Our facility has been in existence for 30 years and currently comprises of over 90 different species of animals and 100 full-time staff.
We provide guided tours which are fundamental in our education programs, giving each species a voice, and enlightening the public on animal and environmental issues. To bring these ‘messages home’ we have enveloped it in a fun and unique setting and proudly see ourselves as one-of-a-kind.
It is important that we explain our purpose as a facility with regards to our conservation ethics and preservation mission. For that reason, as well, we are always open to queries and/or concerns as it provides us with a platform to further expand on what we do. What sets Cango Wildlife ranch apart from the rest:
Firstly, Cango Wildlife Ranch is an accredited institution, this internationally recognised accreditation awarded by the African Association of Zoos & Aquaria (PAAZA) has only been awarded to 6 facilities in the whole of Africa, it is extremely prestigious and difficult to achieve and is reviewed every 4 years, having been awarded this accolade since 2003, we will shortly be going for our next review.
This award also ensures that Cango complies with extremely stringent conditions regarding our animals and what happens to them as well as the quality of our facility and the safety of our visitors. Alongside this award is our membership of the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA) and which is by invitation only. Representing the top 300 organisations worldwide, we are one of only a small handful in the whole of Africa to have been invited to join this prestigious organisation, to give you an idea of the level of excellence these awards require, we are in league with the South African Association for Marine and Biological Research (Ushaka Marine World) and the National Zoo in Pretoria.
Cango Wildlife Ranch conservation and breeding programs:
For over 28 years our organisation has worked tirelessly for the conservation of cheetah and other endangered species – we are one of the 5 biggest cheetah centres in the world and have for many years had the highest survival rate of cubs produced globally. In our 28 years of breeding endangered animals, Cango Wildlife Ranch has produced more cheetah cubs than that of the entire United States and we have therefore had a dramatic and vital impact on assisting the conservation gene pool of this species.
Cheetah, as a species, are very specialised hunters who need flat grasslands/savannahs to hunt and survive, most of which have been converted into farming areas. We simply cannot release cheetahs into the wild, as there is nowhere safe to release them. People are intruding on their land faster than introductions can take place. However, we as a facility focus on breeding to increase the in-situ populace. The purpose for this is important and is something that the public (in general) are not aware of/don’t understand. Should something happen to a species in the wild, captive facilities will be able to supply genetically diverse species to rectify and assist the collapsed genetic pool. Just recently this has been done for the Radiated Tortoise species. In other words, this species would be extinct if captive facilities had not bred this specific tortoise. This is vital in ensuring an international genetically diverse populace.? In the future when release is possible, measures will be taken to have animals raised in a wilder state to start off the process of re-wilding animals once again.
As none of our cats are intended for release into the wild, the majority are hand-raised by our care givers for a multitude of reasons, and sometimes circumstantial. It can happen that first-time mothers (especially in cheetah) neglect the cubs. Additionally, cheetahs in general, are especially vulnerable as babies. We monitor them very closely and if we notice a serious drop in weight or pick up on any unusual symptoms/general illness then we pull the cubs immediately to encourage survival rates.
Furthermore, by hand-rearing cubs, they grow to be very calm and relaxed animals which helps for medical or husbandry management and additionally encourages a strong relationship between animals and curators which ensures a stress-free animal/environment. These animals generally form part of our Ambassadorial program. Ambassador animals play a major role in assisting to educate the public and highlight the plight of its species by going to schools and other public events alongside our controlled encounter programs. (It is important to note that not all the cubs born at the Cango Wildlife Ranch are hand reared.)
As far as our breeding programs are concerned the health of our animals is our greatest priority and as a result our females are usually only bred every 2nd?or 3rd?year for them to fully regain their strength and ensure quality of life.
Many of our Cheetahs reside on our premises for life; either at the Cango Wildlife Ranch or at our Jill Bryden-Fayers Reserve and a number are moved to alternate facilities if there is a need for them (see below). It is important to note that we only breed with select species where we can increase and contribute positively to the genetic pool of the genus.
Animals that leave Cango Wildlife Ranch:
In line with our conservation program and to expand the gene pool of ex-situ populations, we do sell, exchange or donate species to other institutions but only if they comply with and are recognised by CITES (Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Species) and/or the Department of Nature Conservation, as well the Department of Environmental Affairs. Any animal which leaves our facility only goes to other CITES or Nature Conservation authorised/recognised organisations, they cannot (neither would we) send them off without this approval. We are also bound by the PAAZAB & WAZA code of ethics which absolutely forbid the sale of any animal to hunting concessions or members of the public. Apart from this our dedicated and professional animal staff would never allow an animal that leaves our facility to go anywhere where it may be harmed, neither to un-registered or unrecognised facilities. Additionally, any of our animals’ movements must comply, not only with CITES, but also our Provincial Nature Conservation authority, which ensures that the receiving facility is registered and recognized.
In addition, if we were to purchase animals, we do so to introduce new bloodlines. They are not purchased for the use of interactions. ?Additionally, we do not discard of any animal due to old age or ‘lack of use’! We care very deeply for all our animals and take our responsibility to care for them exceptionally seriously. We house several animals that we commit to care for, for their full lifespan.
Any and every animal’s well-being at our facility is paramount. We house over 90 species of animals that are all in excellent condition and are cared for by a large team of experienced people who are animal lovers and activists. We commit to caring for all animals young, old or sick as that forms part of the responsibility of an animal-loving facility.
Should any animal leave our facility – they will leave on a basis whereby we have a surplus and they are needed by another accredited facility to form part of their programs.? If there is a demand (from an accredited facility) for a specific species, then we would potentially breed the animals, and they may temporarily form part of our natural encounters program. However, we do not believe in breeding species should there be NO demand. By demand we are purely referring to animals that would be used at ACCREDITED facilities for educational programs or to enhance genetic diversity.
Animal Encounters and the standards thereof:
Cango Wildlife Ranch was one of the first centres in Africa to promote safe and educational ambassador animal programs however sadly?doing this, several extremely ‘shady’ operations have opened and have tainted what is & should be a powerful tool.
We believe strongly in the positive effect created by?our?ambassador or animal contact programs for the conservation of certain key species. We feel that our encounter opportunities, strictly controlled by our experienced staff, stringent protocols and advanced ambassador training programs are in huge contrast to regular ‘pettings’ which we do not condone. Our encounter programs in fact have greatly assisted us in raising awareness, as there is no doubt that most people who experience an encounter are more motivated to react positively towards conservation issues, especially the species they have had a physical encounter with.
We only use select ambassador species for our encounter programs.
They are trained and conditioned from a young age and are fundamental in our education programs… for example, we have taken cheetahs to wheelchair races to meet people who would otherwise never be able to have that experience, we have taken snakes and cheetah to schools for educationally and so forth.
It is undeniable that the funding generated through the encounter program is essential to the on-going preservation programs at the Cango Wildlife Ranch. Furthermore, it enables us to donate a portion of our encounter proceeds to other recognised conservation bodies working in- situ (who are doing the work that we are unable to do). Not only are funds donated to these organisations, but their work is also highlighted to our visitors, thereby exposing their vital conservation work to the over 3 million visitors who have come through our gates since our programs began. This would include the Cape Leopard Trust, the Madagascan Fauna Group, VULPRO as well as Cheetah Metapopulation.
The Natural Encounters program at the Cango Wildlife Ranch takes all measures to ensure the animals’ wellbeing during the event of a Natural Encounter, namely;
We do not allow anyone but trained staff to bottle feed our cubs due to the risks involved
We do not allow for visitors to pick the cubs up or to play with them, the visitors will also only be permitted to at most touch the animals on their backs, sides and top of their heads.
We have a strict hygiene protocol where visitors are treated with anti-bacterial and anti-fungal sprays to prevent the possible spread of germs
Our staff members have received training from internationally recognised bodies to create an environment which is safe for visitors and the animals involved, not only during encounters but also in general husbandry practices.
We have strict safety protocols in place and for a staff member to qualify to take visitors into an interactive animal exhibit they must do the following;
Write a theoretical test of which the pass mark is 90%
Do a practical exam which is performed to senior management whom will do the assessment
Bond with the animals involved to build a relationship with the animals
Our animals are trained through operant conditioning/positive reinforcement practices and under no circumstances are the animals forced into doing anything that they have not been trained/conditioned to do
We do not breed cubs for the sole purpose of having an encounter. If we so happen to have cubs available and they have received the necessary ambassadorial training, only then will we consider the possibility to incorporate the cubs into the Natural Encounters program. Once ambassador animals grow up and reach sexual maturity they will form part of our endangered species preservation program or will move to another accredited facility for maintaining an international genetically diverse captive population of the species.
To ensure both humans and animals are always comfortable, we do frequent conditioning training such as wheelchair tests etc.
Cango Wildlife Ranch animal collection:
We house species from around the world as we try to educate people on the plight of endangered animals on an international level. In addition, there are several people who will never can travel the world and see many of the species. Alternatively, international guests often learn a thing or two on guided tours, about species native to their own countries. We pride ourselves in the variety of species that we house, if for no other reason, that we can share them with over 40?000 school children per annum. We house more than 90 species who are fundamentally crucial to our schooling education program. We have teachers who have been bringing children to us for over 25 years, and as a facility we feel it is an honour to be able to provide preservation insight to all these children for a large variety of animals. Additionally, we provide one of the world’s most unique intern experiences for veterinary/nurse/zoological orientated students due to our variety of species which is vitally important from an experience perspective.
We have a full-time volunteer program where they focus mainly on enrichment to mentally and physically stimulate all our captive animals by enhancing their enclosures with activities that encourage natural and instinctive behaviour. This is fundamental in healthy and happy animals. We recently attended the International Enrichment Conference where we received the latest training in improving lifestyle for in-situ animals.