Lidewei de Boer (22) has been working since the summer of 2016 as a volunteer at the FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary. She is a dedicated and passionate animal lover who has always loved caring for animals. She is a vegan and has been studying Veterinary Medicine for a few years. Once she qualifies as a vet, she hopes to make a difference in the welfare of animals. Before she began her degree in Veterinary Medicine, she took a year off work and decided to do something useful. She used to live nearby FELIDA and cycled daily past the sanctuary when she would hear the lions roaring. So, it wasn’t a surprise when she applied as a volunteer at the centre! Currently, she is working abroad doing an internship but is still very much involved with the work at the sanctuary. Therefore it seemed logical to interview her!
Why is animal welfare so important to you?
“Animals have always been an important part of our family life. Growing up and maturing I began to notice how people mistreated animals. As a little girl, I enjoyed visiting the circus but not anymore. My voluntary work at FELIDA has certainly influenced my opinions on animal welfare. You are caring for animals that have been saved from such extreme circumstances like performing in a circus. Right now, I am concerned about the ethical conflict of keeping wild animals in imprisonment. Also, I am an advocate of adopting animals instead of buying them. I am vegan and very passionate about animal welfare. Every little bit of help counts."
Lidewei assisting during vet checks at FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary:
What made you fall in love with big cats?
“I have always had a great love for animals. They have a natural aura of innocence and sense of freedom not often experienced by people. Their sense of freedom means animals normally do things their own way! This type of behaviour is more prominent in wild animals than in domestic ones which is what I love about them. I have a domestic cat and it is interesting to compare its behaviour with that of the big cats at FELIDA. There are many similarities between them, for example, both wild and domestic animals love to play with cardboard boxes. However, there are also many differences in cat behaviour which is very interesting and entertaining to observe when working so close to these animals at the sanctuary."
What do you love most about working with big cats?
"When you have such a passion for animal welfare and rights as I do, it is really cool to experience how the animals at FELIDA recover due to their intensive and expert care. For example, Ivan-Asen: He came to the sanctuary as a weak, lean and wretched animal. Look at him now! It is great to see that in spite of a bad start in life these animals have experienced, at FELIDA they become different creatures. It costs different amounts of time and effort with each animal as their needs are different. I really enjoy observing the animals on their road to recovery at FELIDA."
Creative with bamboo:
Volunteer Lidewei making enrichment at FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary
What does a day at FELIDA look like for you?
“I always work together with (one of) the regular animal caretakers. In the mornings we are mainly busy with cleaning the enclosures. In the outdoor enclosures we clean up the poo and the remnants of enrichment, we fill the water troughs and swimming pools and we clean where necessary. We will also prepare new enrichment. It is always nice to come up with new enrichments for the animals. It is also important that we always work with safe materials, which, for example, cannot break or are safe enough to be completely demolished. I especially enjoy making bamboo enrichment. For example, I once made a very nice "tent" for tigress Dehli, which she really enjoyed. Unfortunately I haven't managed to make a bamboo ball strong enough to survive tiger paws, but we'll keep trying!
Besides cleaning and preparing enrichment, I also help with preparing the meat, observing the animals and other tasks that are necessary that day. ”
What do you enjoy the most working at FELIDA?
“Besides being a unique opportunity to work with these amazing animals, it is just great to work at FELIDA. The team is especially close and work very well together. It is a privilege to be a part of the team. Simone, the manager of FELIDA, ensures that you are made welcome from day one. Many of the volunteers work for years at FELIDA which is a compliment to the team. It doesn’t matter who I work with, either Juno, Erin, or Afien: I always learn something new and exciting and always have a lot of fun. Although at the moment I cannot help out as I would like to, I still feel very connected to the animals and staff at FELIDA."
What is your most precious experience so far?
"I am lucky as a veterinary student to have experienced a number of veterinary controls and operations which I was able to attend and even to assist with alongside the attending veterinary. These events are a fantastic experience and advantage for my veterinary training and future ambitions. When I heard the heartbeat if a lion, I was in heaven!
I remember very well when the tiger Caruso had his dental operation. He now lives in LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa. It was the first operation I was allowed to attend. An amazing experience to see such a huge animal lying on the operating table. The experience of working beside the vets from IZW Berlin, who work for FELIDA, inspired me to do my internship at the IZW Berlin before I began my Masters!"
Lidewei during a vet check of tigress Dehli
“To conclude because of my voluntary work at FELIDA I have had so many wonderful experiences. The special moments such as attending an operation but also the little things such as working together with the team. It still makes me very happy to see the animals getting better and playing with the enrichment I had made! FELIDA will always be close to my heart and also the other projects from FOUR PAWS. I think it is very important to bring animal welfare to the attention of the public eye. For example, if you know somebody who has been on holiday where animals are still used as a “photo prop”? Please tell the public about the animal torture behind the scenes. As I said before…. Every little bit of help counts!"