Release at LIONSROCK

Women fighting for animals around the globe

Meet some of the FOUR PAWS female animal guardians 


Animal cruelty represents what is wrong with the world; where humans feel they have the right to exploit animals for commercial gain. The need to change this mindset and end this practice is long overdue. This is why FOUR PAWS has joined forces with other NGO’s in the fight for better animal welfare standards about the globe. 

Women have historically been the leaders of the animal welfare movement, and for many centuries' women have outnumbered men in the animal welfare world. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, many of the first animal advocacy groups were founded and led by strong and dedicated women. 

At FOUR PAWS, there are many compassionate and determined individuals who have shaped our organization. Here we'd like to celebrate by introducing a handful of our inspiring female animal guardians who are dedicating their lives to make the world a better place for our rescued animals.

From teaching orphaned orangutans essential forest skills to one day survive alone in the wild, to being on the front line of a rescue mission, to rehabilitating abused bears and big cats – our female guardians at our sanctuaries are stepping up and providing essential care for animals in need. 

Meet Some of our inspiring animal guardians worldwidE


Hildegard Pirker

Hildegard Pirker

Head of the Animal Welfare Department, LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary

Along with her team, Hildegard takes care of more than 100 rescued big cats – a job that calls for focus and dedication. These big cats are coming from poor private keeping conditions, intensive breeding farms, zoos, and circuses. Inadequate nutrition from early on has led to a large number of them needing supplements, whilst the older big cats with special needs might need medication – some even daily. Aside from these intensive tasks, enclosures need to be maintained, enrichment needs to be prepared for the big cats, and there needs to be careful monitoring of the animals to make sure we detect any medical problems as and when they arise.  

For more than 15 years, Hildegard has called LIONSROCK her home.

Simone Schuls

Simone Schuls

Site Manager, FELIDA Big Cat Centre, Netherlands

When FOUR PAWS International was requested to help a Dutch rescue center in late 2013, a complete overhaul of the center was needed. Simone came on board right after we took over and turned the center into a safe, high-quality special care center for traumatized big cats who require specialized care and a second chance in life. 

Simone says, “How we treat animals also says something about our civilization. Sharing our work with as many people as possible creates a conversation about animal welfare and how we want to treat the world and its animals. The animals at FELIDA deserve a second chance like no other!" 

Albana Hoti

Albana Hoti

Chief Bear Keeper, BEAR SANCTUARY Pristina, Kosovo

With over 20 brown bears all rescued from private keeping in Albania and Kosovo, Albana manages their care and oversees the other caretakers at the sanctuary. She works on training all the bears – which is an important part of her job. Usually, for Albana, her day begins by checking if all the enclosures are in good condition along with the bears, as well as  preparing the medications for those who need them. She has cared for one bear in particular, Andri, since he was just a month old, making her particularly bonded to him. 

"The fact that I'm able to help animals in need, those who don't have a voice to speak for themselves, has always made me feel motivated to contribute more and more, especially when I see our bears relaxed (smiling at me) is an extra inspiration for my daily work at the sanctuary. Since I started working for the sanctuary, I noticed a big change in my society and their mentality toward animal welfare. I always try to spread the word on how important it is for every one of us to treat animals well and how much impact we can all have in making things better on a larger scheme," says Albana. 

Gerlinde Mairhofer

Gerlinde Mairhofer

Animal keeper & Administration, BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach, Austria 
Gerlinde can be found in the hills of Austria, working on a daily basis to care for the bears rescued from bad keeping conditions, as well as ensuring their stories are told by writing them up and taking pictures and videos of the bears for the sanctuaries' social media and website. Gerlinde also does some administrative work and gives  guided tours at the sanctuary. She believes that, “We should treat ALL living beings respectfully and with care until their very end."

Eva Lindenschmidt

Eva Lindenschmidt

Biologist, Deputy Site Manager and Communications, TIERART, Germany
Eva's daily routine at TIERART is varied and therefore very exciting. She is mainly busy in the office with administrative and organizational work, but if there is a need she also helps with the care of the animals and supports the rearing of young animals, or does outdoor work when injured animals need to be rescued.
There is a wide variety of animal species cared for at TIERART and each has their own individual story. Every animal can be fascinating, no matter if it is a proud tiger or a small squirrel. Eva says, "it is a privilege to be surrounded by tigers, raccoons and other wild animals every day at work. If I had to choose a favorite animal species, it would be foxes, in addition to big cats. They are very intelligent, fascinatingly beautiful, and unfortunately, they often have a bad reputation as chicken thieves or disease carriers.  My first bottle-fed baby at TIERART was a fox and was for me a special experience."

Nataliya Halayko

Nataliya Halayko

Deputy Director Wild Animal Department, BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr, Ukraine

In 2018, Nataliya began as the Chief Caretaker, and now her work continues as a Chief Caretaker managing a staff of 6 animal caretakers, along with animal welfare work (i.e. food ordering, ordering and managing intake of prescribed medications, organization of bear rescues and  vet checks), and managing construction sites (i.e. checking if contractors are filling out the sanctuary requirements). She also manages the control and development of emergency plans in the sanctuary and environmental education.

Nataliya expressed, " 
All animals are special for me and I’m happy they are in a safe place now. They all require a lot of attention, some of them even more than others. Our team including me are happy to see improvement in health, behavior, and socialization process of rescued bears. By the end of the construction period, our sanctuary can house up to 30 bears, and every rescue is very special work and a unique experience for me." She says that "through the bear eyes, we can see how much they've suffered in their previous life. Our team is working hard on the rehabilitation of the bears and building a new trust."

Dr Signe Preuschoft

Dr. Signe Preuschoft 

International Head of FOUR PAWS Ape Protection, ORANGUTAN FOREST SCHOOL, Borneo 

FOUR PAWS has been committed to the rehabilitation of traumatized orangutan orphans in Borneo for over ten years. After restructuring the activities on-site, FOUR PAWS opened the ORANGUTAN FOREST SCHOOL in East Kalimantan in May 2018. 

Under the leadership of the renowned Primatologist Dr. Signe Preuschoft, an Indonesian team consisting of caregivers, biologists and veterinarians takes care of several orangutan orphans and prepares them for a release into the rainforest.  Dr Preuschoft’s vision is to become a global voice in great ape rehabilitation and to improve the state of great ape rehabilitation worldwide.

Emily Lloyd

Emily Lloyd

Animal Manager, BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Emily Lloyd is responsible for the rescued Asiatic Black bears, and the team of caretakers and veterinarians who manage them. This involves the design and implementation of ever-evolving nutrition, husbandry and enrichment protocols for bears of all ages and health statuses, managing integrations, hand-rearing rescued cubs, training local bear caretakers etc.  She also organizes the logistics and is the overall leader for all FOUR PAWS bear rescues in Vietnam, plus works on facility design, construction and maintenance as well as advising other rescue centers in Vietnam.  She has been working on this project since it’s inception and was previously chief keeper at FOUR PAWS BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina. Emily says, "We hope to continue to expand and rescue more bears, contributing to the end of bear farming in Vietnam, whilst providing the highest standard of animal care."

There are many more wonderful, determined, passionate and knowledgeable women in the FOUR PAWS family, and to all of them we say thank you! 

Together, we can make change, petition governments to change laws, raise awareness for consumers to change their behavior, and rescue and protect more animals in need. 

More about our sanctuaries

Learn more about our SANCTUARIES 


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