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Home   Maidstone   News   Article

Lions and tigers at the Big Cat Sanctuary in Smarden enjoy donated Christmas trees from surrounding villages

10 January 2014
by Angela Cole

Manzi at the Big Cat Sanctuary in Smarden has a chew of a donated Christmas tree

Manzi at the Big Cat Sanctuary in Smarden has a chew of a donated Christmas tree


It’s a perennial problem – what to do with the Christmas tree once New Year has come and gone.

But for residents of Headcorn and surrounding villages there was an unusual solution: give it to a local lion.

As villagers weighed up taking theirs to the tip or getting them recycled, the Wildlife Heritage Foundation’s Big Cat Sanctuary in Smarden instead appealed for them to bring them to them for the animals.

Dozens of people responded to the call, including Headcorn residents, by delivering their slightly bare trees at the site, which is home to 56 big cats and operates as a charity with a zoo licence.

Keeper Briony Smith said: “It is something a bit different for them. It gives them something to hide behind; it smells a bit different; and we can hide things like food in them. It is just something new to put in their enclosure.”
The site is also open to donations of lavender and perfume, both of which the lions are keen on.

Among the big cats enjoying pawing, playing with and scratching their claws on the trees were Manzi the lion, who broke from his 20 hours of sleeping in a day to take a good sniff before chomping down on it.

The sanctuary is a breeding centre and only opens to the public for special open days. This year there will be six in July, although dates have not been released yet. Tickets must be pre-booked. For details visit

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