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Hello, all! I know I start almost all of my posts by saying this but the wheels never stop turning here at LeoVegas. I’m not quite sure that this kind of momentum can be found in any other company on the island – every week there’s something new happening. We mentioned two weeks ago that we have some new Italian colleagues, so we’re in full swing trying to make them feel as welcome to the pride as possible!
Speaking of pride, we have some great news. As you know, LeoVegas turned 5 years old last January. As a part of the celebrations, LeoVegas decided that we wanted to give something back. In the past, we’ve made contributions to Doctors Without Borders, MOAS and the Malta Community Chest Fund, focusing on helping those in need. But as we’ve grown, we realized that we could increase our contributions. We want to help not only humans in need but also other inhabitants of this planet. When we heard about the abysmal situation of the global lion population, with lions having only 20% of the land that they originally occupied and naturally thrive in left, we knew that we had to help.
This is how the Leo Initiative came to be. It’s a joint charity project through the entire group, focused on making a hands-on difference for lions everywhere. I’ve been working on this project since September, so finally being able to announce it makes me beyond excited! The initiative is centered around two partners: The Wildlife Conservation Network, and Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary. Together, we’re convinced we can make a real difference.
Donation to the Wildlife Conservation Network
The first part of our contribution to helping lions everywhere is a donation to the Wildlife Conservation Network, WCN. The organization works as a connector of grass root projects, scattered all over the world. Together, they sponsor more than 18 different projects focused on preserving species threatened by extinction. One of the most famous projects is the Elephant Crisis Fund, which aims to help the elephant population by, for example, putting a stop to the global ivory trade. Due to its reach, the organization has funded more than 100 projects across Africa and Asia. In 2016, the efforts of WCN and the Elephant Crisis Fund contributed together with many other projects put a stop to the Ivory Trade in China.
The reason why we chose to collaborate with WCN was because of their great track record in their efforts to help animals. Something that was important for us at LeoVegas was that there was complete transparency, and WCN is one of few to apply a 100% donation model. This is something that has given WCN the “Perfect 100” rating by Charity Navigator, making it the highest ranked Wildlife Charity Organization in North Armerica.
Our donation is earmarked for the network’s future work in 2017 with lions. The WCN, and our donation, will support strategic and catalytic on-the-ground projects that will secure habitats for lions and reduce human-lion conflict, ensuring a future for this majestic African species. More information of this joint project will be coming up over the next year, so make sure you keep a look out on our social channels.
Collaboration with Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary
The second part of the Leo Initiative is a collaboration with Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa. The sanctuary is a family-run organisation founded by Savannah Heuser in 2012 when she was just 16 years old. Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary is currently home to 42 big cats: 40 lions and 2 tigers. The climate and environment at Emoya is ideal for the cats, where they live in the ‘semi-wild’, in large enclosures in the natural African habitat of the Vaalwater region. The collaboration with Emoya will consist of two parts; an official sponsorship of two rescued lions, and a volunteer program for LeoVegas’ employees.
The rescued lions are named Bruno (picture above) and Omar (picture below) and they’re brothers. The two were born in captivity in Slovakia, with Bruno being sold off to be kept as a pet. When the owner passed away, the widow wanted to get rid of the lion. She contacted the Lion Foundation, who retrieved him in April 2015.
Omar’s story is similar to Bruno’s. He too was bought by a man who thought it would be nice to have a lion as a pet. When his owner fled the country, Omar was left behind in a small cage. The owner’s father tried to sell the lion, with no success. When a group of animal activists noticed the atrocious situation, the Lion Foundation was alerted. In March 2015, the foundation rescued Omar, and restored him to good health in the shelter.
The two lions have been rehabilitated in the Netherlands, at Sticthing Leeuw Rescue Facility for Big Cats. Earlier this month, Omar and Bruno were relocated to Emoya. This is where LeoVegas and the Leo Initiative comes in. As a part of our strategy to make a hands-on difference, we’re becoming the brothers’ Official Sponsors.
It is with a lot of pride that we welcome Bruno and Omar into our pride! They will be staying with Emoya and the Leo Initiative will sponsor their daily maintenance and well-being. We really want our contribution to make a substantial difference in these animals’ lives.
Starting a volunteering sponsorship
The second part of the collaboration with Emoya is completely in line with the idea of making a hands-on difference. As a part of the collaboration, the Leo Initiative will sponsor four volunteers per year from LeoVegas Group to participate in Emoya’s volunteer program. This is a golden opportunity for anyone within the company to go to South Africa, and help the Heuser’s with their mission of giving lions all around the world their lives back. For us, it was important that the contribution made by us wasn’t purely monetary, it had to be something more.
The sponsorship will cover the volunteering for four employees per year, two in the spring and two in the fall. It is hosted by Emoya at the Bahati Estate, and the volunteers will spend two weeks working with more than 40 rescued big cats, farm animals, and cattle. The volunteering will give our employees the possibility to see what tremendous work Emoya is doing, and how our contribution to Bruno and Omar is being put to use. All expenses, including vacation leave, is covered for our employees to ensure that anyone who’s truly the right person for the task is able to go.
By doing this, we engage our staff, actually making a hands-on difference, and at the same time supporting visionaries. That is what the Leo Initiative is all about.
Do you want to know more about the Leo Initiative? Make sure you keep posted here on our career’s blog, where I will provide any updates that we have. The first volunteers are set to go to Emoya in mid-May. You’ll hear all about it here!
Header picture: Susan McConnell
Picture 1: Susan McConnell
Picture 2: Fredrico Veronesi
Picture of Bruno: Hank Gerber, Stichting Leeuw
Picture of Omar: Hank Gerber, Stichting Leeuw