Romana Kőnigsbrun (Austrian Ambassador to SA), Carsten Hertwig (Director FOUR PAWS Sustainable Sanctuaries), Josef Pfabigan (CEO of FOUR PAWS), Hildegard Pirker (Sanctuary Manager: LIONSROCK), and Fiona Miles (Director: FOUR PAWS South Africa) reopen LIONSROCK accomodation in Bethlehem in South Africa

New look LIONSROCK rocks ethical vision

LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in the Free State has undergone a transformation and was officially re-opened on Friday 6 January


Bethlehem, 9 January 2023 – The accommodation at the LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa’s Free State has undergone a transformation and was officially re-opened on Friday 6 January, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony by Josef Pfabigan, Chief Executive Officer of the global animal welfare organisation, FOUR PAWS.

Pfabigan said at the reopening: “The reopening of LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary for day visits and overnight stays is an important part of the work of FOUR PAWS for animal welfare worldwide. With a new visitor concept, the Sanctuary is now a state-of-the-art destination for ethical tourism and animal welfare education. Letting visitors get insights into the lives of all our rescued animals enables us to spread the word about the global work of FOUR PAWS, here in South Africa, as well as around the world.”

The construction of the new look to the accommodation started in 2022 and was the result of months of strategic planning and consultation with tourism industry specialists during which it became apparent just how unique LIONSROCK truly is in Africa. The Sanctuary was opened for the first time in February 2008. It is one of the five True Sanctuaries for big cats in South Africa which travellers who have an ecological and ethical vision, focusing on animal welfare, can visit with peace of mind.

The Director of FOUR PAWS in South Africa, Fiona Miles, says a complete paradigm shift has been made from a traditional tourism and hospitality focus to highlighting the core purpose of FOUR PAWS, being animal welfare. There will also be an exciting new emphasis on education in the appearance of the accommodation, as well as the content of tours.

Designed with animal welfare and conservation-minded visitors in mind, elegant wall murals depicting LIONSROCK’s much-loved big cats are installed in the visitor area, and a new curio shop was designed. New packages for visitors have also been put together to make sure there is a break-away opportunity for all, be it a weekend or mid-week breakaway.

Included in these and on the cards for day visitors, who want to join up for a guided drive in the LIONSROCK safari vehicle, are standard as well as feeding time tours and a visit to Tiger Valley. A special feature is the inclusion of an air bridge and platform tour which allows a bird’s eye view of the sanctuary.

Says Miles: “Regardless of a visit being two hours or seven days, visitors to the Sanctuary will leave more knowledgeable of animal welfare, the importance of rescuing wild animals from exploitative conditions at the hands of humans and the hard work and careful planning that happens daily in a Big Cat Sanctuary.  We hope that the experience will move people to return to their lives educated and equipped to make changes in a sustainable way in their daily lives and live a little kinder. The true beauty of LIONSROCK will always be our hundred regal big cats in their enclosures and the free-roaming animals. Their uniqueness remains unmatched.”


FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. 

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