It’s not every day that someone from Castlegar ends up in Ecuador, and it’s even rarer still that someone ends up in Ecuador helping lions.
But that is Steven Leffelaar’s reality. The recent Selkirk College environmental technology graduate made his last stop travelling through Latin America at an animal rescue centre in Tena, Ecuador.
The centre — Zoologico El Arca — is in the midst of the Amazonian jungle but all sorts of animals end up there, including a pair of African lions rescued from a circus about eight years ago. Animals that remain at the centre as permanent residents were either injured or raised in captivity and couldn’t survive in the wild.
The lion enclosure was small, just 12 meters by 12 meters, roofed with no vegetation and needed to be expanded, but money for the centre is tight and government help is not available. So Lefelaar decided to pitch in and help build a new enclosure.
The new exhibit is much larger than the old one — 30 meters by 18 meters — with trees and other vegetation.
The expansion is coming just in time as the centre has now accepted two lion cubs that were going to be euthanized if new homes were not found by the end of the year.
The new exhibit will also allow two pumas to move into the old lion enclosure which is larger than their current space.
The project still needs more funds. A Go Fund Me page has been set up under El Arca refuge, lion cage expansion.