Wild Frontiers

Claws out over Lion Man Craig Busch’s new park in South Africa


The Lion Man’s shift to South Africa has upset the conservation community. Craig Busch has opened a new wildlife park near Rustenburg called Jabula Big Cat Sanctuary.

Lion Man Craig Busch

Craig Busch, with Zion the lion, at his wildlife park near Whangarei in 2007. © Brett Phibbs

A local conservationist who has worked with Busch before said he was surprised to hear he had set up a park in South Africa.

Fred Berrange of the Leopard Conservation Park worked with Busch on Lion Man: One World, which was filmed in South Africa, and said he found his methods to be different to how conservationists did things in his part of the world. “This guy is not really into conservation. He wants to promote himself, make money out of it at the cost of animals.”

Mr Berrange said he was with Busch when he took his now star lion Jabula as a cub. “He would beat Jabula while he was on the end of a chain to sit on a couch and watch television. That is not conservation. He declawed Jabula … we don’t do that [in South Africa], that’s not what we’re about.”

He said South African conservationists were focused on protecting animals in the wild, while Busch wanted to have his animals in cages on show for people. “We’ve got enough zoos in the world. Africa is about the wild animal here, and we try and keep that.” Mr Berrange’s park was a temporary home for animals found caught in traps or injured. They were all released back into the wild after rehabilitation, he said.


Louise Joubert, founder of Sanwild Wildlife Trust, an organisation that rehabilitates abused animals, told South African newspaper Rapport that she was critical of Busch’s plans for the sanctuary. “It is unnatural to tame wild animals,” she said.

Busch last week told Rapport he had left New Zealand because of “lies being told about me”. He said he didn’t tame lions. “You cannot tame a lion, but you can be its friend.”

The website for Jabula Big Cat Sanctuary says the park has four lions, two cheetahs and two tigers.

“Jabula Big Cat Sanctuary is home to the well-known Lion Man, Craig Busch,” the website says. “The sanctuary offers a variety of wildlife experiences including game drives, park tours, big cat interaction and a unique safari experience with the Lion Man.”

Attempts to contact Busch at Jabula Big Cat Sanctuary were unsuccessful.

Busch rose to fame as New Zealand’s Lion Man with a television series in 2004 based at Whangarei’s Zion Wildlife Gardens. In the decade since he has faced lengthy and costly legal proceedings between his mother Patricia Busch and himself over control of the park. In May 2009, big-cat handler Dalubuhle Ncube, also known as Clifford Dalu Mncube, or Dalu, was mauled to death by a male tiger named Abu after he and another handler entered its enclosure to clean it. The park has since changed hands and become the Kamo Wildlife Sanctuary, run by investment company Bolton Equities.

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  • Tahoedirt

    What a moron- He’s just setting these animals for either serious harm or more likely death.

    • missingdalu

      One of our dearest friends worked with Craig and paid for it with his life. Craig is a despicable man with no care for the animals but incredibly full of himself… He is a disgrace.

      • Rachel

        If you dont know how to treat animals and you work with wild animals and dont respect them, you deserve to be killed.

  • Richard Smith

    Too sad, but visitors just don’t understand the other side of these parks. Even safari specialists get asked to book ‘walking with lion’ experiences, which led us to write an article as to why we wouldn’t and why they shouldn’t http://bit.ly/LionPet

    • Tahoedirt

      That’s great- Please keep it up. Guys like this only endanger the future of these animals. I’m not sure what’s wrong with people and why I hate zoos and the like. These animals belong in the wild, unfettered from all people- I don’t even like these programs that collar and study etc-How about just leave them alone, period ??

  • Ralph

    Sounds like a SeaWorld for Big Cats. Of course it’s ‘all’ about the welfare of the animals….

  • Daniel

    Louise Joubert… seriously? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black…. What she calls rehabilitating animals is simply putting them on display in cramped enclosures for financial gain. Or putting a baby white rhino in a black rhino’s home boma…

  • ross

    Craig has Declawed many of the cats at Zion in new Zealand, among other stupid things. He is a joke in NZ and clueless to the role of zoos an sanctuaries. He should never have anything to do with animals and hopefully never comes back to NZ

    • garvon

      well u shud just shut up coz ppl like u r always on the case…..nd im pretty sure u dont undrstnd the value of living beings!! why dont u just shut up nd choke urself!

      • RachelEllis

        You should probably wait until you’re at least 11 or 12 before you try to post on an adult website.

      • Denine Mishoe

        HAHA! I completely agree with RachelEllis and what she said to ‘garvon’, because ‘garvon’ CAN NOT SPELL or even make much sense! LOL! Go home little boy and let the adults work this out! LOL!!

      • Frank Payne

        Where did this character come from?

  • He does not seem to have a clue about how to take care of the cats giving birth, and that’s why he had so many problems on that front. You would have think the penny would have dropped after the umpteenth time of the cats rejecting their babies.


    Saw this guy on TV, and yes, he is a joke. Sadly, the end result is not a laughing matter. And there are just far too many self indulgent ‘wildlife’ programmes on TV. Nat Geo and Animal Planet should be ashamed of some of the rubbish they broadcast.

    • Frank Payne

      Yes indeed. These guys hold themselves out to be educational experts, but are exploiters of the worst sort.

  • Frank Payne

    This guy needs to be closed down. The programme on Carte Blanche was horrific and needs to instigate legal action against this abomination. I am sick of these exhibitionists coming to our country and abusing wildlife in the interests of personal enrichment. Animal welfare organizations need to inspect and lay charges against these transgressors. It is sickening.

    • Denine Mishoe

      I agree! I’m just sick and tired of these losers thinking they can fool the public when they’ve not once had the wild animals welfare at heart… only their pocket-books! Shut this scum of the earth down and tell those just like him, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!! You mistreat animals… we’re coming for you!!!

  • Denine Mishoe

    I hope this article has opened the eyes of those in South Africa that can not only investigate but also shut him down. I will be sending my own personal letter to all the animal world rescue organizations that I know, along with a link to this article just to make sure they’re all aware of this “scum-of-the-earth”! If anyone else cares about these animals under his care, please do the same, send a message and link to this article to any of the organizations you know and believe in too (ADI, ASPCA, World Animal Protection, and so many more)! Excellent article Carte Blanche!

    • Frank Payne

      Hear hear!!!

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