Lion at FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary

#BehindTheScenes at FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary

Curator Juno van Zon gives us an exclusive look behind the scenes at the big cat sanctuary


The big cat sanctuary based in the Netherlands is a specialist sanctuary to rescue and care for traumatized big cats. To find out more about the daily activities at FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary we interviewed Curator, Juno van Zon, who has been at the sanctuary since November 2014! Juno gives us an exclusive take behind the scenes!

What's the most unusual experience you've had working at the sanctuary?

It's hard to say which was the most unusual experience. I think it is very interesting working for a sanctuary that is rescuing animals. You come in extraordinary places. But experiences like releasing lion cubs into their enclosure at 3 am in the morning after a 30 hour drive would definitely be part of my unusual experiences. 

Can you describe an average day at work?  

My work consists of running the daily management of FELIDA. So we see which special tasks have to be done with the animals, arranging vet checks or transport for the animals, taking next steps in animal training, leading construction on site, being part of the project team for the renovation of FELIDA, improving the health care, education, etc. Everyday is very different and that’s exactly the reason why I love my job. But sometimes I find it hard to describe what you do on an average day. Because no day is really average!

What's one thing that makes your job feel special? 

That you are able to change an animals life and improve it. Sometimes it still feels hard to imagine that I can be blessed by saying that this is my paid job to help animals in need.

What has been one of the most gratifying or memorable parts of your job?

I think what is most gratifying for me being part of a project like FELIDA, is that we are really changing something. When we started at FELIDA, we had 26 big cats in very bad conditions. We took over the facility that kept the animals inadequately. There was a lot to be done and the animals needed a better life. Now more than 6 years later, we are full of success stories. We developed a team that can give special care to big cats in need, we have transported 15 animals to LIONSROCK, set up a high level of training and enrichment programs, rescued 8 animals, and we are looking towards the future and seeing more developments for a new FELIDA. That makes me very proud to be part of this movement.

What is one of the most challenging aspects of working with animals/working with the sanctuary? 

To be able to not let your emotions influence the decisions you have to make over the animals. I always try to keep looking at it professionally. For example, say we have an animal that cannot live a life that it should have. We need to make the decision for them and we can't look at that from an emotional point of view. Luckily, we build up a great network of knowledge and expertise within FOUR PAWS so we can make these difficult decisions together.

What did you do before you joined FOUR PAWS? 

I studied Wildlife & Management and Recreation & Nature management. Before my studies, I worked on a ship yard as a metal worker and Welder.

What is one of your favorite things about working in the sanctuary?  

To work as a team for one goal, helping the animals towards a better future.

Do you have a favorite animal at the sanctuary? If so, why? 

My favorite animals where Sultan and Sayeeda. The reason being that is because I was with them from the very first moment at the border in Syria until their last here in FELIDA. Their journey was really special and I’m very proud I could be an important part in that.

How has your work at the sanctuary changed your life and impacted your family/friends/community? 

I think a big change is that I cannot really plan ahead and often I change my plans due to something happening at the sanctuary or when I have to travel for work. I know they understand but sometimes I also realized it's frustrating for them.

What do you like to do outside of work? What do you feel passionate about? 

I have a lot of hobbies/passions. I love hiking, watersports, traveling to other countries for spotting wildlife, nature photography, basically most of the things surrounding nature and wildlife.

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