LIONSROCK Vet Christine Steyrer

World Veterinary Day 30 April

Specialist big cat vet builds 24/7-resilience up by being fit and inspired


Bethlehem, South Africa. 20220428 | Veterinarians need tools and support to maintain their personal health and wellness, according to the announcement for World Veterinary Day 2022. The event falls on April 30 this year, and the theme is “Strengthening veterinary resilience.” 

The theme of this year’s commemorative day for vets resonates well with the resident vet at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary, Christine Steyrer, as she has refined her own way of keeping up to the challenges that her 24-hours-a-day-on-call requires of her, and it has much to do with the big cats themselves.

LIONSROCK is a sanctuary established by the global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS, that reveals animal suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. The sanctuary is in the Free State, South Africa and provides a lifelong home for over a hundred big cats that have been rescued from circuses, zoos, and other cruel conditions around the world. Here they are cared for in large species-appropriate enclosures to live out the rest of their lives. 

To this Austrian born vet the building up of extra stamina is something that she was already practicing before she came to FOUR PAWS.

“I am generally a self-motivated person, but to be physically and emotionally resilient is something you need to work on especially if you are working with special needs and rescued animals.”

The World Veterinary Association created World Veterinary Day in 2000 as an annual celebration of the veterinary profession, taking place on the last Saturday of April. 

Steyrer says it is a profession and even more so a passion well worth celebrating even though it has a high emotional toll. “Vets should not be too hard on themselves. Work takes it out of you at times and you should be in the habit of being happy about the small things like finally getting an animal’s test results."

She regularly takes to the road for a jog in the fresh air on the country roads near the sanctuary with the LIONSROCK rescue dogs at her side. Her inspiration to get up and go in the morning also comes from the strength and courage of the big cats and their stories.

It is especially the story of lioness Nora and lion Giovanni that speaks to this vet with the master’s degree from the University of Pretoria and who obtained her veterinary qualifications from University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria.

She explains both Nora and Giovanni are more comfortable since they were socialised together at the sanctuary in 2018.  The two lions respectively arrived from the Netherlands in 2014 and 2015, Nora as a rescued circus lioness and Giovanni as a lion used for photographs on beaches and entertainment. Now in their old age they are inseparable and of great comfort to each other together in an enclosure.

Vaccinations of the big cats are scheduled and like at present, take place annually. Also, part of her days is seeing to the big cats in the Special Care Unit. Christine refers with a twinkle in her eyes to this unit as being like “a frail care unit at an old age home.”

Visitors can observe Nora and Giovanni as well as other big rescued cats cared for by the LIONSROCK team. Visit 


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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