversifying fundraising channels to make it easier for supporters to be part of the FOUR PAWS family and to engage more with stakeholders to expand influence and impact on the African continent.

“We have even more opportunities for working together for 

animal welfare worldwide. It is exciting to know we can once again touch the lives of individual animals as well as make an 

impact on each other’s lives bearing in mind animals have an 

intrinsic value in our world.”

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