Name: Hannah Stewart
Department: Keeper team
Volunteering start date: August 2018
What do you do in your day-to-day life?
Marketing & fundraising for a cancer charity.
What made you apply to volunteer at The Big Cat Sanctuary?
Passionate about wildlife conservation I had been looking for volunteering opportunities, and when I visited The Big Cat Sanctuary for my birthday last year – I fell in love! Between the incredible cats, conservation ethos and peaceful Kent countryside, I couldn’t leave without finding out where to sign up!
Which resident Big Cat Sanctuary cat is your favourite cat and why?
I’m only allowed one? Well then it has to be Xixi. Amur leopards are stunningly beautiful but sadly critically endangered with less than 100 left in the wild. It’s encouraging to hear Russia are now protecting them in their natal habitat and I’m hopefully that the breeding programme at The Big Cat Sanctuary can help sustain and grow future populations.
What do you enjoy most about your time at The Big Cat Sanctuary?
Being around and learning about the cats – big and small. I’ll never get bored of hearing the lions’ territorial roar-offs first thing in the morning as I pull up to site. Or watching the smallest but feisty-est cat Nuwara (Sri Lankan Rusty-spotted cat) eating a quail with such attack! Or hearing Puna & Nias (Sumatran tigers) affectionately ‘chuffing’ to each other.
Also, having an office-based job in central London, it’s a pure joy to spend every other Friday in the beautiful Kent countryside while being around these amazing cats. The keeper team look at me a bit confused sometimes when I’m genuinely happy to be shoveling wood chip in the rain!
It’s been great meeting such passionate and dedicated people working and volunteering at The Big Cat Sanctuary too.
What do you enjoy most about being a volunteer?
Being able to give my time to contribute to something I feel so passionate about – wildlife conservation.
Tell us your most memorable experience at The Big Cat Sanctuary.
Hand feeding Amasia (Amur tiger) on my very first visit, on a Big Cat Encounter day. It was the most incredible experience, she was up on her hind legs, so you could feel the magnitude of her but at the same time she was unbelievably gentle.
Tell us something we wouldn’t otherwise know about you.
I’m an adrenaline junky so I love everything from roller-coasters and rally driving to zip-wires and skydives!
What is your favourite animal and why?
Cats. I know, shocker, right? They’re mesmerizing, beautiful, majestic, character-fun, independent, intelligent animals.
What would be your advice to someone who was thinking about volunteering their time?
What are you waiting for?
You don’t necessarily have to be part-time or retired to find time to volunteer. I work full time and couldn’t afford to drop my salary, so my workplace agreed to me working compressed hours, so I could volunteer every other Friday. It makes for a long working week, but totally worth it!