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When The Lionman series first came onto New Zealand screens, I wasn’t one
of those watching. Frankly, yet another reality show, even one about a Kiwi
bloke with big cats somewhere near Whangarei, just didn’t grab my interest.
Perhaps I considered it would be a flash in the pan. In that respect,
considering current events, I was correct.
Watching it now, though, via DVDs from my local library – I’m struck by how in
the first series the story is that of a kind of Kiwi can-do project, putting
together a place where big cats can be viewed by the public, where fences
and enclosures are still being built, where a family home is still in a state of
incompleteness (and part is utilised as a birthing confinement area for a
Bengal tiger). But what exactly was being created? A mini-Africa set-up,
where the visitors (bringing in badly needed cash) can in the future view
(somehow) the Wild Pride for example in something approximating a natural
setting? Or, more likely, a breeding site for Barbary lions, so-called “Royal”
white tigers (these the result of a genetic and degenerative mutation passed
on within certain individual Bengal tigers) and other animals possibly destined
to work for their keep being props for entertainment media, such as movies,
advertisements – and television reality shows like The Lionman? These days
we are all well aware such shows are full of staged incidents, cut-away shots,
dramatic inserts and the like. It was mainly for the entertainment-equals-profit
motive, over and above all other excuses such as animal/human/tree welfare,
that the infamous declawing procedures were carried out on the animals
housed at Zion Wildlife Gardens during the period when Craig Busch was the
MAF-licensed operator of the park.
One episode, where Craig Busch was making preparations to leave for South
Africa at the behest and with assistance from documentary maker Rowena
Paxton, heading off to obtain white lions for the park’s collection, seemed
ready-made for a Charlie Brooker-style comment from the reviewer’s chair, in
a Screenwipe vein. During the concerns expressed by Craig and his partner
Karen as to whether to take the little tiger cub Sita from her mother to start
humanising the cub (in order to make it easier to incorporate her as part of the
park’s entertainment functions later) – it came out that not only was Craig to
leave the park, but at the same time, so would Karen, for radiotherapy
treatment in Sydney connected with breast cancer. I was somewhat amazed
by this. Craig’s partner, and apparent co-founder of the park, heading off on
her own to endure some fairly ghastly medical treatment in Australia – but
never mind that, it’s all about Craig’s adventure in Africa, and the promise of
cute white lion cubs (awww!) …coming right up.
The whole “let’s think about taking Sita away before she thinks she’s a tiger”
thing during that episode was disturbing enough. It seemed to be a matter of
“let’s save the Bengal Tigers (because that’s what we’ve put on the box, it’s all
about conservation, after all) but let’s just have the version that somehow
doesn’t act as tigers should act – ferocious predators, top of the food chain.”
I felt sorry for Gandor that he was headed for Zion Wildlife Gardens, and a life
of cages, leashes, declawing, and performances to earn money for “dad” –
but perhaps that was just about the only life for him, after the Herns had
babied him, totally humanising him to docility. Something that, hopefully, they
have not done with the rest of their white lions recently released onto a 26
hectare range within the Rhino & Lion park. Did Gandor really come from a
couple of tawny lions on the park, or was he really the result of a mating from
Thanile, a female white lion discovered as a cub at the park in 1999, and
oddly not mentioned or seen in the Lionman episode (number 6, series 1).
This is left unclear.
Inclusion of the out-takes for a Sky TV commercial featuring Zion the lion, and
Craig Busch’s efforts to cajole Zion atop the park’s truck in preparation for
another commercial, illustrated the point that, while the programme continued
to emphasise that Craig was “dad” to the cats, and in particular Zion’s “best
friend” – the set-up is geared toward entertainment, and the utilisation of the
animals for commercial media purposes. This, after all, is part of Craig
Busch’s background from his work in America. The series tells us this. As to
Zion not moving from the top of the vehicle while it in motion – an applauded
success. But … isn’t Zion one of those cats which have been declawed? The
lion was probably well aware how painful it would be to shift and leap down
from off that vehicle with those surgically mutilated front paws.
J J Boyd, in his last months as a zookeeper in Royal Oak in the summer of
1921-1922 thought along similar lines as far as animals-for-entertainment, but
back then everyone did – collect the beasts, at first display them for oohs and
aahs, and maybe add a bit of spice by performing with them and getting them
to perform. His son Edwin can’t have had all that much experience and
education as a lion tamer but, like Craig Busch, he probably got into their
social circle when they were young, and just considered him part of their
world. Instead of them considering him as lunch.
On to Series 2, and while Sita remained with Shikana, Shikana’s next two
cubs couldn’t, spirited away by Karen and the office staff member (not by
Craig as he still wants Shikana to be able to like and trust him, and he worried
that she’d get a bit miffed with him as a cub-nabber). I can understand the
taking of Rewa’s white tiger cubs Tane and Aotea – she had rejected them,
and survival depended on the bottle from human hand – but from that point on
their humanising continued as per usual procedure. They were destined for
Ed Hern’s Rhino & Lion Park. What were they meant for there – show
animals? Breeding stock for more white recessive gene tigers? It is never
made clear. Two more white tigers from Rewa in Zion Wildlife Gardens
headed for the same destination later, Rongo and Kiwi.
Series 3 – by episode 9, the series appears to be extremely edited. Events in
January 2007 (the birth and raising of Amafu’s four white lion cubs) are placed
alongside white tiger Khan’s death (supposed to be in June 2008).
So far, from what I’ve seen, Craig Busch is an animal handler much as there
are animal handlers all over the world who help documentaries, reality shows
and films look real. Some claim he’s the best in his field – I’m sure there are
many who would dispute that, and can prove their own superiority in that field.
What he was doing, though, had far more to do with entertainment, selfprestige and profit than it had to do with the oft-quoted ideal of “conservation”.
He created an animal museum, and a holding place for performers in his
He does like his animals, there is really no disputing that. His mother Patricia
has a soft spot for them as well, and worries about their fate in the storm of
financial failure, receivership, liquidation, banks, accountants, solicitors, and
The dream, though, has well and truly become a tragedy.
I’ve made some more personal observations in the text, using red italics.
Country Developments Ltd
Created in March 1997, this is the earliest of the Craig Busch corporate
entities All land transactions passed through this company. In July 2006,
directorship passed from Craig Busch to his mother Patricia. One of the
companies placed in receivership by Rabobank.
Zion Wildlife Gardens
The second corporate entity, registered in October 1999 when animals were
first being collected together to form a park. Zion Wildlife Gardens is the
operating entity, leasing land to run a park from Country Developments. As
with Country Developments, directorship passed from Craig Busch to his
mother in July 2006. This one placed in receivership along with Country
Developments by Rabobank, and in liquidation by the Inland Revenue
Wildlife Productions Limited
The first media production entity within the Busch structure, Wildlife
Productions lasted from December 2003, as filming was underway for the first
series of The Lionman, until July 2006, when it was replaced by Wildlife
Pictures (see below). It was eventually struck off the register of companies.
Craig Busch and Robert James Reece were the directors. Graeme William
Halse, lawyer (150), Craig Bush (700), and Robert James Reece (150) were
the shareholders. Reece ceased to be a director in July 2006.
Zion Wildlife Holdings Limited
November 2004 – (entity overdue filing annual return)
Directors Craig Busch, Patricia Busch, Ann Shirley Williams
Busch Wildlife Foundation Limited
Set up in July 2005, with Craig Busch as director. Initially shareholding was
divided between Craig Bush and a trust run by solicitors from Metro Law, a
firm operating from Auckland. Currently the shareholding divided between
Craig Busch and ILS Trustees Ltd of Tauranga (Ian Leslie Stevenson,
accountant, nephew of former Tauranga MP Bob Clarkson.)
Wildlife Pictures Limited
Set up in 2006, with Patricia Busch as director. This is an entity intended to
funnel profits from media production using Zion Wildlife Gardens and the
animals towards paying off the park’s debt owed to Patricia Busch (two-thirds)
and to Craig Bush (one-third).
Zion Wildlife Services
Set up in January 2007, and in the process of deregistration from April 2011.
As at April 2012, it is struck off. This entity served Zion Wildlife Gardens as the
administration arm, mainly handling staff wages.
Primal Productions Limited
Registered October 2007, with Patricia Busch and Philip Alan Smith as
directors. Shareholding is split evenly between Great Southern Television and
Wildlife Pictures Limited.
The institution of this entity conflicted with the terms of the 2007 agreement
between Craig and Patricia Busch, and was cited in the December 2008 ERA
Earth Crest Ltd
Set up in February 2008, originally as Earth Crest Pty Ltd, until April 2008
when it adopted current name. This entity holds the domain name “Lion Man
One World”, registered from Australia. (Any relationship with a promised
fourth series of “The Lionman”, called “Lion Man One World”? Uncertain at
this stage.) The directors of this entity were Craig Busch and Suzanne Kay
Eisenhut, but Craig Busch ceased to be a director from 5 February 2012.
Registered office: Tauranga (Stevenson Accounting Ltd). Shares from 7
September 2011 were divided between Craig Busch, Suzanne Eisenhut and
ILS Trustees (Ian Stevenson), but since 8 February 2012 all 100 shares are in
the name of M Trustees Ltd (same address as Stevenson accounting),
Zion Wildlife Kingdom Limited
Set up in June 2009. Sole director was Tracey Beth McVerry, with the same
registered address as that of Ian Stevenson. From 8 February 2012, the
shareholders are: Ian Stevenson, Nicholas Alexander Mes, and Tracey Beth
McVerry. Ian Stevenson is sole director. From January 2012, ZWKL has been
managing the former Zion Wildlife Gardens, renaming it Kingdom of Zion.
Big Cat Rescue Trust (BCRT) UK
Operated from 2009-2011
Apparently set up in November 2009, but registered as a charity in the UK a
year later (November 2010). The stated objectives of the Trust were to
provide general financial support to conservation projects worldwide.
However, the Trust was always linked in with Craig Busch and the campaign
to raise funds to regain his directorship and operating license for Zion Wildlife
“One of the objectives of the BCRT is the preservation and conservation of all
big cats. Reuniting Craig Busch with his cats is not in our objectives. As
previously explained no one person can benefit solely from funds raised for
the BCRT. However, if Craig Busch needed financial help in moving his cats
to another location because he felt that they were in danger then that would
be within our remit if funds were available to do so and it met with our
objectives. Although we cannot help companies, we can help individuals or
other non profit making trusts, and the Busch Wildlife Foundation Trust,
owners of the cats, are non profit making …
“The BCRT was set up in NZ as a trust and the name was carried over to the
UK charity. At one stage it was thought that the UK entity would encompass
the NZ one, which is now not the case, a name change to distinguish
between the accounts will be attended to.”
From Jill Albrow’s Facebook page, 19 January 2011:
“In 2008, we set up a trust in New Zealand called the Big Cat Rescue Trust.
All donations to us were held in the trust’s bank account. Over a period of
time requests were made that the finances of the trust be more transparent
and that it should be a registered Charity. Since the majority of our support
was from the UK, we set up a UK registered charity at the end of last year.”
I can’t find anything about a trust called Big Cat Rescue Trust officially
registered in New Zealand. Or a Busch Wildlife Foundation Trust. It is likely
that references to the BCRT (NZ) became muddled with references to Busch
Wildlife Foundation Limited, which is both a corporate entity and a company,
and not a not-for-profit, therefore any support from BCRT would have surely
convened the latter’s stated aims.
Busch Wildlife Foundation Trust (BWFT)
Unknown start date, unknown finish date if any. Not registered either as a
voluntary organisation (incorporated society or charitable trust), or under the
Charities Commission register. Referred to by BCRT UK frequently in their
From “Rawson J Bradley”, a Facebook user on the NZ Lionman official page,
19 February 2011:
“Regarding the BWFT; as I've said before I can find no record of this
organisation, it does not appear on any register of Trusts, Charities or other
organisations, apart from as a limited company. I am in contact with Metro
Law in respect of shareholdings of BWF Ltd and maybe this will throw some
light on the matter. You advise that the BWFT does not need to be
registered; you're wrong; for any organisation or entity to be recognised it
needs to be registered somewhere. You advise that the BWFT is a legal
entity; maybe, and therefore, if this is so, it will need to be registered
somewhere. You confirmed to me that the BCRT had carried out the
necessary checks and can therefore provide evidence that this organisation
does exist. Please do so.”
BCRT statement, Facebook, 20 February 2011:
“Please advise how and where you think the Busch Wildlife Foundation
TRUST should be registered. It is not a charitable trust or a charity … The
BCRT is not required or permitted to provide any further information about the
BWFT. However because the information is not on a public register does not
mean that the entity does not exist.”
Actually, in New Zealand, non-registration indicates that the entity is not a
corporate entity, and therefore not a legal body in terms of the law of the land.
The directors of such an entity remain fully liable as individuals, and profits
from the entity can be shared amongst them. Registration is required for legal
and funding purposes, mainly for accountability.
The postal address for sending money to this trust is given as P O Box 4489
Kamo, which appears to have been an address set up by Craig after issues
with his mail at ZWG. See the following by Jill Albrow.
“Post etc - 15th July 2009
Wednesday, 15 July 2009 at 03:51
Many of you have contacted me regards Craig's mail, having seen the video
posted last night by Megan
As you can see from the video and photographs the mail that is being spoken
about is addressed to Craig at Zion Wildlife Gardens. Craig has had issues
with his mail and this has been reported.
The post office do not put post directly into this mailbox, which is within the
park grounds. Craig did not erect this mail box or ask anyone to place mail in
it. It appears to have a security camera trained on it. ZWG is aware of Craig's
PO Box at Kamo and this is where he collects his mail. If you want to send
mail to Craig please send to
P O Box 4489, Kamo, New Zealand.”
“… the cats are owned by the Busch Wildlife Foundation Trust, which was set
up before Patricia's involvement with the park. This is being disputed by ZWG
who claim the cats are chattels of the business, I believe.” (Jill Albrow, deleted
discussions page, NZL) In that instance, Jill Albrow may have confused the
unregistered Trust, quite possibly, with the registered limited liability company
set up as Busch Wildlife Foundation Limited.
Craig Kevin Busch was born in 1964 in Palmerston North. His father Kevin
and mother Patricia (neé Cooksley) divorced c.1978.
Craig Busch, going by later reports during ERA hearings, appears to have
difficulty understanding legal documents due to a reading difficulty.
Ancestry of Craig Busch, and Early life
The Busch ancestors of Craig Busch, according to Genealogy.com, originally
came from Mecklenburg, Germany in the 1700s to early 1800s.
(http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/b/r/o/Margaret-PBroderick/WEBSITE-0001/UHP-0104.html) Hans Heinrich Busch appeared in
Nelson by April 1852, a farmer in Waimea East. (Papers Past, National
An alarming fire broke out on Monday night last, in Waimea East, on the
premises belonging to Mr. Hans Busch, farmer, of Hope district. The family
were awakened from their sleep by the smell of fire, and found the building in
a blaze, and had great difficulty in making their escape. One little girl was left
behind, and a brother rushed into the flames and succeeded in bringing her
out, getting much burnt in the attempt. The unfortunate girl was found to be
fearfully injured, especially about the face, both eyes being entirely destroyed
she now lies without hope of recovery. The building is entirely consumed,
together with six fine oxen, and a number of pigs. Two valuable horses were
nearly sharing the same fate, but managed to break out of their stable and
escape. The fire is supposed to have been caused by a cat, sleeping near the
embers, and conveying a lighted portion into the thatched roof. (Nelson
Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 28 April 1855, p2)
Heinrich’s son Johann Joachim Heinrich Busch (known as John), born 1837,
married in Nelson in 1861.
John’s son George William Henry Busch, according to the genealogy site,
was born in Oxford, Canterbury in 1874. His grandson Charles Henry Alve
Busch was born in 1911. His great-grandson was Kevin John Busch, father of
In the late 1970s to early 1980s, Craig Busch attended St Kentigern’s College
in Auckland. He is also said by his mother to have raced cars at speedway,
was into jetskis, and ran an engineering business. (Herald on Sunday, 28
Craig Busch was apparently raised in “a mountainous region” of Utah (as a
“Utah farm boy”) where he “befriended a cougar”. This is referenced in so
many places online that its veracity must be called into question. The period
of this first “Utah period” would have had to have been between c.1981, when
he reached school-leaving age here in New Zealand, and c.1991, when he
first got into trouble for assaulting a woman here in this country. The mid
1980s is supposed to be the period when he was racing and involved with jet
skis – his mother has confirmed that these sports were a passion of his. So,
this leaves very little time, if any, for him to have been a “Utah farm boy”.
Quoting Craig Busch: "I first saw a lion while trekking in Utah, USA. They are
very shy but I got really close to this one and realised I had a gift. At times
things have got hairy and I've thought 'Oh dear, what now?'
But lions are the most beautiful animals in the world and I want to stop them
So – did he get inspired by a lion wandering around in the Utah hinterlands, or
a cougar? And did he really “befriend” it? Many of the modern-day
practitioners of private animal parks have similar tales of “bonding with
animals” to tell, especially in their promotional material and on websites.
A company called Tamaki Motorcycles Limited is incorporated on 8 June 1988
(File BBNZ 5181 14465, Archives New Zealand). Craig Busch and his father
Kevin were the original subscribers to the application to incorporate, with
Craig Busch having controlling shares (999). His father was the first secretary
of the company.
On 3 August 1989, Kevin Busch is replaced a Secretary of Tamaki
Motorcycles (on resignation) by Craig’s mother, Patricia. Kevin Busch remains
as a director with 1 share.
On 29 November 1990, Patricia Busch enters into an agreement with her
son’s company regarding a debenture loan. A charge is registered against the
company of $100,000 (this amount however struck out on the official
instrument of registration on file and replaced by the words “Loans and other
accommodation”. This was on request by the Companies Registrar as the
amount was not mentioned on the Deed of Debenture.
“[Craig] Busch has a previous conviction from 1991 for assaulting a female,
for which he received three months' periodic detention. Women's Refuge
spokeswoman Catherine Delore said Busch had been given a second
chance, unlike the many women and children who had been subjected to
On 9 August 1991, Patricia Busch resigns as Secretary for Tamaki
Motorcycles Limited. William Leslie Stoddard, accountant, takes over her role
from 13 August.
On 30 January 1992, William Stoddard formally resigns as Secretary of
Tamaki Motorcycles Limited. The Companies Office sent a request for advice
as to who were the directors and Secretary on 4 February. The request was
returned unopened to the office.
24 September the Companies Office sends a letter to William Stoddard’s
business address, as the last known registered office for the company. This
letter is returned by Stoddard with the following handwritten note at the
Mr Craig Busch who controls the Co left for America 31.3.92 after closing
down the business without notice to anyone. He left large debts behind. No
one knows of his address. I suggest you write c/o Mrs P Busch or Mr K Busch
On 28 July 1993, Tamaki Motorcycles Limited is struck off the Companies
Register and dissolved.
In 1992 Bonnie Ringo starts a collection of abused and abandoned tigers in
“Ringo has been caring for mistreated and abused tigers since 1992,
obtaining them from exotic animal collectors or from people who acquire them
illegally and then find they can not care for them. She tries placing them with
qualified organizations, such as a breeding program in New Zealand, where
she sent five tigers in 2002.”
According to one female source from the United States (name withheld),
writing to MAF in 1996 (see below), 1992 is also the year when Craig Busch
told his American contacts he arrived in that country. This seems to be his
(second?) Utah-Nevada period.
“He fully admitted that he was looking for a wife so that he could remain in
this country. He asked me and several other women if we would be willing to
marry him. He said that he could never return to New Zealand because there
were ‘dangerous people there that are after me and will hurt me if I return’ …
He said he had opened a ski shop and that his ‘competition became so
jealous that they ran me out of the country threatening me’… He started
‘Wildlife Productions’ outside Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, a kind of circus
act/wildlife park. He showed me his portfolio and news clippings about it …
Then the girl broke up with him and ‘all of her family and friends ran me out of
business there.’ So he moved on to Las Vegas, Nevada and said he worked
for an act there … He showed me a photo of him in costume with an adult
white tiger. It was one of the doctored souvenir photos that you can buy with
your face superimposed over the trainers. But he repeatedly showed this to
people as authentic to get work at cat compounds.”
Among the businesses nominated as a referee by Busch in 1996 when he
was applying for his operating and import licences from MAF were those run
by Jonathan Kraft (ECI Productions, Predator’s Paradise, Keepers of the
Wild) in Las Vegas. “I would like to make you aware of the fact,” Kraft wrote to
Colin Hitchcock in April 1996, “that Mr Bush [sic] has never been in our
employ. Furthermore, he has neither the training nor the hands-on experience
to work in this area. It is our opinion that Mr Bush [sic] is not a person to be
trusted. He has left a trail of disaster behind him in our industry.”
Kraft told the Herald on Sunday in October 2012: "I remember for a fact he
didn't have any animal knowledge at that time at all. I had a badger by the
name of Billie. I said, 'you can't pat that badger,' but he said, 'oh, that's all
right,' in his Kiwi accent, and all of a sudden the badger was hanging from his
thumb. We laughed about that forever. He was just a nightmare in the
industry." Craig started hanging around. "He would do things that weren't
allowed and I had to save his life one time." Kraft says Craig followed him into
his arena without his knowledge and a tiger made a lunge for Craig. Kraft
went between them and stopped an attack. Kraft asked him to leave.”
From January 1993 until February 1995, Craig Busch is with Jan Giacinto in
California (see below).
“Patricia understands that it was through Giacinto that Craig met the Las
Vegas magician Dirk Arthur and Guns'n'Roses guitarist Slash. Slash was
having trouble with a cougar called Curtis, and Craig stepped up to help.
Patricia's old photo album shows him and Slash with the animal. Although
there seems doubt as to whether he was good at handling such felines then,
that didn't daunt Craig.” (Herald on Sunday, 28 October 2012)
During this California period, according to the anonymous source who knew
him in Utah, he began to shop around for big cats. “He did not have USDA
licensing, nor California Fish & Game licensing, and did not qualify for either
… Nobody [in the animal business] would oblige him [in putting his cat
purchases on their licences] … He had friends at Paramount Studios and
promised that he would do cut-rate filmwork with [a white tiger cub] for them if
they could produce documentation verifying that they could use it.” It was
alleged that he did not actually complete this contract.
It sounds like he was working for at least two animal dealers in California –
the Giacintos, who provided him with a glowing reference for MAF (aside from
the later bad feelings regarding unpaid debts), and another unnamed outfit
from where he was (according to the unnamed female source in the MAF
papers) “fired and ran off the property with a shotgun.”
Busch was in southern California in 1995 with a cougar, but didn’t impress
others in the industry. According to Hayden Rosenaur, a licensed animal
trainer since 1986, as interviewed by the Herald on Sunday in October 2012:
"[Busch] does not treat animals well, wherever he goes he leaves a trail of
destruction behind him. I met him a couple of times, he was clueless." In his
letter to MAF, Rosenaur writes he encountered Craig in 1995 when he was
attending to an adult cougar on set, but Rosenaur believes he was doing so
badly. "He was attempting to walk the cat on a lead. He said that he had
trained it; however, the cat was unwilling to cooperate. He choked the cat
down." Craig finally dragged the animal by the chain. "I do not feel that he had
any idea what he was doing and do not understand how he even came
across the opportunity to have this animal. It is my professional opinion that
he had no experience and had the potential of being very dangerous to
animals and the surrounding people if given the chance to handle big cats."
Joe Camp, owner of Animal Exotics, stated to the Herald on Sunday that he
had also witnessed the same incident or one similar, on the set of the Chuck
Norris Walker Texas Ranger series, in Texas. Jan Giacinto was apparently
involved, arranging with Busch for him to provide a cougar for the shoot. "His
was not an animal that could be worked,” so Camp is reported as saying, “so I
had to bring a cougar from somewhere else. He [Busch] was not a
professional trainer … He couldn't walk that animal around on a leash. As I
recall he wasn't so much cruel to the animal as he didn't know what he was
doing." Camp was amazed to learn that Craig had gone on to become a big
cat handler in New Zealand.”
On top of this, Craig Busch apparently still had some dealings with Nevada,
because an image featuring his face superimposed on the Nevada trainer’s
body with the white tiger in the Las Vegas souvenir (see above) exists with
captions “Craig and Stacy” and “Watch Us Roar in ‘94” (which was a promo
motto for the re-opened MGM Grand in Las Vegas from late 1993). Whether
that image was actually used by Busch in his dealings with Californian animal
dealers, facilities and film companies is not confirmed.
Craig Busch begins to look for white tigers in America to import into New
Zealand, according to a statement made by him during series 1 of The
Lionman while visiting Ed Hern. This is around the time Bonnie and Robert
Ringo set up their Wildwood Endangered Animal Sanctuary.
Busch began to make plans “for his own big cat attraction.” He wrote to MAF:
"My name is Craig Busch. I am at present in America training big cats and
wolves. I have been doing this now for three years and have become very
good at this sort of work. I am wanting to return to New Zealand and carry on
my work there ... Sincerely Craig Busch." Later that year, Busch returned to
New Zealand, living on his mother’s Clevedon block with his sister Megan and
(Herald on Sunday, 28 October 2012)
Jan Giacinto (d.2008) writes a “glowing reference” for Craig Busch for MAF’s
purposes in deciding whether or not to grant Busch an operating licence for
the Kerikeri park, “saying he'd started out cleaning cat cages and preparing
meals at her Cheetah II Productions in the aptly named Tarzana, California.
"He showed great ability with them and quickly moved up to breeding,
vaccinations and minor veterinary work ... he handled and trained several big
cats between January 1993 and February 1995."
(Herald on Sunday, 28 October 2012)
Sometime after this however, Giacinto wrote to “Craig and parents” asking for
$USD 270 owed to the Giacintos by Busch, and $USD 400 owed to another
person who had paid for a job to be done by Busch. "Craig we trusted you like
one of the family. I would never have given you any money if not. Our feelings
are really hurt ...We had such hopes for you." Patricia paid the debt.” (Herald
on Sunday, 28 October 2012.)
Colin Hitchcock of the “Interdepartmental Fauna and Flora Task Force” (MAF)
followed up on some other references provided by Craig Busch to back up his
application for both an operating and import licence. Some of the documents
received were published on Scribd in early October 2012.
MAF received a fax from a person in the United States (name withheld) dated
6 May 1996. In the light of what has happened since, the comments included
as direct quotes in a précis of the fax prepared by MAF in response to an
Official Information Act request are familiar.
“No one that really gets to know him [Mr Busch] ever wants him to own
any animals. He really does not know how to take care of them, much
less train them. When you first meet him, he is very charming and acts
and talks like he is the greatest animal trainer that ever lived.”
Mr Busch owed them, and another person, some money and had great
difficulty in retrieving the money because they did not want to make
him [Mr Busch] angry.
“He is one of the best con men I have ever met, and in this business
you meet a lot.”
Mr Busch stole copies of plans of animal cages and attempted to
conceal this from the person who had drawn them.
“Craig was always so polite and soft spoken and a perfect gentleman
that he had us all fooled. I could go on for pages, telling you about
Craig. None of us want anything to do with him ever again. He is
trouble and a BIG LIAR.”
“At that time we all trusted and wanted to help him get started in this
business. He told us that he had this large ranch in NZ and that large
runs were being put up to house cheetahs that he was getting from
Africa. Of course, we all believed him … He did a great snow job on all
Country Developments Ltd is incorporated, while Craig was working as a
digger operator in Drury. (Constitution statement filed 20 March 1997)
At Puketana Road, Kerikeri, the Cornelius family set up a zoo of sorts, the
Bruce Warren Zoological Gardens in 1992-1993, described as “a home for …
overloaded or cast off lions from a circus” (MAF interview re declawing
investigation, 3 December 2008). “They had a tiger, and a couple of lions, and
From NZ Lionman Facebook page (post’s spelling quoted as-is without
editing): “foxy the babbon was born on 19th august 1981 at aukland zoo
where she was named 'Naomi'. She was then sent to Tony Ratcliffe for his
circus. After a number of years Tony sent her to the Cornelious (sic) family at
Kerikeri. She was moved to Zion wildlife garden...s at Kerikeri in 1999 before
being moved to her present home in Kamo.”
“Bruce Cornelius did not set up ZWG. Craig took over as operator of a park
that Bruce set up in Kerikeri and a very small minority of the original ZWG
animals came from there. Craig set up ZWG and acquired the white lions and
white tigers. Jill”
According to MAF’s interview papers, after the Cornelius family had employed
others to manage the zoo for a time who “were not very qualified”, around
1996: “along comes Craig. And he wants to lease the premises. So they came
to an agreement, and I said to Craig, you know if you’re going to operate this
zoo, how are you going to finance it? He says well I’m an agricultural
contractor, we have this, me and [name blanked] have agree [sic] to continue
to supply cats and whatever else I need …So we changed the operator, and
he became Craig leasing the premises from the Cornelius[es]. Well, that went
on for perhaps a month or so, or for a short time before Craig and the
Cornelius[es] began to fall out, and … that history seems to be fairly repetitive
… Craig was claiming the Cornelius[es] were making life hard for him in all
sorts of ways. So he started looking for a place down here … he found this
place in Gray Road …”
Lion Samson obtained from a circus for Kerikeri zoo at some point before
1999. (List of Animals, NZ Lionman page)
Lions Zion and Shia are born and hand-reared by Craig Bush.
(List of animals, NZ Lionman page)
“Mr Busch moved his animals from Kerikeri to Whangarei in 2002.”
Bonnie Ringo’s Wildwood Endangered Animal Sanctuary moves to Cave
Junction in August 1999. The park has, by this time, already started a white
tiger breeding programme.
Declawing at Kerikeri begins, performed by veterinarians Craig knew when he
had earlier lived at Papakura. (MAF declawing report, 2008)
Lioness Savannah born. She is humanised and does not remain with the Wild
Pride under her father Samson. (List of animals, NZ Lionman page)
March 2002 – permit application to US Fish & Wildlife for export of five
captive-born white tigers by Bonnie Ringo to Zion Wildlife Gardens in New
Zealand. (Federal Register, Vol 67, No. 54 20 March 2002, p. 13005)
Four white tigers were obtained from Bonnie Ringo’s Tiger Preservation
Centre: Abu (said to be born 2001 – NZ Lionman page list), Jahdu (said to be
born 2001 – NZ Lionman page list), Tygo (said to be born 1999 – NZ Lionman
page list, but ZWG has him as same age as Abu, Jahdu and Rewa) and Rewa
(said to be born 2001 – NZ Lionman page list), along with Shikana (said to be
born 1998 – NZ Lionman page list & ZWG site)
In the first series of Lionman, (episode 6), he says that he “looked for the right
ones” for seven years.
April 2002 – Craig’s marriage to Brenda L Downes Busch ends in a decree of
divorce, granted in the state of Utah, 19 April 2002.
Aslan and Narnia born, humanised, and do not remain with the Wild Pride
formed under their father, Samson. Both are destined for media performance
From Jill Albrow’s “The Story So Far”: “In 2002 having mustered a collection
of some 18 large cats, Craig set up Zion Wildlife Gardens, near Whangarei …
There are currently 36 big cats at the park.” A circus tiger obtained by the
Corneliuses had died before the move was made.
The second site for Zion Wildlife Gardens, at Kamo near Whangarei, is part of
what was once a 6700 acre block known as Kaitara No 2, owned by Manihera
te Iwitahi (d. 1865), a Native Land Court assessor and influential chief in the
area. In 1875, his family sold the block to the Auckland Provincial Council for
£800, and the Crown surveyed the block in 1877.
The park is made up from Allotment 17 (most) and part of Allotment 16 from
that 1877 survey. Allotment 17 was sold to Thomas Mackie in 1888. The
following year Mackie sold to another Kaitara settler, Thomas Watts, who in
turn the next year transferred to William Smith. He transferred to Edward
Thomas Smith of Kamo in 1921. It remained in the Smith family until 1945.
The Smiths also owned Allotment 16 down to 1952.
Country Developments Limited, the property arm of Craig Busch’s corporate
set-up, obtained title over Allotments 16 and 17 on 19 December 2002 from
DDT Limited. A mortgage is taken out from the National Bank. This is
discharged at the end of 2006, after the 2006 agreement between Craig and
A certificate of compliance was granted by the Whangarei District Council for
the wildlife park to be established there, but with a number of conditions. One
condition, according to a later (2008) news report, was that admission wasn’t
to be charged, only donations accepted, to ensure that the operation wasn’t a
“The Zoo” inaugurated on TVNZ, by Greenstone Pictures.
Great Southern Television begins.
From Jill Albrow, “The Story So Far”
“In 2003 Phil Smith, director of Great Southern Television (GSTV) approached
Craig about filming a TV series “The Lionman”. The series, funded by TVNZ,
was filmed over 2003/2004 and went to air in 2004. Two further series were
made … “
The series opens with the cats in limited enclosures, work underway for
complete the main house for Craig Bush and Karen Greybrooke, a barn, and
larger enclosures. Future plans included larger areas, including bushland, for
the animals to roam. This last feature didn’t come to pass.
Trip during the year by Craig to South Africa and Ed Hern’s game park.
Gandor is chosen as the first white lion to travel to New Zealand. (First series
The Lion Man) It isn’t explained how Ed Hern managed to obtain Gandor from
his two wild (tawny) lion parents. Could Gandor have been connected to
Thandile, the first white lion at the game park?
I did find the following online:
“An unrelated strain of white lions at Johannesburg's Rhino & Lion Nature
Reserve was founded by an orphan or abandoned white cub called Thandile
discovered in the wild in the park in 1999. Thandile has blue eyes, but is not
albino. In 1998, a half-eaten white cub had been found in the Rhino and Lion
This, from the Rhino & Lion Park website:
“She was spotted in July 1999 by a visitor to the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve
north of Krugersdorp, and is one of only about 40 white lions known to exist.
The cub had been abandoned by its mother and the visitor alerted two game
guards, who brought the 750g ball of fur to the park's owner, Ed Hern, where
she was subsequently hand-reared. Hern said his 16 lions invariably killed or
abandoned their cubs, probably because they knew their range was too small
to sustain a bigger population.
"The only reason the cub was spotted at all is because she is white," he said.
"But that very fact means she'll never be able to hunt properly because she
doesn't have the camouflage.
"She's not an albino. Albinos are white but have pink eyes and you can't
breed them. Thandile's eyes are blue. Her colouring is the result of a
recessive gene ... We knew we had the white gene among our lions because
last year we picked up a halfeaten white cub," Hern said. He plans to buy a
male white lion for about R250,000 to breed with Thandile when she matures
in two years' time.
For the moment, Thandile still has a lot of growing up to do, weighing
approximately 70 kg out of an essential 170 kg. “
Dalu Mncube is also seen in this episode for the first time, working for Ed
In October 2004, a second mortgage is taken out on the Kamo property, this
time from Lewis Holdings Limited. This, like the National Bank mortgage, is
discharged in late 2006, after the agreement of that year between Craig and
Gandor and Shakira are imported from Ed Hern’s park in South Africa.
Part of the land is subdivided by Craig Busch, and one section is purchased
by Evelyn Manley. She becomes one of the main objectors to Zion Wildlife
Gardens being granted consents from Whangarei District Council, due to the
In August came news that part of the road to the park, widened by Whangarei
District Council at the behest of Craig Busch (work on the road featured in the
first series of The Lionman as happening after Craig Busch’s return from
South Africa) would not be sealed, due to budget restrictions.
Early 2005, Aotea (female) and Tane (male), two white tigers, are born to
Rewa. Rewa rejects them at birth, and the two cubs are hand-raised at first by
Karen Greybrooke and another staff member, then later by Craig Busch
alone. These animals end up sent to Ed Hern’s game park in exchange for
white lions Gandor and another. (Second series The Lion Man)
January – assault on Karen Greybrooke. Legal fees begin to mount up as
Busch defends the charges.
Business association with Reece comes to an end. Reece was one whom
Busch worked with to develop the idea of a wildlife sanctuary.
(November 2008 injunction report)
From Jill Albrow, “The Story So Far”:
“In 2005, following a period of personal difficulty, Craig’s mother, Patricia,
moved into the park to assist him.”
Karen Greybrooke places notice of claim of interest on the land titles for the
“Tiger cubs charm shoppers” was the headline appearing in the NZ Herald (20
April) as they reported on 10-week-old white tiger cubs Tane and Aotea being
used for a display at Howick’s Botany Town Centre in Auckland. At that time,
their mother Rewa was already pregnant again. The purpose of the display at
Howick, including public handling of the cubs, according to Craig Busch, was
to raise awareness of tiger conservation. The practice of shopping centre
displays of exotic wildlife, however, has been denounced in a number of
According to the transcription (page 22) of the interview held 3 December
2008 between Jeff Storey of MAF and another employee of MAF supervising
the park (regarding the declawing investigation), Mandla the black leopard
arrived at Zion Wildlife Gardens on 23 July 2005.
According to the transcription of the interview held 3 December 2008 between
Jeff Storey of MAF and another employee of MAF supervising the park
(regarding the declawing investigation), there was a “falling out” around this
time between Craig Busch and one of the vets who had been involved with
declawing the cats. The vet, whose name was blanked from the transcription,
apparently accused Busch of being a “wife basher”, while Busch in turn
accused the vet of being “part of the South African mafia who were trying to
take his bloody zoo away from him.”
Craig Busch on safari in Africa.
Rewa gives birth to three more white tigers. Two are sent to Ed Hern’s park in
South Africa, as part of the white tigers for white lions trading deal. The third
remains at Zion Wildlife Gardens for breeding purposes.
It was reported that larger habitats for the cats were at that point in the
process of construction, expected to be complete by Christmas 2005.
The cubs are Kiwi (male), Rongo (male) and Shanti (female). The males are
traded to Ed Hern. The total number of white lions obtained are four: Gandor
(b.2003), Laduma (b.2004), Imvula (b.2004) and Amafu. The fate of the four
white tigers in South Africa is unknown.
At some point after this, Jill Albrow first visits the park. In a comment she
published on her NZ Lionman Facebook page (10 October 2011), she
describes when she first visited Zion Wildlife Gardens, her and her husband
“fed Shanti, Kiwi and Rongo with bottles.” After this, going on a tour at the
park, she made the acquaintance of Craig Busch, and remained his friend
from that point on. She is also his spokesman to the media in New Zealand
and via her Facebook page “NZ Lionman” from 2008.
Further subdivision of the land holdings of the park.
4 May -- Craig Busch’s partner in Wildlife Productions, Robert Reece,
demands repayment of $400,000 from Craig Busch.
June – Rewa has another cub Khan. Khan had congenital health problems,
described as a pelvic abnormality by the vet who euthanised him. The
narrator of the series however initially said it was a problem due to Rewa’s
tooth entering his stomach. (Third series)
Khan died in 2008. It was reported by Patricia Busch in 2010 that Khan’s body
was kept in a freezer until the next series had begun filming, for a staged
funeral to take place.
From Jill Albrow, “The Story So Far”
“In 2006 Patricia offered to help Craig refinance the park. An agreement was
entered into between Craig, Patricia, Zion Wildlife Gardens and Country
Developments. Craig was asked to resign as a director and sign over the
voting rights for his shares to Patricia. A 12.5% share in Zion Wildlife Gardens
and Country Developments was signed over to Patricia. The loan was
secured against the park property in Kamo and was to be repaid from
business proceeds with the ultimate objective of Craig being restored as
director and having control of the park returned to him. Zion Wildlife Gardens
is the park operating company and Country Developments own the land on
which the park is located. Craig remains a major shareholder in both
At this point, according to the 2006 agreement, Craig Busch for $650,000, of
which $400,000 was “indebtedness”, and the rest legal fees etc. Patricia
Busch had already advanced $80,000 to Zion and Country, and pledged
under the agreement to raise at least $1.7 million more. The security (every
loan needs security) was the cashflow-producing operational arm (ZWG) and
the asset arm (Country). Craig Busch remained as a majority shareholder in
both companies, but resigned his directorship to Patricia, until such time as
the loan had been repaid (mortgages over both companies).
The agreement specifically excluded any interference with Craig Busch’s
management of the park’s wildlife, or the “manner in which public
performances are carried out.” But, he was supposed to become an employee
of Zion Wildlife Gardens under the terms of the contract. He is still the MAF
Trouble was – there was no written employment agreement prepared and
signed. (Dec 2008 determination, ERA) The “management of the park’s
wildlife” and public performances statements in the 2006 agreement are
therefore not fully defined.
According to the transcription (page 23) of the interview held 3 December
2008 between Jeff Storey of MAF and another employee of MAF supervising
the park (regarding the declawing investigation), the cheetahs Kenya and
Thabo were imported at this time to Zion Wildlife Gardens. However, the NZ
Lionman page’s list showed them as being imported only before May 2008.
Rewa has triplets Azra, Azila and Kala. These (as at 2011) reside in Pouaki
Zoo, New Plymouth. They have not been declawed. They are raised by
Megan Busch. (Series 3)
White lion cubs Themba and Timba born to Imvula. (Series 3 of Lionman, List
Late December (around 24-26th) or early January
Episode 6 of Series 3 of Lionman series is filmed. Imvula’s two cubs brought
in with Laduma, and new enclosures for Zion and Shia and Gandor and
Incorporation of Zion Wildlife Services. Patricia Busch sole director.
(Episode 7 of Series 3 Lionman; NZL list of animals)
White lion Amafu gives birth to four cubs -- Sabie, Sabili, Maya and Marah.
These are initially cared for by Megan Busch when Amafu fails to feed them.
9 – 11 February
“The Small Block Expo” at Claudlands, Hamilton.
“The specialist lifestyle and small farm show.
Come meet the Lion Man and experience the Rare and beautiful White Lion
and White TigerCubs, along with the bigs cats in the Endangered Habitat.”
(Also featured in episode 10 of Series 3, Lionman) The narrator of that
episode said that this was the second year Craig Busch had attended the
Craig Busch convicted of 2005 assault on former partner Karen Greybrook.
There is quite a bit of “he said”, “she said” online to this incident. But, as far as
the bottom line is concerned – Craig Busch reacted violently to the situation
and injured Karen Greybrook severely. In New Zealand at the moment is a
rising culture that it is “not okay” to engage in domestic violence, for any
reason. However, the judgement by Judge Michael Lance went against this.
From the NZ Herald, 24 May 2007:
She suffered a cut to her head, a fractured vertebrae and bruising. A second
assault charge was laid after Busch, the morning after the attack, forced Ms
Greybrook into a car and while sitting on her lap steered the vehicle out the
Zion Wildlife Garden gates. He then locked her out …
Given the stress Busch had endured since the attack - and his work in the
community - a conviction on each of the two counts was sufficient, and no
further penalty was required.
"You have contributed to your community, Mr Busch ... you are passionate
about conservation and preservation and you have a reputation worldwide."
However, a victim impact report was a "troubling document" and Judge Lance
ordered Busch pay his former partner $8000 in reparation.
This incident puts Craig Busch on the Sensible Sentencing Trust’s offender
In May, “Pride Before a Fall” was broadcast as part of TV3’s 60 minutes
series, regarding the assault on Karen Greybrooke.
On July 9, “Handle with Care” was broadcast as part of TV3’s 60 minutes
series. It contained allegations about Craig Busch and interviews with others
that had known him, both for and against.
“Craig Busch has made his name all over the world as the Lion Man but, after
an investigation that has taken several months, 60 Minutes can reveal
another side to the international TV star. A few weeks ago, 60 Minutes
brought you a story about the Lion Man’s assault on his ex-partner Karen
Greybrook. Craig Busch pleaded guilty, claiming he had found her in bed with
another couple, he said he pulled her away and she simply fell on the floor.
However, Karen received a serious head wound, damaged ribs and a
fractured back bone. Her doctor told us he examined her after the assaults
and he considered Craig’s explanation very “unlikely”.
“We said then, that we were carrying out more investigations into Craig Busch
and his Northland lion park. This story is the result. It reveals concerns about
Craig’s handling of big cats and allegations from a long string of people, who
feel mistreated by him.”
Unfortunately, both of these videos are currently unavailable for public
viewing. This from Hub Pages, a comment by Peter Dickinson:
“This interviewed many people who had suffered at his hands and outlined
the abuse he carried out. Though placed on YouTube on a few occasions it
has always been removed by pressure and complaints from the Craig Busch
Fan Club. They argue that there is nothing to hide and yet they don't want
anybody to see the truth. The programme showed the real 'Craig Busch'.”
The 2007 agreement
Under this second agreement, Patricia Busch was to have “final decision
making power in relation in income and expenditure relating to Zion, Country
or Wildlife Pictures and any film ventures carried on in relation to them.” Craig
was not to be involved in film ventures except as an employee of Wildlife; all
copyright and intellectual property belonging to Wildlife Pictures to remain the
property of Wildlife Pictures. The net income from Wildlife Pictures was to be
used to maintain Zion Wildlife Gardens and reduce the debt to Patricia, with a
bonus paid to Craig.
Trouble is – it isn’t a very specific agreement. It doesn’t specify exactly what
copyright and intellectual property it is talking about. An agreement strong in
the spirit of the law, but not in the word – and, like the 2006 agreement, the
source of future litigation.
From Jill Albrow, “The Story So Far”
“… but the relationship between Craig and his mother deteriorated. Park staff
said that they were instructed not to work with Craig, speak to him or have
anything to do with him.”
This bit is odd. Why would this be the case?
There is this statement, by carpenter John Davis, in 2009:
He said Mrs Busch told him not to talk to Mr Busch or assist him because jobs
such as construction of enclosures and maintenance work never got done
when the Lion Man was involved.
However, in the May 2011 ERA determination report:
[Craig Busch said] his mother had ceased to include him in the management
of the Park. He claimed to have been stripped of any authority over Park staff
in a way that made it impossible to supervise or train other animal handlers.
He also said that he had been shut out of financial decision making and
prevented from authorising essential expenditure on maintenance … The
counterclaim applicant does not dispute that in the latter half of 2008
limits were placed on Mr Busch’s authority. He was relieved of “signing
authority” and financial decisions were made without input from him. Certain
members of staff (including Mr Ward and Mr Davis) were told to take direction
not from Mr Busch but from either Mrs Busch or those she engaged to help
her run the business: management consultant Barry Nalder and operator
This makes much more sense. The staff was instructed not to take orders
from Craig Busch, especially once Glen Holland and Barry Nalder were
employed as managers in October 2008, but effectively once Busch had
cancelled the interactive tours in May that year. This situation appears to have
arisen at least in part from Busch’s comments to staff concerning the
interactive tours about making it harder for the business to function.
During the year, the lion Samson died. His body was kept in the ZWG’s
freezer for 7 months. This was revealed in 2010.
“On the website, Patricia claims the dead big cat – former circus lion Samson
– was kept frozen next to pet food for seven months by her son, who
prevented her arranging a burial …
“Through a spokeswoman, Craig has rejected the claims made about both
Samson and Khan. The spokeswoman said Samson was "euthanised" on
Patricia's orders when Craig was away from the park, north of Whangarei.
She said Samson stayed in the freezer for the seven months because Patricia
had instructed staff "not to work with Craig" and he was not physically able to
move the lion's dead body by himself. “
Megan Busch advised on Facebook April 2013 that Samson had an incurable
tumour on his hindleg, so had to be put down. His remains was initially in a
shroud, but after a while in the freezer, moved around with the contents, it
came off (hence the bare corpse seen in the photo).
Zion Wildlife Gardens applied late in 2007 for Whangarei District Council
approval to continue operating after an abatement notice was served, when
the Council found the park to be in breach of certain conditions. From the NZ
Herald article at the time, it appeared that these breaches were to do with the
number of visitors to the park, and car parking provision on-site. But
references were also made to conditions from 2002 such as not charging
visitors to the park, keeping a “donations only” provision to ensure the
operation remained non-commercial. If this is correct – was the park intended
to assist Northland tourism in the first place? I have yet to see the paperwork
from that period.
Another “hands on” private zoo owner like Craig Busch, Tony Greenwood of
Peel Zoo in Western Australia, called any closure of Zion Wildlife Gardens a
“disaster for conservation”. But out of twenty-five submissions on the 2007
application were received by the Council, only two were in favour. One
resident claimed he knew of 13 escapes by big cats from their enclosures at
the park. Nevertheless, Zion Wildlife Gardens was granted approval to
proceed with its operations, and to expand, with retrospective consent for
building projects there that had not received consent before construction
“The consent for the site - which houses lions, rare white tigers and Barbary
lions - is subject to a number of conditions relating to traffic, noise, on-site
commercial activities and signs. Other requirements include animal and
perimeter fencing to be governed and monitored by the Ministry of Agriculture
and Forestry, a landscape plan to minimise visual impact of the development
on the surrounding area, and tree pruning. The number of traffic movements
in and out of the site is limited and the gardens are allowed to open seven
days a week from 8.30am to 5pm. Twelve full and part-time staff are
employed, three of whom live permanently on the site. Proposed future
development, according to an application lodged with council planners,
involves a larger area of animal enclosures for big cats.”
“A MAF report in January raised concerns about animals kept in insanitary
and crowded conditions, staff training and inadequate barrier protection in
some areas.” (Northern Advocate, 14 November 2008)
The two cheetahs, Kenya and Thabo are obtained from South Africa before
May. (List of animals, NZ Lionman page) So, this means that while Craig
Busch was an employee, he was able to travel to South Africa to arrange
transport for the two cheetahs.
In April, a guide was bitten by a lion on both hands through the fence of
“The park owner, TV "Lionman" Craig Busch, has not replied to requests from
Whangarei's newspaper, the Northern Advocate to talk about this or other
alleged injuries caused by the park's celebrated big cats.”
From Jill Albrow, “The Story So Far”:
“As Craig was concerned for safety standards at the park, he instructed that
all interactive tours at the park be suspended until further notice.”
And yet in May an advertisement posted online by Eagles Nest in Russell for
“an exclusive package … set up with Craig Busch (The Lion Man) …” offered
the opportunity to get up close and personal with the “Big Cats” … access to
Zion Wildlife Gardens outside of park hours, personal welcome and guided
tour by Craig, personal interaction with rare tigers, white lions/tigers (petting
and photographs) entering the Cheata (sic) enclosure to feed them and
guided tour of the facility.”
I have two questions here: were such “outside of park hours tours” a
contravention or not of the consent conditions laid down by Whangarei District
Council in January of 2007; and why was “personal interaction with rare
tigers” being advertised a month after Craig Busch is said to have stopped
(From the May 2011 ERA determination report:)
In early May 2008 Mr Busch had approached Patricia Busch (his mother and
director of ZWGL) with a request for funds for declawing some young lions so
that they could be used for interactive tours. Mrs Busch told the Authority that
at that time she received this request she had no reason to think the tours
would not continue as they had been doing for some time.
Soon after, on 16 or 17 May 2008, Mr Busch directed that bookings for
interactive tours were to cease. Mrs Busch alleges that Mr Busch told her he
was no longer willing for such tours to be run because there was nothing in
it for him. Other staff (including building and maintenance workers Andrew
Ward and John Davis, and animal handler Martin Ferreira) reported thatMr
Busch told each of them in separate conversations that he had cancelled the
tours with the intention of damaging the business. Mr Ward stated that he
had heard Mr Busch say that if he could not regain control of the Park he
would make sure that no-one else did …
Upon being told that Mr Busch was no longer scheduling interactive tours,
Mrs Busch checked with MAF as to whether they had any outstanding
concerns that the Park needed to address before tours could resume. By
early June MAF had confirmed that no corrective actions were outstanding at
that time. Mrs Busch proceeded to write to her son telling him that the
cancellation of tours was having a serious effect on the revenue of the Park.
On 16 July she wrote again asking when the interactive tours would be able
to be restarted. She received no response to these communications …
At no time did Mrs Busch issue Mr Busch with a direct instruction to restart
the tours. In her evidence she said she acknowledged that a decision about
this matter fell within his discretion as licensed operator however she did not
accept that Mr Busch had a legitimate reason for cancelling the tours …
On a couple of occasions after May 2008 Mr Busch authorised interactive
tours for selected participants. He has not explained why these tours were
permitted when others were not, except to say that the tours went ahead in
part because the customers concerned had been very upset when initially told
they could not have a tour. Otherwise, he took no steps to resume the tours
before his employment ended. He told the Authority that the safety issues
needed to be resolved before that could happen.
From Jill Albrow, “The Story So Far” :
“In June 2008, Craig felt that the welfare of the animals was being
compromised by the ongoing dispute between him and the ZWG
management and he made a report to MAF.”
According to notes from MAF’s investigation interview regarding the
declawing of the cats at the park, held on 3 December 2008, (Jeffrey Storey,
published online in October 2012) it was in May when MAF received
“complaints from both Craig Busch and Patricia about issues arising at the
property. Funnily they were doing performance on themselves, relating to
enclosures and conditions that the animals were in, given it’s mid-winter …
the animals were in not great condition. There was a lot of mud, there was a
lot of water. There was faecal contamination, there was urine contamination.
They had 7 adolescents in a very small temporary enclosure, which may have
been appropriate 12 months previously, but they were about 18 months old at
that stage. They had 3 tigers, 4 lions all in the same enclosure, the tigers in
and out of the water trough. And it was just a bloody shambles really. And we
issued a Section 130 notice to Craig, and Patricia, and Zion, to cover all
bases, cause they were the persons in charge, they were owners, to extend
the juvenile enclosure. To provide straw and bedding for the animals. And to
effectively deal with the mud issues in the enclosures.”
The MAF investigators at that time found that Patricia Busch had two security
guards permanently on site, while Craig Busch had a security consultant with
There was a follow-up inspection “after about a month and a half … there
were other animals in inappropriate enclosures, and we required them to
complete enclosures, for which they had approval. But because of the internal
ramifications and bickering, and crap, it didn’t get done.”
During that MAF investigation, the declawing practice was revealed and
reported on. MAF investigators found that “routine front pad declawing” of
lions and tigers had taken place since 2000 when Craig Busch operated at
Kerikeri. The practice was done with confidentiality, so that none of the public
would find out.
The subsequent MAF report revealed that from 2003-2005 – during which The
Lion Man series began screening – "there was a strong commercial focus to
improve the income of the zoo in order to upgrade enclosures and animal
"This was being achieved through filming for television, advertising of the zoo
and public participation and interaction with the animals, and through various
related promotions of the Zion Zoo and its lions and tigers," the report said.
"Front pad declawing was deemed necessary by Zion's principal veterinarian
at the time in order to facilitate close interaction with both handlers and
veterinarians, and the need for a commercial income stream to be generated
"Key drivers" given by the vet – whose name was withheld – behind his
declawing of the big cats included "the animals were being used commercially
to permit the financial survival of the zoo", and "close contact with handlers
and film crews was required and personal safety was an issue".
The vet considered the practice as being in the animals' "best interests" as it
meant they wouldn't have to undergo an alternative of repeated sedation.
Declawing was the "lesser of two evils".
In April 2013, Charles Cadwallader revealed on Facebook that he knew about
the declawing at ZWG in 2006, while he was manager of MAF animal welfare
investigations. “I spoke with the ZWG vet and warned him that further
declawings would be dealt to somewhat differently,” he wrote, adding, “The
first declawings were dealt with as a verbal warning and it was made clear
that the action was not deemed 'in the best interests of the animals'. This
having been made clear, any further breaching of the Act would attract a more
robust response.” However, the declawing continued. In 2007, according to
the 2009 declawing report, another MAF animal welfare official was aware of
the declawing as well, made enquiries at head office, but as there was no real
interest shown in pursuing the matter, let it drop.
In May 2008, MAF inspected the property in response to complaints from both
Craig and Patricia Busch. In the course of that inspection, as one of the team
was an expert in big cats, further investigation went into the declawing issue
at the park, and the practice finally ceased. Early that month, “Mr Busch had
approached Patricia Busch (his mother and director of ZWGL) with a request
for funds for declawing some young lions so that they could be used for
interactive tours” (19 May 2011 ERA determination). The results of this
operation would have therefore been evident at the time of the MAF
There were also considerable concerns as to the conditions at the park for the
“Inspectors were at one stage so concerned by conditions at Zion Wildlife
Gardens they considered having 40 big cats put down. Officials were also
concerned about barriers, with one external fence damaged and not repaired
for a day and a half, and lions and tigers kept in the same enclosure. Among
the options being considered by MAF were finding a new operator, or even
performing euthanasia on 40 of the park's big cats.
Since the concerns were raised earlier this year, improvements have been
made at the Kamo, Whangarei, wildlife park which gained worldwide fame
through the TV series The Lion Man. MAF investigations manager Greg Reid
said the immediate animal welfare issues at the park had been addressed.
One investigation was ongoing, but he would not comment until it was
completed later this year. Mr Reid said Zion's containment facilities were up to
standard and he was satisfied any "domestic or business issues" were not
affecting animal welfare or public safety. "The animals are being cared for
and contained appropriately," he said.
While still an employee of Zion Wildlife Gardens and Wildlife Pictures, Craig
Busch takes out intellectual property rights registration in his own name on the
“Lionman” name and logos with the Intellectual Property Office of New
By September, most of MAF’s concerns regarding the park were resolved.
ONE News has discovered MAF has spent three months trying to deal with
serious animal welfare issues at the park in Kamo, near Whangarei.
MAF inspection reports say lions and tigers were being kept in cramped
unsanitary living conditions. Immediate welfare issues have now been sorted
at Zion Gardens, but there is still concern for the animals, due to an ongoing
dispute between Busch and his mother.
“Springtime has brought a new home for four young cubs at Whangarei's Zion
Wildlife Gardens. Four of the park's 45 big cats moved into their new
enclosure this week and "just love it", Zion's office and tour manager Renee
“The old enclosure, which used to house Barbary/African lion siblings Tshaka,
Abdullah and Cleo, and cheeky Royal White Bengal tiger Shanti, is now
empty, without any plans for the space. Builders have been working on the
540sq m enclosure since July, which includes a totara tree, man-made hill,
play house and bunk beds, and toys for the cats including logs and balls. The
creation of the enclosure, one of 17 in total, was part of an ongoing
expansion, Ms Woodleigh said. It is made of 4m-high chain mesh and angled
inwards at the top with five electric wires.
“With luck, more expansion would be necessary. "We've got two cheetahs
from Africa, a breeding pair, and we're hoping they'll breed next year."
23 October – Glen Holland of Wildlife Connections writes a report to Patricia
Busch, detailing the “risk and number of issues the current operator is
imposing on the business.” A day later, Craig Busch is suspended, pending
investigation into the issues raised. He failed to attend a disciplinary hearing
on 31 October, and so was fired three days later.
From Jill Albrow, “The Story So Far”
“On November 3rd 2008 Craig was dismissed from Zion Wildlife
Gardens. Since he was no longer a ZWG employee Craig’s Operator licence
was revoked by MAF. Glen Holland, a former director of Auckland Zoo took
over as MAF Operator and manager of the park.“
Craig began a personal grievance claim for unfair dismissal, although a
request for interim reinstatement was refused.
You can find the ERA determination here.
7 November – as he was no longer employed at Zion Wildlife Gardens,
Craig Busch’s licence as operator was revoked by MAF.
The park’s neighbours reported the sound of loud arguments at the park
during this time, along with additional sightings of both police and security
guards, adding to already existing anxieties over the park’s existence close
by, and their concerns as to animal escapes. One described it as “waiting for it
“Glen Holland, who headed Auckland Zoo for seven years, was hired as a
consultant at the park three weeks ago - and stepped in as the park's licensed
operator when Lion Man Craig Busch had his licence revoked by the Ministry
of Agriculture and Forestry this week. And Mr Holland is impressed by what
he's found at the Kamo wildlife park. "I was a bit concerned there may be
animal-welfare issues. I thought the handlers might just be sheep farmers
trying to handle big cats. But the cats are in very good condition and the staff
are great, they have a real rapport with the cats." He is at Zion two to three
days a week, making sure MAF's strict animal park rules are followed.”
(Northern Advocate 14 November 2008)
Craig Busch battled MAF to try to retain his licence, even though he no longer
worked at Zion Wildlife Gardens, but lost.
Craig Busch and his friends begin a fundraising campaign, aimed at restoring
him to ownership of the park. Whether this was a fund meant for covering
legal expenses or actually repaying the loans from Patricia Busch is unclear.
The Big Cat Rescue Trust (BCRT) is thus set up at this time. From NZ
Lionman, Facebook 19 January 2011:
“In 2008, we set up a trust in New Zealand called the Big Cat Rescue Trust.
All donations to us were held in the trust’s bank account. Over a period of
time requests were made that the finances of the trust be more transparent
and that it should be a registered Charity. Since the majority of our support
was from the UK, we set up a UK registered charity at the end of last year.
Being a registered charity means that we have to provide full financial
disclosure at the end of the financial year, something that a lot of people
asked for. However, it also has restrictions as to what the money raised could
be used for, which was a cause of concern for some supporters. We received
feedback to suggest that fans felt that money raised to reunite Craig with his
cats could perhaps now, through no fault of the BCRT, be used for other
purposes. We have listened to your feedback and have come up with a
“The Big Cat Rescue Trust will remain a registered charity in the UK.”
Also from this time, Craig Busch is represented by Media Celebrity Services
(down to at least September 2011, the time of this compilation). On the MCS
site, he put out this plea:
“I need your help. I believe this world is in a critical situation NOW! I am here
for one purpose. To help these animals and others, because of what man has
done to them, both in the wild and in captivity. These animals should be in the
wild, doing what they are meant to do to keep the planet in balance. My
animals are extinct in the wild. The big cats at Zion are my life. Some people
simply want to possess these Big Cats. I am their ‘dad’. I want to do
everything possible for them and in doing so help benefit big cats and other
animals in the wild. The Big Cat Rescue Trust is set up to assist with that.”
Craig Busch’s father Kevin's new wife Helena Busch “said … they went public
with the dispute [with Patricia Busch, over the employment issue] without
Craig Busch's knowledge because they wanted people to know what was
going on. Helena Busch said Craig Busch was depressed and had surgery
following two separate accidents recently but was being cared for by a new
partner - "his saving grace" - who was also living at the wildlife park. She said
her husband was proud of his famous son.”
An injunction is sought by Craig Busch to stop Patricia Bush running Zion
Wildlife Gardens and Country Developments, “while he takes steps to redeem
his shares in the companies.” The judgement on 3 December recommended,
along with an adjournment to February 2009, that both parties go into
Did Craig Busch even want to do the TV show? Apparently not …
"I've been doing things for a long time that I don't even want to do. One of
them is the TV show," Craig said in an exclusive interview outside the
Whangarei High Court where the latest episode in a legal catfight between
him and his mother was being played out on Friday.
"I never wanted to do that (TV show). I did it ... and who gets stomped over all
the time? Me."
Limping with a broken foot his latest misfortune Craig said he was "over
everything" and would "love to go to Africa right now".
"I should be there doing things for conservation. I shouldn't be in a
courtroom," he said.
"I've sacrificed a lot and that's all I'm going to do for the rest of my life.
"I want to see those (Zion big cats) right and I want, after I'm gone ... to
see them right, in the right hands."
Dec 2008 ERA report:
Patricia Busch’s dispute with Craig as to proper management of the park led
to her appointing Glen Holland to assist her with running the park, and Barry
Nalder as a business consultant. (2006 allowed Patricia to take “such steps as
are prudent for the proper management of Zion and Country.”
During October 2008, Glen Holland successfully applied to be additional
licence holder for Zion.
24 October, Craig Busch was suspended by Barry Nalder while Nalder
investigated claims of serious misconduct by Craig Busch. These included –
failure to keep proper training records; incorrect cash handling procedures;
causing loss of revenue through cancellation of tours; major breaches of
safety protocols; inappropriate behaviour in the workplace; misuse of a
Busch declined to attend a disciplinary hearing on 31 October, and Nalder
went ahead and considered the information to hand. 3 November Nalder
wrote to Busch, advising he had concluded he was guilty of serious
misconduct, and dismissed him, effective immediately.
Four staff members at the park provided affidavit evidence to the ERA
advising that they found Craig Busch “impossible to work for”, and several
said they would resign if he returned. “I am satisfied that the two from whom I
heard in person were entirely genuine about this.”
“The respondents say that Mr Busch has never acknowledged his status as
an employee and has persisted in acting as though he were still owner of the
park.” Craig Bush, they said, would not take instruction from Glen Holland, if
Busch was given interim reinstatement to Zion.
A change of heart. Now Busch wants to buy the park back. He intended
buying back his shares from Patricia – provided he could obtain finance, of
Dyslexia: Again, there is reference to Craig Busch stating he was “under a
disability” at the time of signing the 2007 agreement, and “asserts he did not
understand what he was signing.” Judge J Heath felt that the evidence of
alleged disability was slight, and that Busch was bound by what he signed.
From NZL Facebook, 18 September 2011 (comment by Jill Albrow)
“Craig did not see the cats between October 2009 and August 2011.”
Therefore he did visit the park between his dismissal (November 2008) and
October 2009. This is confirmed by Jill Albrow’s statement
(http://www.facebook.com/notes/nz-lionman-craig-busch/where-isabu/402568399918) referring to events in May 2009: “Craig visited the park
and looked extensively in the grounds for a grave but could not locate one; he
did establish that Abu had NOT been buried in the usual park burial ground,
where Khan & Samson had graves and where we understand Shia, the
lioness who died last December, has also been buried. Craig has never been
advised of the whereabouts of Abu’s grave.” Conspiracy theories around this
still abounded on Albrow’s Facebook page as at October 2012.
This post from Mike Ross Law Blog:
Family finances: Busch v. Zion Wildlife
Litigation is an expensive way to settle family arguments over money.
The High Court recommended that Whangarei “Lion Man”, Craig Busch,
try mediation in a financial dispute with his mother.
Their dispute followed over $1.7 million in financing provided by Mrs Busch in
July 2006 to rescue her son’s wildlife park at Kamo, near Whangarei. The
court was told that Craig Busch had been under extreme emotional and
financial pressure culminating in a charge of assault against his former
partner and a falling out with his business partner at the wildlife park.
His mother’s $1.7 million loan was used to refinance business operations. As
security, Mrs Busch was given control of the business with Craig Busch
entitled to resume control once the debt was repaid.
One potential source of repayment was revenue from film and television rights
over future wildlife programmes – Craig Busch having earned his reputation
as the “Lion Man” on the basis of earlier media exposure. However, future
film rights required use of business assets now under his mother’s control.
The earlier financing agreement was extended with a supplementary
agreement in 2007 to cover filming rights: copyright and intellectual property
The 2007 agreement stated that filming rights remained with the business
under Mrs Busch’s control, but the approval of Craig Busch was required
should the business enter into joint ventures for the production or distribution
of filmed material. This was designed to protect Craig Busch’s position. The
2007 agreement provided that two-thirds of the net income from film
productions would go in reduction of the money owed Mrs Busch, and the
remaining one-third was payable to Craig Busch as a “bonus”. Any joint
venture arrangement would have the effect of reducing the pot to be divided
Craig Busch went to court after learning that a joint venture company had
been set up, without his approval, for a future series of The Lion Man. He
asked the High Court for orders removing his mother from overall control and
the appointment of independent directors. The Court was not willing to
remove Mrs Busch from control without there first being an extended court
hearing with full evidence. She had provided a substantial sum in emergency
financial aid to rescue the business and was entitled to remain in control as
protection for her investment until the case could be fully argued.
Justice Heath went on to suggest continuing the litigation was not the best
course of action. He said there were three ways out of the impasse: first for
Mrs Busch to buy out her son’s remaining shareholding in the business and to
assume complete control; second, for Craig Busch to refinance the business
and buy out his mother; and third, for the business to be sold as a going
concern to a third party. The value of the business would be dependent on
Craig Busch being willing to participate in any film ventures.
Busch v. Zion Wildlife – High Court (3.12.08)
Craig is selling 14 x 21cm autographed photos on eBay featuring either a lion,
tiger or cheetah under the heading "Signed lion man photos help Craig Busch
return to Zion".
In the advertisement the Lion Man pleads for bidders to buy a photo to help
him buy back the park.
"It seems that the only solution is to buy out Patricia's share in the business,"
"If you would like to see Craig reinstated at Zion Wildlife Gardens you can
help by purchasing a signed photo."
Craig also writes that he's been "sacked" from the lion park by his mum who
has "sidelined him from the business he set up".
He writes on the auction site that his employment dispute with Patricia goes
to court late this month but in the meantime "he has to ask permission every
time he wants to go to and from the Lion Park, where he lives, and is denied
access to the animals he loves and who love him".
In February, Dimitri Price, a handler at the park, was bitten on the knee by
white tiger Abu.
During that attack, Mr Mncube plunged his fingers into Abu's mouth, then
used a fire extinguisher to force the animal to release Mr Price. "I’ll never got
scared," Mr Mncube told the Herald. "You stay nice and calm. If I got scared
and panicked we could have had two casualties ... it happened in a flash."
(NZ Herald, 28 May 2009)
“A man was last night undergoing surgery after being attacked by a large cat
at the Zion Wildlife Gardens near Whangarei. The Herald understands the
attack early yesterday involved a keeper who was bitten on the leg while
working at the big-game park… Whangarei Hospital emergency department
clinical director Dr Scott Cameron said last night: "We can confirm that a
gentleman has presented to Whangarei Hospital after being bitten on the
knee by a large cat. He has been admitted to the hospital, his condition is
stable and he is presently in theatre." The man's injuries are not believed to
be too serious and last night he was in a stable condition.”
Craig Busch spoke out about his safety concerns at the park.
Sources said the victim was a keeper who was a relatively new employee at
Hit TV show The Lion Man has made its charismatic frontman Craig Busch a
much-loved hero in more than 100 countries. But with fur flying between Craig
and mum Patricia over the running of Zion Wildlife Gardens home of 42 lions,
tigers and other big cats he has told Sunday News he never wanted to do the
reality series which catapulted him to fame. "The best thing I can say, even
though I'd like to say things, is no comment." But he did say he had incurred
debt as a result of running Zion.
He said he was dedicated to the preservation of the endangered big cats.
"I've been busting my gut all my life for this and sure you incur debt," he
said. "It's a big thing, you've got a lot to support. You cannot go through a
business like this and not incur debt." (bolding mine)
Dalu Mncube fatally mauled by white tiger Abu. The tiger was destroyed at the
See entry under October 2012 for further on the incident, and newspaper
reports of the subsequent coroner’s inquest.
“A Zion wildlife park executive has hit back at public protests over the decision
to shoot the white tiger that killed a keeper this week … Yesterday, park
operations manager Glen Holland said people were wrong to think that the
death of white tigers might endanger the population of Bengal tigers.
"I just cannot get over the public of New Zealand saying 'the poor tiger' - it
really is just unbelievable," he said. "Conserving white tigers is for people's
pleasure. It is not conservation. People may conserve white tigers because
they like them but they're purely a mutation and it is nothing to do with
conservation of wild tigers ... If they died out, it would make absolutely no
difference to Bengal tigers." Mr Holland said white tigers were "a freak, a
mutation", rather than a sub-species or an endangered species.
He said the decision to shoot Abu was made in accordance with the park's
protocol, and he was confident it was correct. The tiger was shot during the
attack, not afterwards as had been claimed. "The white tiger population is
meaningless. It's really a lot of nonsense," he said.
Zion Wildlife Gardens is closed down while under investigation.
“The Lion Man's park, Zion Wildlife Gardens in Whangarei, has been shut
down. The authorities have closed the park while they investigate safety
issues surrounding a deadly tiger attack on a keeper … Abu, a tiger Busch
raised from a cub, became a killer. He had been one of the Lion Man's
favourites but has cost him two friends.
The Lion Man believes safety standards have slipped and claims under his
rules it's unlikely Mncube would have been in the cage with Abu.
"My protocol with the male tiger was no-one to go in there without me," Busch
says. Otherwise he says the tigers should be locked down while the main
cage is cleaned and a gun kept right there just in case, not 200 to 300 metres
"They were one minute from where the incident happened," says Barry
Nalder of Zion Wildlife Gardens. With Mncube's death, Busch now doubts the
park has enough experienced workers to re-open.
"The best person to handle these animals is right here, you are looking at
him. There are not many people experienced handle these guys," he says.
He says he knows the animals in the park as part of his family.
"I am deeply concerned about future of the park...safety issues, the way it is
being managed and the wellbeing of these animals," Busch says.
Nalder says Busch is talking absolutely nonsense.
"We have a dedicated, excellent well trained team here," Nalder says.
Staff are still tending to a park that MAF has now closed to the public.
"I've seen some of them stop at times and have a little cry, grown men. It's
affected it all," says Nalder.”
“The family of Mncube has reportedly asked Lion Man Craig Busch to keep
away from the tiger keeper's funeral. Mr Mncube was mauled to death at
Zion Wildlife Gardens in Whangarei by 260kg tiger Abu on Wednesday.
A source close to Mr Mncube's family told the New Zealand Herald that if Mr
Busch attended the funeral at the park tomorrow, he would be asked to leave.
It was understood that some family members feared the bitter dispute
between Mr Busch and his mother, Patricia, would spill over into the funeral
service and ruin it.”
New Zealand Press Association June 1, 2009
ERA hearing into Busch’s allegation of unfair dismissal.
“An employee of Zion Wildlife Gardens' claims that Lion Man Craig Busch
smoked marijuana while handling lions has been challenged.
Mr Busch's lawyer said today that his client had "categorically denied" the
allegation. Carpenter John Davis, who has worked at the park for more than
six years, yesterday said he would resign if Mr Busch was re-instated as an
employee of the park.
“He said Mr Busch was sitting down with the lions when he last saw him
smoking marijuana. When asked by Mr Erickson whether he complained to
his employer about his client taking marijuana, which was a serious health
and safety issue, Mr Davis replied: "He was the management."
“At one stage when Mr Busch used the drug inside a lion enclosure, Mr Davis
said he commented: "This will make a nice calendar shot without the pot."
Mr Erickson told nzherald.co.nz this afternoon that he had put the allegation,
contained in written evidence, to Mr Busch at the hearing and he had
categorically denied it. Yesterday, Mr Davis admitted that in the early 80s, he
was sentenced to two years in prison on a charge of importing marijuana.
He said he had nothing but contempt for Mr Busch, who threatened to sue
him and his wife.
“Mr Davis said the Lion Man kept saying to him that, if he [Busch] could not
get the park, no one could have it. He described Mr Busch as a "violent man"
who would undermine things done at the park and work against his mother.
Once he was dismissed, Mr Davis said things started running smoother at the
From Jill Albrow, “The Story So Far”
“There were also various unsubstantiated reports of animal cruelty. It is
important to note that Craig was not dismissed for any reason connected with
animal welfare or animal cruelty. His licence from MAF was revoked as he
was no longer employed by ZWG and for no other reason.”
One worker claims he saw Busch put a cub down using a rock the size of a
"He lay the cub on the ground...he was in a standing position and he threw
the rock down on the ground onto the cub. It took three or four times before
he was satisfied it was dead, cause he actually... semi missed & he clipped it
cause I remember seeing the thing bounce with the impact of the rock,"
alleges one anonymous worker.
ONE News put these specific allegations to Busch. He declined to appear on
camera, but through a spokesperson says he denies he has ever mistreated
Earlier in the week at a press conference Busch was adamant the welfare of
the cats was a top priority.
"There is no way I am going to allow those tigers or any cat there get put
down, no way," he says.
Busch also claimed safety standards at Zion Wildlife Gardens have slipped
since he was sacked last year.
"They need to pull their socks up."
However some staff allege last October it was Busch who put lives at risk
insisting two keepers run alongside a tiger on a lead as part of training.
Staff spoken to by ONE News say running with a cat can incite it to attack. In
one case a tiger did just that, biting a worker.
"The tiger jumped him down on the first run and went over to grab him by the
throat, lucky I was there and I hit the tiger a few times," says the worker.
A third park worker alleges he saw Busch beat two of the cats with a short
"He laid into it and laid into and laid into.. the male lion come and laid on top
of her to guard her cause she was whimpering ... and he said 'you want some
too' and gave him a couple of blows too."
Also in May it is announced that Tim Husband, who operates Zooworks, a
consultancy service in Australia, has been in discussion with ZWG regarding
him becoming the licensed operations manager for the park.
“They told the Northern Advocate they understood a few people had been
short-listed for the job and they had not yet been notified of Zion's selection
"If Zion did require our services, it would be something we may consider in
the future, but in the meantime we are working on a zoo project here in
A Zion Wildlife Gardens communications officer said yesterday Mrs Busch
had no comment on Zion developments at this stage.”
Zion last week appointed Tim Husband to manage the park. The 47-year-old
Whangarei-raised zoo troubleshooter now based in Australia has an
international reputation for effective resolution of wildlife problems.
He was unavailable yesterday to comment on the reopening, but Zion
spokeswoman Sara Reid said staff were "over the moon" the park was back
"It's given everyone a real positive lift that they needed," she said.
"We were still grieving. This reopening is what Dalu would have wanted."
Staff had also been "blown away" by the support the park had received both
locally and internationally during the difficulties it faced over the death and
closure, Ms Reid said.
The "amazing" local support had included Kamo businesses sponsoring food
for the cats.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the Department of Labour
have today given Whangarei's Zion Wildlife Gardens approval to reopen to
The park was temporarily closed on 29 May following the death of a keeper. It
had been ordered closed until MAF was satisfied it could consistently comply
with the animal welfare, process and enclosure requirements for zoos and
Since the closure, the park has worked hard to ensure compliance,
particularly around its enclosures. MAF and the Department of Labour have
continued to monitor both work on the enclosures and the condition of the
animals. MAF is satisfied that the welfare of the animals is not compromised.
As Zion Wildlife Gardens have now complied with MAF requirements
regarding the provision of separation facilities in all the big cat enclosures, the
Department of Labour has issued notices to prevent staff from having direct
contact with adult lions, tigers, and leopards …
MAF and the Department of Labour were well through a scheduled review of
this standard at the time of last month's incident. This review includes the
guidelines for close animal contact and 'encounters' but was not prompted by
any specific event. As part of the standard review, MAF is working closely with
New Zealand's zoo industry and international experts in the field. The zoo
standard review will be informed by the outcomes of any MAF or Department
of Labour investigations.
Comments below the press release at the above link reflect opinions that
ZWG is somehow not a “zoo”, but an “interaction experience” and
“sanctuary”, requiring by its very nature, as far as fans of The Lionman series
are concerned, hands-on behaviour towards the cats, and handling of them
from birth by Craig Busch.
So – the cats, in the view of some fans, are supposed to be “humanised”,
even though they are supposed to also be endangered creatures and
threatened sub-species. Are the cats meant to be “conserved”, or declawed
objects of performance art?
Mr Husband was smiling after MAF inspectors on Wednesday gave the park a
"glowing" report. He said he had been working "eight days a week" since
taking the reins six weeks ago and was convinced the park was "a real goer"
with "terrific" potential for commercial success. "They have everything here for
Zion to become internationally known as a place to learn about working with
big cats." The 13 staff looking after the park's animals - 22 lions, 13 tigers,
two cheetahs, two servals, a black leopard and a baboon - were now united in
their enthusiasm to see Zion make progress. Community support was
essential for future success. "The people of Whangarei are part of this - it's
Zion drew a record 532 visitors when it provided half-price admission for
Whangarei people on a weekend last month. A 30 per cent admission price
cut for city people will continue through to the end of winter in a bid to
stimulate revenue and Whangarei interest in the big cats.
The larger animals each eat an average 7kg of meat daily, or about $80 worth
monthly. The Kamo Business Association and other sponsors are helping with
this bill and some Kamo shopkeepers have put collection boxes in their
premises to help the park. Mr Husband plans to stimulate interest in the park
by allowing supervised members of the public to feed the big cats using long
tongs to hold meat. People are also to be allowed into a cage in pairs to feed
the cheetahs, which are classed as small cats. Baby cats could be another
visitor attraction. Regulations prevent the public handling big cats, but their
babies could be patted and fed. Veteran keeper John Davis, 59, said staff had
been "a bit down" for a while but everything was now "looking good.”
(Northern Advocate 20 July 2009)
“Dalu had no time for Craig Busch”, according to Sharon Arnott on the 20/20
clip linked by Jill Albrow (http://tvnz.co.nz/20-20-news/20-keeper-s-secret2829256). Dalu is said, in the video, to have met CB in 2005 in SA. Dalu
apparently witnessed the death of a cub by Busch with a rock at the park.
Small cubs regularly despatched due to space restrictions. Craig also using
Jill Albrow as his media stand-in. Craig is reported as stating (through Jill?)
that he found out about Dalu’s passport irregularity in July 2008.
Campaign to get Craig Busch’s page off Facebook.
“He has also been film[ed] striking a lion cub, nearly strangling a lion by
pulling on its collar and hitting a lion in its face.”
As well as animal cruelty he has also been convicted for violence against
Also this month, Craig Busch’s team announce that he will embark on a “zoo
tour” of the United Kingdom. This attracts comment from Peter Dickinson.
“Craig Busch, the infamous 'Lion Man' is apparently (sic) setting out on a UK
“I am presently aware of only one UK Zoo (Dartmoor Zoo) who has agreed to
host him in anticipation of having many of his numerous UK fans visit. They
cite financial reasons for doing so.”
By October that year, things didn’t seem to be going well. This also from Peter
“It is interesting to note that the only newspaper which (so far) has mentioned
that the so called 'Lion Man', Craig Busch is not getting a UK welcome is Stuff
NZ. Although there are details out there of planned visits to shopping centres
and the like I am pleased to say that the visit is hardly generating a lot of
press interest. One venue he could go for I suppose is the The Great British
Circus which, thinking about it, would be just his style.”
From a statement on Facebook by Jill Albrow:
“As most of you are aware, Craig has had a case before the Employment
Relations Authority seeking reinstatement to his former position and damages
for unjustified dismissal from Zion Wildlife Gardens.
Craig also has proceedings before the High Court which claim:
1.The cancellation of the 2006 agreement which appointed Patricia Busch as
director of Zion and gave her a 12.5% shareholding (but voting rights for all
2. The cancellation of the 2007 film income agreement under which Craig has
not been paid anything for filming income.
3. Damages for the manner in which the park has been running including
spiraling debt, neglect of the Big Cats, marginalization of Craig, refusing to
allow staff to work with Craig and dismissing those who did, destroying or
damaging Craig’s work and his equipment, allowing dangerous work
practices, using and damaging Craig’s image, amongst other things.
Dalu’s death has lead to the realization by Craig that he cannot go back to the
park under this management. Other than Craig, Dalu was the most
experienced cat handler. He is now dead.”
No mention made here of whether Craig, in seeking to have the 2006
agreement cancelled, intended repaying the monies both advanced by
Patricia and sourced from loans on her personal real estate, channelled into
ZWG. Surely if the 2006 and 2007 agreements are to be disregarded, then
the effect of the agreements, Patricia’s financial outlay, should be reversed?
This never seems to be a situation fully addressed by Jill Albrow in her
Fundraising walks to help bolster Lion Man Craig Busch's coffers in his bid to
buy back Zion Wildlife Gardens are being staged around the world by his
Lion Man fan Selena McMinn, a computer programmer of Beach Haven, will
lead a sponsored walk involving more than 20 people from Takapuna to
Milford at midday on Saturday.
Ms McMinn is a member of Mr Busch's Facebook fan club and said
fundraising drives, such as sponsored walks and car-boot sales, were being
held around the world.
She said the first walk held in Scotland's capital Edinburgh a few weeks ago
involved four adults and two children dressed in lion and tiger costumes and
raised 1318 ($2900).
"We're all huge cat-lovers and we believe that, in the best interest of the
animals, Craig should return to Zion with 100 per cent ownership and
Under an agreement signed between him and his mother, Patricia, on July 10,
2006, she lent him a sum of money to help him sort out some personal
Mr Busch then resigned as director of the park and his mother assumed
control until the money was repaid.
Ms McMinn said money raised would go towards paying the loan.
What happened to the money raised?
Ownership of the cats came up for discussion at an ERA hearing.
“The ownership of the big cats at Whangarei's Zion Wildlife Gardens is in
legal dispute, an employment hearing was told today. The Employment
Relations Authority hearing was originally started by Craig Busch, famous
worldwide for his Lion Man television series, after he was sacked from the
park last year. The park is run by his mother Patricia Busch. He wanted
reinstatement to his job, claiming he was unfairly sacked by his mother. He
later dropped the claim, but the park is seeking the return of company
property and claiming for loss of income and legal costs due to his action.
Daniel Erikson, representing Mr Busch, asked Mrs Busch today who owned
the big cats at the park.
"Craig says they belong to the Busch Wildlife Foundation, but that is in
dispute at the moment," Mrs Busch said. "Zion Wildlife Gardens doesn't own
the cats but they have the care and control of them."
Dispute also over Craig Busch’s role regarding filming and Wildlife Pictures.
“Mr Erikson also questioned Mrs Busch about Wildlife Pictures Ltd, a
company set up as a separate entity for the filming side of the business.
Mrs Busch told the hearing that the firm did not employ any staff, but when Mr
Busch filmed he did so as an employee of Zion Wildlife Gardens.
Mr Busch, 44, said he had never been paid for filming work he had done.
"I directed it and used my cameras. I'm not very amused about what's going
on here and I'd prefer that everyone pulled their head in.
"I paid $35,000 to Zion Wildlife Gardens to address animal welfare issues and
$21,000 to Wildlife Pictures Ltd three years ago, and I still haven't been paid
for that," Mr Busch said.”
Animal welfare, big cat handling, staff training, business deals and allegations
of false and malicious claims to authorities pepper the documents. The depth
of the breakdown in relations between Lionman Craig Busch and his mother
Patricia over Whangarei's world-famous Zion Wildlife Gardens has been
revealed in High Court action between the pair …
The statement of claim, given to the Northern Advocate, includes a series of
allegations against Patricia Busch and the other defendants in the
proceedings - Zion Wildlife Gardens Ltd; Country Developments Ltd; Wildlife
Pictures Ltd; Primal Productions Ltd and Kaukapakapa business advisor and
company director Michael Bailey.
In their statement of defence the defendants have denied the serious
allegations made in Mr Busch's statement of claim.
Mr Busch is seeking damages and asking the court to:
Cancel 2006 and 2007 legal agreements
Cancel Mrs Busch's shareholding in Country Developments and Zion
Restore Craig Busch as sole shareholder
Cancel Mrs Busch as his proxy and attorney
The full extent of damages being sought will be filed six weeks before the
matter goes to trial. A court date is yet to be set. Mr Busch seeks $200,000 in
general damages and $30,000 in exemplary damages and costs.
He claims that the third Lionman series was screened without his permission
and wants profits from the shows to be used to pay Zion's debts and the rest
given to him. The defendants deny the series was screened without his
Legal reasons prevent the Advocate from detailing many of the claims and
counterclaims made. Animal welfare, big cat handling, staff training, business
deals and allegations of false and malicious claims to authorities pepper the
documents. Mr Busch also claims that he has difficulty understanding
legal agreements due to a reading difficulty, and that he suffered from
emotional, financial and physical stress.
A determination is made by the ERA with regard to the return to ZWG/Patricia
Busch and carpenter John Davies of items taken or in the custody of Craig
Busch. This was the result of investigative meetings held in May, August,
September, October that year, involving a lengthy and exhaustive list of items,
some claimed successfully by Craig to have been given to him by his father,
others clearly shown to be the property of others such as Davies and ZWG.
“Kamo's Zion Wildlife Gardens is pushing for paw repair surgery to be done
on 29 lions and tigers that have been declawed. The big cat sanctuary is on a
mission to raise $250,000 to have the operations done to prevent chronic pain
and potential lameness.
Operations manager Tim Husband says the declawing operations were done
when Craig Busch was in charge of the park between 2000 and 2008 but
were stopped when his mother Patricia took over …
Mr Husband says the aim of the six-hour operations is to be proactive and
"They all need this corrective surgery, even the ones not showing any signs at
the moment. It’s like waiting for a bomb to go off, eventually it’s going to
The surgery has never been done out of the United States but Mr Husband is
confident Zion will be able to raise the $250,000 to have Dr Conrad flown to
Kamo to perform the operations.
Zion is running on a shoestring budget and is unable to afford the surgery
itself, he says.
Here Jill Albrow on her Facebook page says the following:
“Let me refer to Page 2 of the report, “The Act requires that the necessity of a
restricted surgical procedure is solely up to the veterinarian who is to carry
out the procedure. Page 3 states, “ the ultimate decision as to whether the
surgery is carried out or not is the veterinarian, not the owner or person in
This is odd. Craig clearly wanted the declawings done, and wanted the fact
that the cats had been declawed kept confidential. The MAF report basically
says that the vets, as professionals in animal care, had the final responsibility
as to whether the procedure was done or not, but it was Craig who contracted
with them to do the procedure – and paid them for it.
“It emerged this week that a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry investigation
found 40 of the park's big cats in unsanitary and crowded conditions.”
Tim Husband leaves ZWG for a position at the Bali Safari and Marine Park,
having completed his contract in New Zealand.
The MAF Operator at ZWG is now Patricia Busch.
“Zion Wildlife Gardens faces fines of up to $500,000 if it is found guilty of
charges laid by the Department of Labour.
The department revealed charges had been laid under sections six and 16 of
the health and Safety in Employment Act following the death of big-cat
handler Dalu Mncube.”
Shia, one of the lions brought over from Craig Busch’s orginal Kerikeri
opetation, died from natural causes.
At some point this year, Craig Busch and his friends set up an “official
Listening to his heart and not to logic The Lionman journeyed to Africa in
pursuit of a vision dictated by his passion for Big Cat preservation and to
secure the animals disappearing bloodlines.
Craig Busch put reason and certainty aside resulting in a dramatic relocation
to the home of the big five and other creatures.
The excitement of the move, its hurdles, numerous struggles, new ventures,
and a variety of wildlife brought unexpected challenges to an unfolding story.
Craig Busch, alias the Lionman, placed himself and his new mission at the
mercy and whims of Africa, where not only wild animals take a bite out of
determination and motivation. Luckily, dedication and perseverance started to
pay off as he met numerous great souls on a similar path.
His journey has culminated in a collaborative aptly called “One World”, a
collective comprising of caring and battle scarred conservationists whom
Craig Busch has befriended on his numerous quests.
The goal and objectives of The Lionmans One World are to create a safe and
sustainable environment for all endangered or threatened creatures.
Returning the planet back to animal kind would be almost impossible, instead
the Lionman will spread awareness about the perils facing the animal
kingdom and he will eventually create a safe refuge for wild cats and other
animals in Africa. Animals for whom we humans are responsible, after all it’s
One World and it needs to be shared.
Zion Wildlife Gardens' management team has denied a claim it sold body
parts of the tiger that killed handler Dalu Mncube …
Abu was put down and buried in Zion's grounds near Whangarei, but this
week allegations surfaced on social networking site Facebook that Zion's
owner - Patricia Busch, mother of the Whangarei park's founder and TV's
Lionman Craig Busch - had sold Abu in bits for "megabucks".
The allegations were included in an email to the Northern Advocate.
Zion responded by denying the "malicious" allegations. "The management of
Zion are concerned about certain allegations concerning Abu's corpse," a
spokeswoman for the park said. "The day that Abu was buried was a very sad
day for the management, staff and friends of the park. Abu was buried at the
park as per the statutory protocols, once the authorities had completed their
"We can only wonder at the motive as to why there are individuals with
malicious comments about our friend Abu."
The site quoted a John Falstaff as saying a "close source inside the Patricia
Busch camp told me a few days ago that Abu was sold ... in bits. I was told
that his skin went for megabucks and then his whiskers, bones, teeth and
private parts sold for even more (Chinese/Asian medicine.) And that's why
Zion Park won't say where he is."
But Zion said that was not true. Abu was still in his resting place at the park.
The spokeswoman said the allegations and others would be referred to the
park's legal advisers.
Jill Albrow’s Facebook page expressed other opinions, and questioned why so
much secrecy over the burial of the tiger.
The Northern Advocate reports on death threats received by Tim Husband.
“Mr Busch’s supporters harassed and intimidated staff, making their working
lives as unpleasant as possible … Mr Husband claimed he was watched
while staying at a hotel and his laptop was also hacked.
Craig Busch announces he is filming a new reality show in Africa.
The former Lion Man star of New Zealand television is making a new reality
show in Africa, featuring lions, elephants and hippopotamuses.
… a spokeswoman, Jill Ward, said he had been filming a low-budget
documentary in Africa with his fiancée and a small crew over the past six
She said his new reality show should be ready before the end of the year.
Busch parted company with the wildlife park run by his mother Patricia Busch
in November 2008, the Northern Advocate reported.
Ms Ward said that in Africa, there was no restriction regarding contact with
wildlife animals, and Busch would not return to New Zealand in the near
June 27 – the SuperAlicedee videos
A YouTube account, under the name of SuperAlicedee is created. From that
date until 4 July a few days later, 14 short video clips are uploaded, all
watermarked with a copyright symbol and “Earthcrest Ltd”. They appear to
have been filmed by Craig Busch and at least one other person, and seem to
date from June 2008, before Busch was dismissed from the park by the
management. The point of the clips’ existence seems to have been to
underline how hard Busch found it was to work at Zion Wildlife Gardens in the
last months of his employment there. What they also show is the attitude his
fellow employees had toward him at that time.
According to Linda Lomax on the NZ Lionman page (26 October 2010):
“These video's [sic] were recorded at ZWG after Pat Busch had ordered the
staff not to work with Craig.”
Uploaded 27 June 2010: “securitax and cameras removed.avi“
Busch’s voiceover says it is “June 6, Friday, 7.30 in the morning.” He says he
has arrived at work and noticed security cameras pulled off a building in the
complex, the cameras later found inside the cab of the park’s white truck (shot
of the truck, an open cab door, and the interior of the cab). “I have not
authorised the staff, John Davis, Arne, to pull down these cameras.
Apparently these are the people that have pulled them down.” Then, new
scene, now Craig is being filmed, facing the camera, saying, “I’ve just asked
for help from Dalu …” and the recording abruptly ceases.
Uploaded 27 June 2010: “security lockdown.avi“
Busch is filmed outside another building. It seems to be part of a longer
recording, as it begins abruptly with him saying, “…and, they’re in there, they
need to come out. I’m trying to set up an enclosure, Pat Busch over here is
stopping all the workers from helping me, so I’m having to do it by myself …
Today, she tried to stop the tigers from going to the new habitat. First of all
stop my cameraman from coming in, told the cameraman that he would have
a trespass order put on him and the security would exit him out of the gate.
Right now, she’s got security here,” and he gestures toward a figure in a
yellow visibility jacket on a verandah, “she’s just locked the door over here,
security at the verandah, and been here for two weeks now, 24 hour,
sometimes two guards. The guards have had enough. All the workers here
have had enough. I’ve had enough. She’s like this because I went into the
building and got some evidence. She’s meant to show me the paperwork
throughout the whole project. The financials, the paperwork, the contracts …
so far she hasn’t shown me any of the contracts, she’s gone and done them
on her own account, started up a new business, and pushed me out of it …
was real nice to me, her and Michael Bailey, until they got the very last take,
and then, that was it. They’ve shut everything down on me, closed me in, and
tried to make me do something wrong here, and tried to get me frustrated.
Today I’ve been so frustrated, trying to get these animals into the habitat.
They’d (and he gestures to the building) forgotten what it’s all about. Pat
Busch, Michael Bailey has forgotten what its all about, it’s about these cats
here, and trying to give them the best life we possibly can, because they don’t
have a life anywhere else because of greedy people like this,” and he
gestures back to the building. “And unfort—“ then the clip is cut off.
Uploaded 28 June 2010: “I love my bum and safety in numbers.avi”
A bearded older man moons the camera twice, before Busch’s voice is heard
asking the workers who told them to do something. The older man answers
“I’m doing it myself.” Other reactions from two other workers, one possibly
Arne, are unintelligible. As the men are filmed they remark how nice Craig
Busch is, refer to Busch beating up women, one asking him if he (Busch as
the cameraman) has beaten up his “new missus” yet, “I’ll bet you have”, called
him a “gutless w—k”, and “given your mother a few hits too, haven’t ya?” The
older man with a head shake, says, “But he doesn’t hit men, because he
hasn’t got the guts to do that, mate.” They advise that Busch had better get
his truck out the way, or “he’ll lose that as well”, then there is the remark,
“Mind you, you don’t own that either, do ya?” The older man asks, “Where’s
the van?” Another comments, “You’ve stolen the van yet, mate … You’re
nothing but a common thief, mate, that’s all you are.”
Uploaded 29 June 2010: “Seven Stress cats in the mud and MAF agreed
all is Ok.avi”
Video opens showing four white lions in an enclosure on muddy ground,
pacing back and forth.
Busch’s voiceover describes how Michelle has advised him that she got to the
park’s gate, and was told not to come into work, she had been put on
suspension. Then the video cuts to views of documents too blurry to read,
apart from one close-up of part of a document. It seems to be a complaint
regarding treatment of the park’s operator (Craig Busch): “Malicious
behaviours designed to (a) discredit the Operator; (b) remove zoo ownership
from the Operator; and (c) takeover the Operator’s license to operate the
Uploaded 29 June 2010: “Zion n Shia avoiding the mud.avi”
Clip shows muddy enclosure, Zion starting to come out of his box with Shia,
then going back in. The clip ends with a frozen shot of the two lions outside
near the fence.
Uploaded 29 June 2010: “Dirty wet cat bums and more mud.avi”
Opens with shot of a water container, with Busch’s voice over about the water
being “really brown, not good enough.” Seven lions and tigers in a muddy
Uploaded 29 June 2010: “Dalu more scared of PB than Abu eating
Busch recorded in front of a curtain. “I called in one of my friends that have
used a camera before, gave him a bit of an introduction course on how to be
around the cats, and asked Dalu to watch him, watch his back. Which he
didn’t do very well.” (shots of Dalu walking one of the white tigers near a tree.)
“Dalu wouldn’t go past the barn in case Pat Busch saw him and whatever she
would do to him. Probably send him … threaten to send him back to Africa.
This is what he is frightened of. Anyway, we –“ and the clip cuts off.
Uploaded 29 June 2010: “Cats stressed out in the mud and the digger is
Shot of four white lions pacing, similar to “Seven stress cats in the mud”.
Busch’s voiceover says seven cats are in the enclosure (but the other three
can’t be seen. Busch says he’ll deal with it, but probably get interference.
Then a shot of Gandor and Shakira, also in a wet enclosure. “I need to put
this fence on the other side here, but I won’t get no help.” Busch remarks that
Shakira’s paws are sore. Clip ends with a view of a digger, and Busch saying,
“Just putting some metal into Zion’s--” then the clip ends.
Uploaded 30 June 2010: “In mud eating amazing they survived.avi”
Video starts once again with shot of four white lions pacing. Then cuts to
enclosure of seven tigers and lions. Busch’s voiceover says that he’s
prepared another enclosure, and will move them and wash them. Then shows
a still of a lion eating meat in the mud.
Uploaded 1 July 2010: “Boff-head arne at it again.avi”
Seems to be linked to the “I love my bum” clip. Arne says, beside park
equipment, “The company doesn’t belong to this idiot …” Woman’s voice, out
of shot: “I can’t get over the hostility here.” Arne: “Oh, you haven’t been here
five minutes, mate, see what this idiot has done over the last four or five years
that I’ve been here …” End of shot. Then a vehicle backs in with a trailer, and
the clip abruptly ends.
Uploaded 1 July 2010: “Bully boy Arne in ‘hiding’.avi
All to do with a load of straw on the back of a truck. Busch claims he’s already
obtained straw, and says Arne was ordered to pick up straw which wasn’t
needed. Arne (referring to camera), “Get that f------g thing out of my face.” He
blocks camera’s view of his face with a folded tarpaulin. Then, another shot,
Arne walking to camera, blocking it with his arm, and saying, “You’re stopping
me doing my job … your mother pays your wages, your mother pays my
wages, and this (pointing to the straw bales) is what I do. I do what she tells
me to do, not what you tell me to do.” Clip ends abruptly with a still of a muddy
Two other videos are Craig and Dalu having a conversation.
Another, the last in the series, “Abu and Dalu exit left.avi” (uploaded 4
July) appears to be the incident referred to in “Dalu more scared of PB than
Abu eating him.avi”
Moving camera, held while someone walks amongst trees, up to a cat box,
apparently inside an enclosure.
Busch: Just stick by me …
Camera zooms to the box. White tiger emerges, rumbles. Walks toward
Busch and the cameraman, but across their field of view. Another man
standing in the enclosure lifts something, and the tiger huffs and raises its
head toward the other man. The tiger moves out of the camera’s view. Then
the camera pans, brings the tiger back into shot, the tiger watching the
cameraman intently and moving at a quick walk to the right. Then, Busch’s
Busch: Hey! Come here! Come here, here! Come here, come here, Dalu!
Dalu! (A fire extinguisher can be seen, and the CO2 released in a burst to the
left of the shot. Then, the tiger is seen to retreat.
Busch: Okay? This is why. Okay?
Then, a cut to Busch in front of the building featured in “security
lockdown.avi“. Busch saying “Today we’ve been dealing with –“ then the clip
This last clip seems to show an especially fullhardy stunt by Craig Busch.
Why put a cameraman in a hazardous situation like that – and why? Just to
somehow “show” something is wrong at the park?
POLICE have been called in after funds raised to help "Lion Man" Craig
Busch buy back his big-cat park were siphoned off by scammers.
And Sunday News can reveal Busch has received threats of violence as he
prepares for a major public appearance in the UK.
Significant funds were stolen from the Big Cat Rescue Trust account before
Busch's advisers discovered the thefts.
Fraudsters had set up a series of illicit direct debits from the trust's British
bank account. They had used account details listed on Busch's official
website for potential donations.
Busch's spokeswoman confirmed British police had been alerted. The trust
would push for thieves to be prosecuted.
The trust's bank account number and details remain publicly available for
donations, but funds are now immediately switched into a more secure
The Big Cat Rescue Trust was set up so Busch could either buy back
Zion Wildlife Park Gardens, north of Whangarei, from mother Patricia
Busch or build a new big-cat park.
"Ultimately it [the trust] is for the future of the cats. And he would prefer
that to be at Zion – but we still have to look at various options," the
Whangarei's Zion Wildlife Gardens is mourning the death of a female Bengal
tiger after it was attacked by a male tiger.
Sita died after an "uncharacteristic altercation" with Jahdu, a royal white tiger,
the wildlife centre said in a statement.
"The team at Zion know that this is the way of the wild but a death is always
difficult to come to terms with."
“Lion Dance” organised by Kaz Wright in Peterborough (timed to coincide with
Zion the lion’s birthday). This raised funds for Big Cat Rescue Trust in the UK.
Prior to the fundraiser, Craig Busch advised he wouldn’t be able to attend due
to other commitments. But, apparently, he was in the UK at the time, staying
an hour’s travel from where the event was held.
This, posted on the “Just Say It” Facebook Page (4 June 2012) by Rawson J
Regarding the Lion Dance, I went to it and he was 10 minutes away from me,
I could have given him a lift. Jill said that she was not able to contact him..
Here is extract from email 26th Sept 10........
"Craig will not be in the country for the Lion Dance I am afraid. I did ask him
about doing a video and he did agree in principle but I am not sure if this is
going to be possible in practice. He is currently in a very remote location and
there does not seem to be much in the way of phone or internet service. I
have tried to ring him this week and he has not got back to me, so I suspect
he has not got the message; I have not had any replies to emails or Skype
messages to Suzanne either. I will keep trying. Craig certainly does
appreciate the effort that Kaz is putting in for the Lion Dance and I have been
promoting on the wall."
and then from email 3rd Oct 10.........
"Still no contact from Craig and Suzanne since I last wrote, except a very brief
Skype message to say they were OK."
I had been asking Jill for ages to get Craig to do a quick 30 sec video on a
mobile to play at the dance and this is how he treated those that gave their
time and support and money.........
A response: “The emails were dated prior to the Lion dance and the situation
was true at the date they were written.” (Jill, from NZ Lionman page, 4 June
Craig Busch does seem to have been in Africa in late September. Some
images of him with an elephant and a hippo were posted on the NZ Lionman
page 24 September 2010. But it appears he was in the UK around the time of
the Lion Dance. Why he didn’t let his fans know has not been explained.
Big Cat Rescue Trust (UK) registered.
CONSTITUTION ADOPTED 02 AUGUST 2010
AS AMENDED 26 OCTOBER 2010
Under Charitable Objects:
1 TO PROTECT, PRESERVE AND CONSERVE 'BIG CATS' THAT ARE NOW
CONSIDERED TO BE ENDANGERED SPECIES AND TO PROMOTE THE
PRESERVATION OF ALL 'BIG CATS' WORLDWIDE, IN PARTICULAR BUT
NOT EXCLUSIVELY BY A MAKING GRANTS AND PROVIDING SUPPORT
TO ENABLE BIG CATS TO RETAIN OR GAIN USE OF LAND IN SAFE AND
PROTECTED AREAS B HELPING TO EDUCATE AND RAISE PUBLIC
AWARENESS ABOUT BIG CATS AND SUBJECTS RELATED TO THE
PRESERVATION AND CONSERVATION C RAISING AWARENESS OF
PEOPLE IN RURAL AREAS, COMMUNITIES AND VILLAGES THAT LIVE
AMONGST OR ALONGSIDE AREAS THAT ARE OR WILL BE INHABITED
BY BIG CATS D OTHER SUCH MEANS AS THE TRUSTEES DETERMINE
INCLUDING PROVIDING EQUIPMENT AND RESOURCES
2 TO ADVANCE THE EDUCATION OF THE PUBLIC IN BIG CATS, THEIR
HABITATS AND ENVIRONMENTS IN THIS CLAUSE, 'BIG CATS' SHALL
MEAN THE FOUR MEMBERS OF THE GENUS PANTHERA: THE TIGER,
LION, JAGUAR AND LEOPARD, BUT MAY INCLUDE OTHER SPECIES OF
CAT THAT ARE ENDANGERED AS THE TRUSTEES DETERMINE
• EDUCATION / TRAINING
• OTHER DEFINED GROUPS
• THE GENERAL PUBLIC / MANKIND
• MAKES GRANTS TO INDIVIDUALS
• ACTS AS AN UMBRELLA OR RESOURCE BODY
It was removed from the UK Charity Commission register 25 August 2011.
In response to questions raised about the charity and its re-registration made
on Facebook, 18 September 2011, Jill Albrow wrote:
“It was made quite clear at the launch of the charity that it could not be directly
to return Craig to ZWG. This caused some issues as for the most part the
fans seems not to want to support something with this limitation. However
previously we had felt pressured to make our trust a registered charity.
However it just wasn't possible to have something in place which ticked all the
boxes. The charity raised funds for a tracking collar in Africa for a Leopard
Conservation organisation so no, it was not just about Craig.”
Based in Kettering, Northamptonshire.-At a Norwich Sci Fi Club gathering, a cheque for several hundred pounds was
donated to the BCRT.
A user account on YouTube, “craigthelionman”, started on 5 March that year,
posted a trailer for a pending documentary called Welcome to Africa.
The trailer uses orchestral music as a soundtrack, with the opening scene
being a steam train travelling across a grassy landscape past some sort of
industrial plant. The locomotive in the opening appears to be 12AR No. 1535,
built in 1919 and known as “Susan” and run by the Reefsteamers Association
of rail enthusiasts in South Africa. (http://www.reefsteamers.com) Some
footage from inside the locomotive itself, and views of Busch looking
contemplatively at the passing landscape.
Footage with Fred Berrange of the Leopard Protection Trust is shown, which
Craig featured as assisting lifting a leopard onto an examination platform, and
is then seen examining the cat’s mouth with an instrument. The voiceover
says “The Lionman has teamed up on his conservation mission with animal
lovers from across the globe and brings together a group of people who have
chosen to leave egos behind, forgotten greed and jealousy and have united
their passions for endangered animals.” Then footage is shown, interspersed
with shots of a tribal wise man and wise woman (the man, according to
Campbell Live in their exposé from 11 April 2012, is an actor), of a release of
a leopard back into the wild, showing both Busch and Berrange.
The trailer ends with Busch saying, “Let’s be nice, it’s one world.”
“In a desperate attempt to bolster his falling popularity and fill his dwindling
coffers the ex Lion Man will be hosting an event in a city in middle England
later this week. No doubt a number of his UK Facebook fans, which are
largely made up of blinkered acolytes and frustrated housewives will make
the effort to attend and purchase signed photographs, DVD's and the like.
One would like think that Craig Busch would use the event to make, at last,
a public apology over the declawing of the Big Cats at Zion Wildlife Park and
explain honestly and clearly that he had not been involved in any
conservation programme. The bonus would be if the money raised by this
event was donated to the fund to repair the damage done by the declawing.
If the intention is to raise money to get 'his' park back then I believe he is
pissing in the wind. No serious zoo would ever back him in such an
Lionman Craig Busch is helping save the rhino. Busch, who has been based
at South Africa's Rhino and Lion Reserve, has become involved in the
campaign against poachers threatening the endangered beast.
He has told of his latest conservation quest on his new-look website.
On the same day, “craigthelionman” on YouTube publishes Tribute to Vusi,
featuring Busch apparently assisting Lorrinda Hern of the Rhino Rescue
Project. This also seems to be connected with the Campbell Live report of 11
Mr Busch has been based at the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve about 40km
north-west of Johannesburg for nearly a year …
While in South Africa with fiancee Suzanne Eisenhut, Mr Busch helped set up
One World - an organisation described as a "collective of caring and battlescarred conservationists whom he had befriended on his numerous quests".
He also plans to hit TV screens with a low-budget documentary shot in Africa
featuring lions, elephants and hippos. The new reality show is expected to air
sometime this year.
“The Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve is a privately owned, non-subsidized game
reserve, covering approxmiately 1 200 ha on the typical highveld of Gauteng.
The reserve is situated in the "Cradle of Humankind", a declared World
Heritage Site, about 40 km north-west of Johannesburg and 60km west of
The reserve was founded in 1985 by Ed Hern, a well known stockbroker, with
the aim of preserving this beautiful area for private leisure …
For obvious reasons, the rare and dangerous species have a greater
attraction value, and this led to the introduction of lions, cheetah and later, the
highly endangered Cape wild dog. The latter have formed part of a very
successful breeding programme which has, in turn, led to breeding
programmes for Bengal tigers, Siberian Tigers and the extremely rare White
Lion (one of which was born at the reserve in 1999). These activities have
seen the staff complement at the reserve grow from 5 to 39 people employed
on a full time basis.
Once again the name was changed to "Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve" in
order to reflect the new attractions and to differentiate between the reserve
and its competitors.”
Yet Jill Albrow, on 19 November 2010 said something different:
QUESTION - I have heard that Craig has fallen out with Ed Hern, he is no
longer working for him and Ed evicted him from his house …
ANSWER - Craig has not lived with Ed or worked with him; they are still
good friends …
It is with great pleasure that we inform you that not only have we met our
target but we exceeded it. The final figure will be announced once it has been
reconciled. Thank you to everyone who has supported this worthy cause,
whether financially or by spreading the word. We could not have done this
without ...you - this leopard is getting a second chance in life and for that we
THANK YOU .
(Accompanied by image of Craig Busch in the back of a vehicle with a
sedated and blind-folded leopard.)
Lion Man Craig Busch has been ordered to pay more than $20,000 to his
former employer Zion Wildlife Gardens for breaching terms of his employment
agreement. Zion said in its claim that in his capacity as the park's licensed
operator on May 17, 2008, that Mr Busch stopped all interactive tours without
justification, resulting in lost revenue of about $537,000.
During the 12 months preceding his dismissal in December 2008, Zion
claimed that he unlawfully converted, stole or locked away a number of its
possessions including a bandsaw, five vehicles, trailers, a ladder, excavation
equipment and a chainsaw.
The third claim was that as a result of him assaulting, intimidating and
threatening staff, the park had to spend $96,378 in security costs.
Zion also claimed that Mr Busch allowed Match Photographers to take
pictures of a tiger in return for a payment of $3712 which he pocketed.
Yvonne Oldfield ruled that Craig Busch, as licensed operator, was entitled to
cancel the tours if there was a valid reason to do so. She ordered that he
repay ZWG $21,000 for unreturned items. The security, she found, was to
ensure Patricia Busch’s security while alone in her home, and in response to
the taking of animal records by Craig Busch, not to ensure the safety of staff,
so that claim wasn’t allowed. However, Mrs Oldfield determined that Craig
Busch was in breach of his duties by retaining the fee from Match
Photographers. Craig Busch had still not returned the park’s property as
determined back in November 2009.
June – a large fundraising event planned in the East Midlands/East Anglia
region of the UK by BCRT.
Through his UK solicitors Clintons, Craig Busch takes out UK intellectual
property registration for the Lionman brand in multiple categories, similar to
those he registered in New Zealand in August 2008.
The process for the Department of Labour laying charges against ZWG over
the death of Dalu in 2009 took until June to – almost – reach a conclusion.
The process began in January 2010 …
… was postponed until 18th February 2010 …
… then adjourned again until April 2010.
That month, ZWG requested more time to prepare their defence.
“The Department of Labour laid two charges under the Health and Safety in
Employment Act 1992 against Zion Wildlife Services for "failing to take all
practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees while at work".
ZWG and ZWS pleaded not guilty to the charges.
From Jill Albrow, “The Story So Far”
“On 24th August 2010 various matters were discussed before the judge.
A further hearing was scheduled for 1st November.
On 29th October it was announced that ZWG would not be amending their
plea from Not Guilty and so the case would now go to trial …
A hearing was arranged for 24th January 2011 to set the date for the trial
hearing which was expected to last 8 days and take place in February 2011.
The hearing was then adjourned until 11th February. The hearing, which
was expected to last 8 days was scheduled to start in Whangarei Court on
27th June 2011.”
ZW Services does not submit annual return to the registrar of companies.
Process begins to have this company removed from the register.
On 27 June a guilty plea was entered in the DOL case. ZWG & ZWS were
convicted of the charges.
“There was no legal representation for Zion today, just a written guilty plea.
Patricia Busch, who is now in charged of the wildlife park made famous by
her son - 'Lion Man' Craig - is unwell so could not attend.
The guilty plea admits failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety
of employees and to ensure no hazard could cause harm.”
A sentencing hearing was scheduled for 14th July, and was then postponed
until 19th August. On 16th August 2011 Mrs Busch advised she would be
revising her plea to Not Guilty.
“Lion Man warned of Zion’s risks,” was a Campbell Live report on
correspondence between Craig Busch and MAF after he left the park in 2008,
and before the death of Dalu Mncube.
“Photos taken at Zion after Craig left and before Mncube's death show visitors
handling big cats - no barrier, no restraint and no keeper between the animal
and the tourist. In one photo, a member of the public cuddles the head of an
adult lion with only a volunteer standing beside her. In another, keepers - one
of them Dalu - try to control a lion and a tiger who appear to be fighting.
Keepers are also seen encouraging tigers to climb fences, luring them up with
meat. Former park volunteer and friend of Dalu Mncube Sandra Taylor says
Dalu confided in her that he was being pressured into taking risks. She says
after Craig left - Dalu wanted to get away from what was happening at the
“What we now know is that in the six months prior to Dalu's death - Craig
Busch repeatedly warned government ministers of unsafe practises at the
park - which he predicted would lead to injury and even death.
"It also appears that the new park operator... either doesn't know these
breaches of health and safety are going on, or he believes them to be
acceptable practises. Either way I can state that this will inevitably prove to
have fatal consequences." He said in a letter to Biosecurity Minister David
Carter and Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson.
“Craig Busch cited keeper's laid back, overconfident attitudes, and gave
examples of keepers entering enclosures alone - a breach of protocol.
Craig was also concerned that he wasn't being listened to:
"I confess to being very worried that my concerns will be dismissed because
of the ongoing legal action between my mother and I... My conscious would
not allow me to ignore what I now know to be happening and I could never
forgive myself if I did so and a serious death or injury occurred," he said in the
“In a later letter to David Carter, he continues "I have done, and am doing,
everything I can to bring these matters to your attention, and I wish to put you
on full notice that, should such an incident occur, I will ensure that your
agencies are called to account for negligence."
“In April 2009 the Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson told Craig Busch her
department was looking into the health and safety issues he raised.
But by May the department appears to have tired of Craig’s letters. On the
21st of May 2009 the Department of Labour wrote to Craig Busch to say that it
will only respond to matters when its considers its intervention is warranted.
Six days later Dalu was killed.”
“Craig has secured a High Court injunction that blocks the sale or movement
of Zion's big cats to other zoos or wildlife reserves.”
Craig Busch’s spokesperson, Jill Albrow, claims he has begun negotiations to
regain the park.
The spokeswoman was reluctant to say more publicly, adding: "Because
there are negotiations in progress, we don't want to [muck] anything up by
saying anything more than we have said. I don't want to rattle any cages while
we try to negotiate."
But in an online posting to supporters this week, she wrote: "The negotiations
that we are undertaking are very much, start, stop, start, stop, etc."
The spokeswoman thanked his fans for the financial support and "enormous
morale boost" they had given Craig, currently in South Africa where he has
been working to help save the rhino.
His backers have started an online fundraising drive and discussions with
"potential sponsors" to finance buying back Zion.
Another source said the latest negotiations between Craig and Patricia's
representatives were held "very recently".
Patricia's spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.
12 July, Patricia Busch denies any negotiations were taking place.
“All Mr Busch had to do to regain control of the big cat park was repay money
he owed her, Mrs Busch said. She said she became sole director of Zion
Wildlife Gardens when she loaned her son's company a substantial amount of
money in 2006.”
Zion Wildlife Gardens Ltd. has been sent to the receivers, signalling the
failure of the reserve that came to international fame through the television
show ‘The Lion Man’.
Receivers Colin McCloy and David Bridgman of PricewaterhouseCoopers
said they are “committed to doing the best we can for the welfare of the
wildlife” and are working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry as they
wind down the business.
“We are working closely with an independent zoo expert, who isn't related to
any prior operator,” McCloy said in a statement.
Receivers have gained access to Zion Wildlife Gardens today following a
court order issued yesterday. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) receivers, who
were last month called in to take control of the beleaguered wildlife park near
Whangarei, went to the High Court at Auckland yesterday seeking to gain
access to the park. Their lawyer Justin Toebes said that owner Patricia Busch
was "holed up" in the park and refusing to let them in.
Justice Mark Woolford ordered that Ms Busch make available all books,
documents and information that the receivers could reasonably require, and
that she open the park to the receivers at 11am today. Today PwC partner
Colin McCloy said they got into the park safely.
Campbell Live interview Patrica and Megan Busch at the park in “A peek
inside Lion Man’s Zion park”.
“I came to stay to of three days with one suitcase to support him,” Patricia
Busch told Natasha Utting, “and I could see he needed help – and I never
went home.” Patricia gave her opinion as to why things broke down between
her and Craig Busch, especially after the assault on Karen Greybrooke.
“His Facebook page is nothing but a hate page for Patricia and I,” according
to Megan Busch.
“Former television star Craig Busch, known as the Lion Man, has moved to
have his mother Patricia Busch declared bankrupt, and the family enterprise
they are bitterly warring over, Zion Wildlife Gardens, has gone into liquidation.
Associate judge Roger Bell heard applications relating to the financial
difficulties of the family and the lion park in the Whangarei Liquidation Court
yesterday. Mother and son did not face each other as neither attended the
“The application for liquidation was filed by the Inland Revenue Department
for a debt of $105,766. The company is already in receivership, which can be
filed by a single creditor wanting payment - Rabo Bank in the case of Zion.”
“Today Foxy was humanely euthanized by a veterinary surgeon surrounded
by those who loved her very dearly. Her passing was peaceful and quiet.
Age at last had caught up with our dear little girl. She had just celebrated her
30th Birthday on 19 August 2011 a special day for her and us all here at Zion
“Foxy was born at Auckland Zoo on 19 August 1981 and had been named
‘Naomi’. She was later sent to Tony Ratcliffe for his circus. Tony had her for a
number of years before passing her onto the Cornelius Family at Kerikeri.
She later came into the care of Zion Wildlife Gardens at Kerikeri in 1999,
before moving to her present home in Kamo. Foxy held the distinction of
being the last Chacma Baboon living in New Zealand.”
Revelations via Official Information Act from MAF records of a cheetah
escape the previous April:
“Panic erupted when two cheetahs escaped their enclosure at a beleaguered
big cat theme park. Sabotage probably caused the escape, according to Zion
Wildlife Gardens operator Patricia Busch. The new information shows the
fleet-footed felines fled their enclosure in April.”
The UK BCRT ceases to exist, and is deregistered.
A Whangarei district councillor believes the council should not spend
ratepayer money on the troubled Zion Wildlife Gardens. Suggestions have
been made that local councils could rescue the big cat park, which has been
placed into receivership.
However, Councillor Merv Williams says that, based on his experience with
Craig Busch, the council should not get involved. Mr Williams worked with Mr
Busch on a voluntary basis when Mr Busch moved his animals from Kerikeri
to Whangarei in 2002.
And Mr Williams said his wife organised tours of Zion Wildlife Gardens once
the park was established in Whangarei.
The couple helped develop a financial plan to make the park profitable, but
became disillusioned with the way Mr Busch ran the business, and incurred
debt. Mr Williams and his wife decided to cut their ties with him.
A bid by Patricia Busch to vacate guilty pleas in relation to the death of a big
cat handler at Zion Wildlife Gardens will now have to be approved by the
company appointed to liquidate the troubled park.
Announcement from BCRT of their dissolution.
It is with regret that the Board of Trustee’s have to announce that the Big Cat
Rescue Trust (BCRT) has dissolved. This situation has been brought about by
too much external interference/influence being brought to bear on the trust
attempting to influence how it should allocate any funds raised and indeed
which cause it should raise funds for. This has lead to internal conflict
amongst members of the trust resulting in irreconcilable differences between
It was made clear right from the launch of the trust in November 2010 that no
single individual or cause can be the sole benefactor of any funds raised. This
is a key condition set out by the Charity Commission and is also stated within
the BCRT constitution itself.
The Charity Commission has been informed as to the current
situation/intentions of the trust and is currently removing the Big Cat Rescue
Trust charitable status. All donations made by Direct Debit since the decision
to dissolve the trust was made will be returned to the individuals concerned.
All funds/ assets (merchandise) of the trust may be donated to a similar cause
wherever possible. It is not a requirement of the Charity Commission for us to
produce any accounts given the current circumstances/status. However, the
Trust is having a complete set of accounts prepared detailing all transactions
since it was formed and have them externally audited.
The charity had ceased to exist from late August.
More revelations from the past, via Official Information Act and MAF records:
Intruders may have broken into the grounds of Zion Wildlife Gardens – which
houses 36 lions, tigers, cheetahs and a leopard.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry fears the park, on the outskirts of
Whangarei, has been "breached by unauthorised [sic] persons".
"A perimeter check noted markings in dewy grass that could have been
human footprints," a MAF annual audit said.
"This indicates that the containment facility may have been breached by
The audit – obtained under the Official Information Act – was carried out by
MAF biosecurity inspector Crystal Lange on November 2, 2010.
It said "a number of issues" had been identified with housing of the big cats.
"Enclosures had been divided to separate previously compatible animals that
are no longer happy with their playmates or to reduce behavioural fraction as
contraceptive implants wear off," the audit said.
"The internal fencing, mesh and electric wires of varying lengths may not
keep fully aggressive animals apart but offers a short-term respite.
"The reduced size of each partition may also have a welfare impact if these
animals do not have sufficient space to exercise or if isolation from a pride
group becomes a stressor."
Six enclosures needed repairing, the audit said.
The door to one had a "large gap around it".
"This space should be shielded in some way to prevent animal paws being
extend [sic] through or a visitor from seeing it as a way to get an unobstructed
photo, and jumping through the barrier."
The audit also noted the perimeter around the enclosure housing the park's
two cheetahs needed maintenance.
Questions are being asked about thousands of dollars donated by supporters
of Lion Man Craig Busch … Busch visited the park in the past fortnight but his
lawyer Noel King said he was no longer in New Zealand and it was
understood Busch was in Africa.
PwC receiver Colin McCloy said: "We've received expressions of interest. We
are working through the processes as efficiently as we can."
Until recently, Charles Cadwallader, a former Ministry of Agriculture and
Forestry manager of animal welfare investigations and SPCA national chief
inspector, was among the faithful.
But Cadwallader has washed his hands of Busch. In an open letter to Busch
supporters he said he'd repeatedly asked about funds from a now-closed UK
charity called the Big Cat Rescue Trust but had come up against a "wall of
"If these questions are ignored then people might justifiably be concerned that
something untoward has happened to those funds."
Cadwallader worked voluntarily for "Team Busch" for five months. He was
concerned first for the welfare of the animals and then for people who could
ill-afford to make donations.
But Busch's Tutukaka-based spokesperson Jill Albrow dismissed
"I always say to people 'Don't give anything that you can't afford' but I'm not
concerned that there's anything untoward going on."
Meanwhile, Busch has debts. Whangarei lawyer Wayne Peters is waiting for a
court date over about $80,000 in outstanding legal fees. Auckland law firm
Foy and Halse has an outstanding judgment for $16,400 and Cadwallader is
waiting on a refund of $2700 for an airfare he'd paid for Busch.
From NZL page, Facebook 18 September
Statement from our Chairman
It has been brought to my attention that an article in the NZ Herald states that
Charles Cadwallader has quote “in an open letter to Busch supporters said
he'd repeatedly asked about funds from a now-closed UK charity called the
Big Cat Rescue Trust but had come up against a "wall of silence".
If this statement has been said by Mr Cadwallader then as Chair of the Trust
and on behalf of the trustees and executive members, I can categorically
state that the BCRT UK has received no communication whatsoever from Mr
Chair BCRT UK
Another release from BCRT:
On behalf of the BCRT Trustees/Executive members I just wish to clarify
some issues that have been raised and brought to my attention today. I can
Craig Busch has never had a “card” to the BCRT account. In fact the BCRT
never ran the bank account with any type of card for obvious reasons.
Craig Busch or anyone very close to him has never been a member of the
The names of the executive group members were to be notified to the Charity
Commission (CC) on the year- end report. This had been agreed with the CC.
I don’t believe that existing trustees/members of the executive group now
need to be named as the Trust is dissolved and the BCRT has been removed
from the CC database as a “registered charity”. However, if they wish to be
named, I will ensure that their names are listed on the BCRT report. It would
be inappropriate for me to mention names without their permission.
The BCRT is under no obligation to produce any accounts as the BCRT
dissolved before the financial year end. This is stipulated by the CC.
However, as per my initial announcement, a full set of accounts are being
prepared and externally audited. These will be available to all supporters who
have donated and supported the BCRT. This is over and above what is legally
required but morally we feel that all supporters of the trust that accounts are
made available to you as we are determined to be transparent in all of our
dealings to date.
If you have any questions, I have already stated that I will attempt to answer
and ask that you direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org. I am not a face
book user and emailing the BCRT is much easier for me and diverts
questions/concerns away from both Anita and Doreen who have felt under a
lot of stress and pressure. I will attempt to answer any queries/concerns that
you may have regarding trust matters.
Craig Busch attempted to have Patricia Busch declared bankrupt over nearly
$4000 in court costs – only to be countered in the High Court by Patricia and
her legal representative, providing information to the judge of millions of
dollars owed by Craig to his mother. A further hearing is set for October.
In this instance, Jill Albrow showed a clear reluctance to have a clearly visible
link to this story appear on her Facebook page, NZL. Three days after the
story appeared on the NZ Herald website, and after one attempt to publish a
link to the story on her page appeared instead on the “links” part of the
website, away from the more visible wall, a second attempt has finally be
nade, but not by Albrow. An unusual move, seeing as other news reports,
such as the cheetah escape and other stories broken by Sunday News using
the Official Information Act, appear on the NZL wall promptly upon appearing
On 22 September, she commented on her page: “I didn't post this because
it is confusing and I am not in a position to explain properly either, although no
doubt I will get criticised for that.”
Report issued by Neil Reid of Sunday News on Craig Busch’s late August visit
“Craig "The Lion Man" Busch has returned to the pride of big cats at
embattled Zion Wildlife Gardens.
Sunday News can reveal Busch recently visited the 36 lions, tigers, cheetahs
and leopard at the Northland tourism attraction for the first time in two years
… A legal agreement prevents Busch from talking publicly about his
observations at Zion during his visit.
But his lawyer Noel King, who accompanied Busch on his return, said: "To
visit the cats, knowing you cannot stay with them, was an emotional
experience for Craig.
"As Craig approached the enclosures he called the cats by name and they
ran to the fence to meet him.
"Those cats that were sleeping either woke up or were awoken by the other
cats. He talked to them and as Craig walked to each enclosure the cats would
follow him along the fence line until they could go no further."
King said there was still a strong bond between Busch and the big cats –
which helped make him a worldwide TV sensation with The Lion Man series –
despite his two-year absence.
"When Craig went to the first enclosure of one of the older male lions,
Gandor, the noise erupted," King said. "I was standing next to Craig and at
first it appeared Gandor was talking back to Craig; as if Gandor was
mumbling something to him. Then Gandor stood perfectly still looked us in the
eye and let out a series of amazing, deep powerful roars. Then Zion [another
lion] joined in and was followed by every other lion in the park. Then the tigers
joined in," he said.
This apparently wasn’t a story that was “too confusing” for Jill Albrow’s NZL
Facebook page. Three links were posted within 12 hours of it first appearing
online, two of the links by Albrow herself.
Lion man Craig Busch has dropped his bid to have his mother bankrupted,
less than two months after taking her to the High Court.
The case was initially heard by Associate Judge Roger Bell in the High Court
at Whangarei in August and was scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday.
In August Judge Bell also officially liquidated Zion Wildlife Gardens, the family
enterprise they are bitterly warring over.
Mr Busch has applied to withdraw his application to bankrupt his mum,
Patricia Busch, and Judge Bell has vacated the hearing next week and
directed instead that the matter be called in the ordinary bankruptcy list on
If there are no appearances, the application will be dismissed.
Mr Busch applied to have his mother declared bankrupt for a debt of $3800.
Judge Bell had ordered Mr Busch to put up security costs of $3800 but the
man who became known as The Lion Man after the popular TV serious of the
same name, decided to withdraw the application.
Craig Busch is believed to be living at Tutukaka after returning from overseas.
Mrs Busch survived another attempt to have her bankrupted in August after
she paid $8200 sought by creditor Bel Bruun of New South Wales.
The application for liquidation of Zion in August was filed by the Inland
Revenue Department regarding a debt of $105,766.
Mr Busch lost Zion Wildlife Gardens, the big cat park he started and that
featured in The Lion Man TV series he starred in, to his mother after she
bailed him out financially.
His mother dismissed him from the park in November 2008.
But the Lion man has been trying to raise funds to buy back the park, or set
up another, with donations pouring in from around the globe.
Zion is in liquidation.
Evgeny Orlov announces that arguments to prove the ownership of the cats
will go to the High Court. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?
“Zion Wildlife Gardens has been ordered to pay $60,000 reparation to the
widow of a former employee who was mauled to death by a tiger. The worldfamous park, based in Whangarei, avoided a fine as Judge Jan MarieDoogue ruled neither the company nor its subsidiary, Zion Wildlife Services,
were in a position to pay … Judge Marie-Doogue said had it not been for the
weak financial position of the companies, she would have imposed
substantial fines to reflect their culpability that led to Mr MnCube's death …
Judge Marie-Doogue said Zion Wildlife Services had not been operating for a
year, it had no assets, no bank account and was not employing anyone at
Sale of the park
Concerns that the Zion cats may be euthanized if matters regarding the
liquidation were not finalised in a court hearing led to concerns around the
world as to the cats’ fate. However, “receivers claim the legal action is to
support a sale which will keep the park open and protect the welfare of its
Details of the prospective buyer were kept secret
But it was confirmed soon after that the buyers were Zion Wildlife Kingdom
Limited, with Craig Busch to be re-installed as manager.
Country Developments Limited entered into a sales agreement for the entire
property at Kamo with Elizabeth Mary Lambert, for $1. In return CDL was
granted a 99 year lease by Lambert, and CDL sub-leased to Megan Busch for
95 years. All of this, however, was actioned without permission from
Rabobank as the first mortgagors and receivers for Country Developments
Ltd. See May. (http://www.nzlii.org/nz/cases/NZHC/2012/1547.html)
According to Jill Albrow in her “Story So Far”:
“On 27th January the Court freed up the receivers to proceed with the sale of
ZWG, although details of the purchaser [had] not been released.”
According to the NZ Herald that day: “Mr Orlov said anyone that claimed to
want to buy and run the park was lying. Anyone with any understanding of
business can see that it's not the right place for a park. It's in the middle of
nowhere.'' He said he was in touch with "a number of parties'' interested in
buying the cats and finding an appropriate home for them, but no action could
take place until the ownership dispute was resolved.”
The 27 January court hearing (Friday) laid the groundwork for the sale of Lot
1 of Countrywide Development’s property at the park site, the containment
area used to house the cats and main buildings, including the extinguishment
(under power of sale) of Patricia Busch’s interest on the title (245747) – her
mortgage was registered 13 May 2008, but still only a second mortgage. This
extinguishment was part of the transfer instrument, signed at 4:50 pm, 27
January by the representative of Rabobank, the transferer. The representative
of the transferee (Zion Wildlife Kingdom Ltd) signed the transfer documents at
3:09 pm, 31 January 2012. The sale amount to ZWK is quoted as being
$879,000 ex GST. (Instrument 8930521.1)
The following Tuesday, 31 January, the park was taken over by the new
According to Liz Clark on the Just Say It page on Facebook, 8 May 2012,
describing the events that day in January:
“Patricia rang me around 1.45 pm on her cellphone to tell me they had just
got to the park and that there were police everywhere, along with Ian
Stevenson and others.
“Patricia also states, "Megan had her employment terminated, was given an
eviction notice, a trespass notice, arrested with the reasons given as "there
are new owners and you have been given a trespass notice" and was driven
to the police cell in Whangarei, all before any transfer of Lot 1 of the Country
Developments Limited land (leased to Zion Wildlife Gardens Limited) had
been made. The time of the transfer [is] recorded on the CT after … [Megan]
had been driven away in a police car. All of the people involved, including the
police officer, were acting illegally. In other matters where we have tried to get
police assistance, we are either told they only attend where someone has
broken the law or peace and definitely they do not attend civil matters. There
was no tension boiling over between Megan and Patricia and alleged new
owners, the police officer was already present prior to us returning to the
park. We don't know why, other than to arrest Megan."
NZ Herald, 31 January: “The sister of Lion Man Craig Busch has been
arrested at Zion Wildlife Gardens, her mother says. Patricia Busch told One
News her daughter Megan was arrested after she went to the troubled
Northland wildlife park today following news the park had been sold by the
receivers. Ms Busch said her daughter had been issued with an instant
trespass notice and was arrested on the basis of that.”
“Tension boiled over at Zion Wildlife Kingdoms after former owner Patricia
Busch was locked out and her operator's license for the park is being looked
at by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The drama unfolded about noon
yesterday when Mrs Busch returned to the park after having lunch but was
denied entry together with her lawyer, Evgeny Orlov … Police were earlier
called to the park after the lawyer for Mrs Busch's daughter, Megan Busch,
refused to leave when asked to by Zion's new owners.
“Megan Busch yesterday pleaded not guilty in the Whangarei District Court to
the charge of trespass at the park and was released on bail to re-appear for a
defended hearing on May 7 …Ms McVerry indicated she would read out a
brief statement, copies of which were earlier handed over to the waiting
media outside the main gate. However, park contractor Sam Bailey was later
forced to read out the statement confirmed Mr Busch was at the park,
attending to the welfare of the cats.
"They [animals] love having him back," Ms McVerry said, without entertaining
any questions from the media. She said MAF was dealing with the operator's
Timing is of some interest, here.
Friday 27 January – sale cleared, process of signing transfer papers which
conveyed Lot 1 to ZWK, along with the extinguishing (without remuneration)
of Patricia’s 2008 mortgage begun. Representative from Rabobank signs
transferor portion of papers.
Sometime around midday, Patricia and Megan Busch leave the park to travel
to Whangarei. They return around 1.45 pm to find the new owners (ZWK) in
3.09 pm, the representative from ZWK signs the transfer papers. At this time,
the ASB Bank’s representative signs the mortgage instrument papers for
lodgement of ZWK’s mortgage with them against the title, with a priority
amount of $1,410,000, safeguarding the ASB’s claim of interest. (Instrument
3.58 pm, the transfer papers are lodged with Land Information New Zealand.
Nearly a minute later (3:58:58 pm), the mortgage papers are also lodged by
solicitors Bell & Graham of Matamata.
At the May 7 hearing regarding the police’s charge of trespass against Megan
Busch, the charge was withdrawn by the police “because there was no public
interest in pursuing it.” (http://www.northernadvocate.co.nz/news/legal-actionthreatened/1372572/) Megan Busch indicated that she had plans to take legal
action against the police. According to her lawyer, “Country Developments …
was still a registered owner when she was charged and there was no way, at
that stage, that she could have been dispossessed of the land. There's a case
against police and those that trespassed on Country Developments' land."
Concerns regarding the takeover of the park and its future were expressed by
Chris Wickenden on 4 February, a former employee and at one time a
prospective MAF licensed operator for the park, in a comment posted on
TV3’s website beneath the 31 January 2012 report.
“I worked at Zion for about a year, firstly as a volunteer and then full time. I left
two years ago. I have concerns as to the operation of the park under the new
owners Firstly as to how the sale could be made without the correct persons
in place to fulfill legal requirements, ie a Maf approved operator. Also I have
concerns as to the financial backing the new owners. Running a zoo is much
different to a farm. I have zoo experience at London Zoo with 13 years
experience although not with big cats. The current law stops the entry of
keepers into big cat enclosures without the animals being locked away, I
believe these rules will be broken, putting that persons life and those on site
in danger. I witnessed the death of Dalu and certainly do not wish that
situation to arise (sic) again. I believe the park will fall into the same situation
again. Craig does not own the park nor can he be operator due to criminal
convictions. He fell out with his mother who only wanted to help, what's to
stop the same happening when he doesn't get his own way in the running of
the park. He failed before managing the park, it may happen again and the
future of the cats will be in question again. Personally I think the future of the
park is no more secure than before and authorities should closely monitor
operating and safety procedures and animal management decisions. This is
all personal belief through animal management experience and information
through other parties whilst I worked at Zion and I claim not to be an expert
but I certainly would have changed some procedures and working practices if
I had been given the position of operator as offered to me by Patricia Busch.”
See also follow up report from Campbell Live from 1 February when Patricia
Busch was still maintaining a presence at the Park behind locked gates and
under increasing pressure from agents of the new owners.
Although eventually evicted from her home on the park, Patricia Busch is still,
as at April 2012, the park’s operator, according to MAF.
Defamation: Before the takeover of the park by Zion Wildlife Kingdom Ltd,
Patricia Busch announced on 20 January that she and her business
consultant Michael Bailey intended to sue Craig Busch and his spokesperson
Jill Albrow for $100,000 in general and punitive damages.
“Zion Wildlife Gardens operator Patricia Busch is suing her son - Lion Man
Craig Busch - for defamation after he posted a video on You Tube … In
August 2010, lawyer Steve Barter had asked the Lion Man and Ms Ward to
remove the video clip and to publish a retraction. Mr Barter said when they
failed to act, court proceedings were filed, with claims of $50,000 in general
and another $50,000 in punitive damages.
“Mr Busch had claimed in a You Tube video posted on August 22, 2010 that
his mother and Mr Bailey had slandered him in the media. He was also critical
of the pair's not guilty plea after keeper Dalu MnCube was mauled to death by
a big cat in May 2009.”
Cat ownership (26 January): “A hearing into who owns the big cats at
Whangarei's Zion Wildlife Gardens cannot proceed until Lion Man Craig
Busch pays $16,000 in court as security for costs … The High Court at
Whangarei will next month hear arguments on the ownership of the animals, if
Mr Busch fronts up with the bond.
Mr Orlov said the application was necessary because the Lion Man had lost a
few cases previously, including one in which he sued his mother, but had not
paid costs for those cases. He said another reason for seeking security for
costs was that Mr Busch was in South Africa.
"We are telling the court enough is enough. He can't be harassing her [Mrs
Busch] without paying security for costs. If he loses [next month] ... she won't
have any security over costs without this application succeeding," he said. Mr
Orlov claimed if the security wasn't paid and the hearing failed to materialise,
the ownership of the animals would fall on his client.”
The case was due to be heard at the end of February, but to date this hearing
has not taken place.
See also court notes: http://www.nzlii.org/cgibin/sinodisp/nz/cases/NZHC/2012/17.html
Another hearing took place on March 14th for the cat case, discussing
whether or not there was evidence that the ownership of the big cats at Zion
had been transferred by Craig Busch to the Busch Wildlife Foundation Trust.
The evidence at that stage, in the form of the Trust’s financial accounts, hadn’t
been provided to the court. A further court date of 23 July 2012 was set, but to
date this has not eventuated.
Tim Husband, described as an Australasian zoo consultant, said that news
that Craig Busch’s involvement with the purchase of the park as a “joke” by
several zoo operators.
“Mr Husband said he discovered several things that made him uncomfortable
during his time at Zion, saying big cats had not only been declawed, but had
their toes amputated at the joint, so claws and toe were gone. He also
questioned the breeding of what were supposed to be rare Barbary lions,
claiming they were not recorded in a stud book and were not part of a
“Mr Husband's concerns were put to Mr Busch, who responded through his
lawyer, Noel King, saying it was unfortunate Mr Husband chose the present
time for his comments. "His [Mr Husband] primary concern should be the cats
and where they'll stay in future," Mr King said.”
Another Campbell Live report on problems which has beset the park.
Four years previously (January 2007), a 12-year-old boy (Ash
MacKay) was mauled by a juvenile lion at the park. The attack,
according to John Campbell, went unreported by Craig Busch as thenoperator of the park, even to police or to MAF, the latter agency only
advised two years later (2 June 2009) by the MacKay family after the
death of Dalu Mncube. The incident happened on a private tour the
family had at the park with Craig Busch, when (according to Megan
Busch), “He let a 13 year old boy and his family loose in an enclosure
with four lions and a tiger. That boy got his legs mauled.” The boy was
pounced on and pinned by the lion, while Busch and the boy’s father
tried to prise the lion off for a minute, and were also bitten. Ash’s
injuries included bites to the bone. The family told Natasha Utting from
Campbell Live that they found themselves trapped in the enclosure,
surrounded by circling lions. One member of the family tried climbing
the electrified fence to escape.
In a letter to MAF reporting the incident, Ash’s father Andy MacKay
wrote: “It was actually very serious and Ash was lucky not to be
critically injured … we were told to tell anyone it was a dog attack.
Craig was very shaken up by what happened and pleaded with us not
to tell anyone as he said it would close the park.”
MAF advised Campbell Live on enquiry that they had referred the
incident to the Department of Labour. The DOL advised that they
decided to treat the incident as part of their on-going investigations into
Mark Nixon, a former employee (tour guide, keeper and junior cat
handler) at the park, told Campbell Live of an incident where a younger
Gandor grabbed his leg and bit it in an incident in c.2005 when he was
a visitor to the park. When he later went to work at the park, he told
Campbell Live, he witnessed Craig “taking risks” with the black leopard
Mandla. Craig took two young tourists to Mandla’s enclosure, entering
holding “a broomstick in one hand, and a chicken in the other. The cat
went to ground and then he began to stalk, and Craig reversed out
very quickly. What was he doing, was he showing off?”
Another former staff member Suzy Jansen witnessed Craig losing
control of Gandor. “I saw him walking across with Gandor on a lead,
and he pulled away from him and got away. He run right across to the
other side. Now, at the time there was the tour coming through, with
some children.” The children ran towards the lion, but Jansen got to a
gate and secured the area. “Craig really should have notified all of us
that he was going to bring a cat out. If Gandor had have got to the
children, he could have actually killed them.”
Staff witnessed Craig trying to enter Gandor’s enclosure around
midnight on Craig’s birthday, while Craig was in an inebriated state.
Gandor apparently attacked Craig, according to Mark Nixon, and Craig
was pulled out by his friends. Craig lost the end of his finger on his left
hand due to the incident. There was no “lock off” at that stage, and if
Gandor had escaped the enclosure, the lion would have been loose in
Mark Nixon also reported witnessing Craig punching Laduma in the
face. “Craig said, sometimes you’ve got to show them who’s the boss.”
The report also brought up the allegations expressed earlier ( of Craig
killing a cub with a rock (see May 2009), and instructing Dalu Mncube
to kill cubs. Patricia Busch: “I said, ‘what are you doing, Dalu?’ ‘cause
Craig was in France. And he said ‘Craig has told me if any cubs are to
be born while I’m away I’m to kill them’. I said ‘Dalu, you can’t possibly
A video of Craig with a lion on a leash shows him giving the lion a kick
to the head as the cat refused to get up off the ground.
Jansen also confirmed that Samson’s body was kept in the freezer
along with meat meant for the cats, so that a funeral could be staged
for the cameras. (See under 2008)
The only response received by Campbell Live from the park’s managers to
the allegations was this:
“Zion Wildlife Gardens has been sold to new owners and extremely high
expectations of animal welfare and the health and safety of staff and the
public have been set. We have every confidence that all current management
and staff are committed to exceeding these expectations. We would
recommend that you independently verify all comments made by former
Report on the BCRT UK accounts to the year end 31 October 2011 prepared.
See also under 11 April 2012.
Silas the serval passed away from natural causes, according to Jill Albrow’s
page, aged 14.
The park, now renamed Kingdom of Zion, reopened.
The day before the grand opening, on Thursday 5 April, Radiolive published
the first of their broadcasts online, where one Radiolive journalist, James
Coleman, interviewed another, Jennifer Humphreys, regarding her experience
at the Kingdom of Zion.
This 3 minute 24 second broadcast was published online at 7.56 am,
encouraging people to visit “the controversial Zion Wildlife Park … It’s been
riddled with problems, hasn’t it?”, Coleman is heard to say. Humphreys
describes her visit as “an amazing experience to stand next to him [Craig
Busch].” She describes that it was “really raining yesterday when I was there,
and we walked out of Craig’s house towards the lions, and I thought, you
know, they’re all under cover, they’re not going to be that bothered, but as
soon as Craig came out they seemed to sense him and they came out and he
spoke to them, called Zion over like a cat, like a house cat, and Zion wanders
over, you know, as if to say hello and pushes his mane against the fence and
wants to be stroked. When Craig says, ‘Move over. Let me see the other lion,’
the other one comes in and it’s just an amazing experience to see him speak
directly to these lions and it looks like they’re listening to him and they do what
they’re told – one moves over, the other one comes along. He moved over to
the next cage to see the next set of lions, and they’re almost following, saying,
‘Well, come back here, you haven’t finished speaking to us yet.’”
Coleman then puts in that they are wild animals though, “they can snap, and
one day …” then Coleman changes the topic, asking “Has he got things
Humphreys does admit that there’s still much to be done at the park, and that
the family saga goes on and on and on. She says that Craig Busch “just
wants to move on.”
Then, Radiolive probably realised that Humphreys had secured something
exclusive as far as New Zealand media was concerned – a rare interview with
Craig Busch, recorded and ready to use. At 4.37 pm that same day, the
interview was published online. The total duration was 17 minutes and 45
seconds. If you go to the link however, you’ll find that the interview length is
now only 11 minutes and 9 seconds. On the afternoon of Good Friday, 6
April, 6 minutes and 34 seconds of recording was edited out of the published
version of the interview.
Edited out were the following points:
Craig Busch talking about Dalu Mncube’s death, and making claims of
culpability against certain persons which he had previously made in a
video he recorded and which was briefly published online at Jill
Albrow’s page in 2010. The publication of his claims is the subject of a
pending court case.
Accusations of illegality against Primal Productions, Patricia Busch,
Phillip Smith and All3 Media regarding third series of the Lionman
series and its distribution, and regarding the IRD.
An entire discussion regarding the declawing of the cats at Zion Wildlife
Gardens and at Kerikeri: (Humphreys): “You don’t think it caused any
harm to the animals by doing it in the first place?” (Busch): “Well I’ve
never seen anything to tell me any different.”
TV3 were not allowed to film or speak to Craig Busch on the opening day, but
the news network managed to get hold of handi-cam footage anyway, and
used that in their broadcast. TVNZ reported that only 50 people visited the
park on opening day. (http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/lion-man-returns-zionwildlife-park-video-4820155)
Campbell Live report on Craig Busch’s filming in Africa, his dealings with Ed
Hern (Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve and the Rhino Rescue Project) and Fred
Berrange (Leopard Conservation Project), and monies from the BCRT UK
Berrange was interviewed as saying that Craig went to South Africa because
“It’s a lot easier to get away with things in South Africa.” Bush set up a filming
deal with Ed Hern and his daughter Lorrinda. Ed Hern, so the report stated,
had worked with Busch “for more than ten years in South Africa” (actually,
closer to 9 years, seeing as 2003 was when Busch was supposed to have
met Hern during Series 1 of the Lionman programme – unless that first
meeting was staged for the camera. Perhaps any pre-Lionman series
association Busch had with Ed Hern is the reason for the lyrics of the series
theme song referring to “from the depths of Southern Africa” …)
Busch and the Herns had collaborated on a documentary series aimed at
trying to put an end to rhino poaching, commissioned and funded by Ed Hern,
with Busch tasked to filming and selling the finished series. [See entry under
June 2010, where it was reported that “The former Lion Man star of New
Zealand television is making a new reality show in Africa, featuring lions,
elephants and hippopotamuses … a spokeswoman, Jill Ward, said he had
been filming a low-budget documentary in Africa with his fiancee and a small
crew over the past six months.”]
Hern, however, was reported to have stated he lost as much as the equivalent
of $NZD 79,000 in the deal “after Craig continuously failed to meet filming
deadlines, and then disappeared,” according to Natasha Utting of Campbell
Live. “I couldn’t get the footage off of Craig Busch, and I couldn’t get hold of
him. He just disappeared in South Africa. I tried to phone him, I SMSed him. I
even went to our Hawks, which is the South African equivalent to the FBI in
America, and they couldn’t get hold of him,” (Ed Hern, interviewed by phone).
There was also the matter of a 22,000 rand personal loan receipted by a
representative of Craig Busch (the hand-written paper shown on Campbell
Live’s report) given by Hern to Busch 3 December 2010 and not paid back.
Legal action by the Herns is being taken. (This note seems to date from
around the time Busch was supposed to be working on the rhino
As for Fred Berrange, according to him Busch was permitted to film the
Leopard Conservation Trust’s rescue work provided Busch gave the Trust the
resulting footage. “I just said, look, all I want is a copy of that footage,
because it is so important for us to show the world what we are doing. And,
you know, he agreed to that, and everything was 100% and he would do that
and – it never came, we never got it,” Berrange said in phone interview with
Utting for Campbell Live.
Utting then went into the issue of funds donated by NZ and UK fans “for the
explicit purpose of helping Craig buy back the Zion Wildlife Gardens.” Charles
Cadwallader, interviewed on the programme, stated that $10,000 from the UK
sent to NZ went off instead to the “Busch void” to pay off, he thinks, a lawyer.
Busch, according to Cadwallader, “all the way along … had tried to get me to
transfer those funds into his solicitor’s trust account, and I wouldn’t, because
I’d made personal promises to people, personal assurances, that that money
would be used for the park, not for lawyers, not for going against Patricia, but
for the park and for the cats. And – it went.”
A quote from Jill Albrow and Charles Cadwallader’s letter to “Friends of Zion”
(known on FB as the Fozzies) dated 26 May 2011 was shown, stating “As
promised, the funds will only be used for actually making sure that Craig gets
his Park back and for nothing else.” £1625 from the fan fund was diverted to
pay Samuel Graham (Pay Pal statement used as evidence) to repay a debt
from an event held.
Donna Catterall, “former Craig Busch Supporter and donor” was interviewed
by phone from the UK, and expressed her concerns about monies raised by
the BCRT UK over three and a half years. She accused Busch of “bullying”
the BCRT UK trustees into giving him the money. A trustee of the fund, name
withheld, advised Campbell Live that “Craig HAS had the bulk of the money,
we were able to let him have it as most was raised before we got charitable
status.” Campbell Live, on viewing the accounts, said that $21,000 was sent
to New Zealand when the trust closed “9 months after it began”. Dan
McCarthy, interim chairman of the trust, is reported as saying the trust
dissolved due to “too much external interference”.
“There was no bullying for funds,” McCarthy is quoted as stating, “however
attempts were made to influence who the trust could or could not raise funds
for. Craig Busch was informed that this was contrary to the BCRT UK
Constitution and the Charity Commission and we would not be put into that
A £1000 donation to the BCRT UK from one donor which was earmarked for
Fred Berrange’s Leopard Conservation Trust was apparently withdrawn from
the leopard conservation fund and given to Busch instead. “The person that
donated £1000 has now withdrawn that, because of threats from Craig,”
Berrange said when interviewed by Campbell Live. McCarthy confirmed that
the donor asked for a refund and gave the £1000 to Craig Busch instead. “I
then heard that he had stopped this money and re-routed it to himself,”
Berrange continued, “which I really thought was unnecessary because, you
know, this was for a desperate plea, and it was earmarked for us, so that was
our money … When he gets to South Africa, I need to talk to him, because he
owes me money and he owes me footage from the filming that we did. But I
never want anything to do with him, ever. ”
Campbell Live said that Craig Busch refused to speak to them on these
matters. On 5 April during the RadioLive interview, Busch is recorded as
saying, regarding the filming in Africa: “It will do (get to NZ screens) at a later
stage …when I’m ready to get it out.”
Campbell Live stated that they had put “each and every allegation in our story
to Craig Busch via email, but he’s not answered any of our questions.”
Soon after the broadcast (8.11 pm that night), Jill Albrow commented on her
Facebook page that: “There seems to be some amnesia from certain parties
about the Fozzie fund, in that refunds were given to all people who did not
confirm that we could retain their donation for what ever purpose was
required, including legal fees, also that once "we" were back in the park (and
this is a direct quote from the injustice web page, "we will need to have
sufficient funding for food and veterinary care and everything necessary to
ensure that the cats are cared for to the high standard that we and you would
expect, until such time as the money comes i(n) from visitors etc." We have
cats that currently need veterinary care, there has been a new enclosure for
Rewa and Jahdu and we have had to feed and care for the cats for two
months - where do people think some of the money has gone? As for the
payment to Mr Graham, it was MY mistake, I used the wrong Paypal account,
and the issue was resolved, something Charles has already been advised.”
Response from Jill Albrow on behalf of Kingdom of Zion, in response to
Campbell Live programme (from Facebook):
A claim that Zion Wildlife Kingdom/Kingdom of Zion/Craig Busch “have
in our possession a hand written document” from an anonymous
source outlining a planned “smear campaign” against Busch involving
the Herns and Berrange. “Also on the document is written “I am still a
young woman and I am making millions”. It is a disturbing insight to
the wanderings of a mind.” To date, this document has not been
They don’t agree with the statements made by Hern and Berrange, but
don’t feel it appropriate “to discuss publicly any arrangements we may
have had with these parties as these issues are best resolved in
private.” But, the statement goes on to deny that Ed Hern financed the
majority of costs involved for the rhino poaching “special” [not a
documentary series?], claimed they had made contact with Lorrinda
Hern in January 2012 regarding her father’s concerns and therefore
questioned how old the interview was [are they claiming Ed Hern was
interviewed by Campbell Live before the park was sold?] and that “the
suggestion that the footage of the rhino was used on The Lionman
website without permission is not correct as Lorinda Hern was fully
aware of this as confirmed by her email to us in December 2010.” It
was also denied that the South Africa Hawks are looking for Craig
Busch in response to Hern’s complaint.
“Mr Berrange was invited to take part in an event in November 2010,
During his stay in the UK he was extended considerable hospitality by
our team, and the vast majority of his expenses were met. The event
was attended by Craig’s supporters; we believe the event was
beneficial to Mr Berrange as he acquired considerable ongoing support
as a result. We later used our fan base and Craig’s profile to assist in
raising funds for a leopard tracking collar for his Leopard Conservation
Project. The GBP1000 he refers to was not withdrawn “due to threats
from Craig” and the person concerned is happy to confirm this. The full
amount had been raised for the collar so the funds were directed
elsewhere at the donors request.”
[Is the first bit included to indicate that Berrange should be grateful to the
Busch team for all their help in the UK? According to the African Conservation
Foundation, Berrange founded the Leopard Conservation Project in 2000 and
as at April 2012 had saved almost 100 leopards. “The project has come a long
way since starting off in the Vaalwater area of Limpopo Province 12 years ago
and became a Section 21 company in 2007, enabling it to raise funds more
easily and market its meaningful initiatives to more sponsors.
“Today Fred, with assistance from Chris Pearce – an accountant who handles
much of the administration freeing Fred up to do operational work – is well
known around South Africa as the human face of the battle being fought to
rescue the leopard from extinction. This is a fate that surely awaits it if nothing
is done to protect these marvellous animals in an environment where their
habitat becomes more threatened on a daily basis. Many supportive vets and
farmers also lend valuable assistance to the Leopard Conservation Project.
“With support from companies such as Total South Africa – which last year
sponsored Fred's countrywide travel to the tune of R120,000 of fuel
(increased to R150,000 this year) – he averages around 9,000 kilometres a
month, crisscrossing the country to rescue, rehabilitate and release leopards.”
Where the “fan base” was used to raise money for the leopard tracking collar,
as the Albrow statement says, then why was the £1000 diverted?
On Sunday 22 April, Rawson J Bradley posted this question on both Jill
Albrow’s Facebook page, and that known as Just Say It: “Question for Jill &
BCRT UK. How did Craig find out about the £1,000 donation to the Leopard
collar appeal? And How did Craig obtain the contact details of the donor to be
able to contact him and have the £1,000 transferred from the Leopard appeal
to the 'buy back the park fund'?”
The answer from Albrow: “The Leopard Collar appeal was as it suggests for a
specific purpose for a specific amount. That amount was raised. If the person
making the GBP1000 donation wants to redirect their funds surely that is
between them and the BCRT. I would suggest that you email the BCRT UK for
their response as they may not read these pages or wish to respond here.
This, from Enquiries BCRT, that morning: “Hi Rawson, not too sure if this has
already been answered but,1-Craig Busch contacted an ex member of the
BCRT to find out how much had been donated to the appeal. The BCRT had
two very large donations and he asked who these were from and ultimately
2.- The donator who requested the refund is known to Craig Busch so he
already had the contact details.”
Rawson: “Thanks BCRT. Surely all information regarding donations/names etc
is protected by the Data Protection Act, and should not have been passed to
CB, even by an ex member. Also, This was nothing to do with CB, and he
should not have asked and certainly not acted on any information received; by
contacting the donor and getting the donation refunded and re-designated,
deprived the Leopard collar project of funds for his owns ends. CB had
absolutely no authority or mandate to interfere with the BCRT in any way.”
BCRT: “Hi Rawson, totally agree with you the names should not have been
given out. The initial request to raise funds did come from Craig Busch's camp
in asking if we could help raise funds for a collar for LCP. Obviously
something went wrong between LCP and Craig Busch and sadly the refund
was requested. This went against the morals of the majority of the BCRT but
unable to prevent a refund as there was a lack of "no refund policy".
Rawson: “The fact that CB manipulated things for his own benefit and
deprived the LCP of funds is surely tantamount to theft.”
BCRT: “The donator requested a refund and their decision to pass it on. Don't
think it can be classed as theft it was given freely.”
Rawson: “Maybe, but the money was destined to LCP and would have
provided a second collar. The only reason that the refund was requested was
because CB contacted the donor and 'persuaded' him to ask for a refund from
BCRT and donate it to CB's back pocket.”]
Regarding Fozzie funds, and whether they were meant for buying the
park back only and not for any other purpose (such as lawyers), Albrow
said that Natasha Utting of Campbell Live “omitted to mention was that
in June 2011, a further message was displayed on the” Injustice”
website, advising that we needed funds for purposes including, “Legal
costs (including advice, preparation of affidavits, preparation and filing
of proceedings, costs of an injunction, court costs, Court conferences
and appearances, memorandum to the court and the list goes on…..)”
“If we did not have the express permission to retain donations for the
alternative purposes detailed, then they were returned. We wrote to
everyone who donated funds and put the question to them. If we did
not hear from someone we returned their donation.”
[But – those legal costs were not expressly including debt repayment. From
Albrow’s Facebook page, 27 June 2011.
Karen Lindsey-smith: (In response to the Wayne Peters claim from Craig
Busch) “I just thought if Craig is owing all this money to lawyers, it doesn't look
good for attempts to get the park back.”
Charles Cadwallader (as Leopard Rock): “I note that you opine that the
reason behind the campaign is not as we have reported. If you continue to
cast unpleasant aspersions upon my honesty and integrity, that I am lying
about the crisis and in fact am spearheading a campaign to pay off any
alleged debts, then I must warn you that I will ask my lawyer to give due
consideration to taking appropriate action against you.”
Jill Albrow (later in the thread, responding to another page member): “If you
have an issue with debt presumably you won't be supporting the park either. I
don't believe anyone has asked you to pay off someone else's debts,
have they? I think I have stated that the money we are collecting now has
absolutely nothing to do with any debt that may exist to Mr Peters.”
The “Crisis Time” campaign (aka Fozzies) began in May 2011, with the
report on Cadwallader’s “Injustice” website (since removed, but screenshots
available) that fans had only until 25/26 May to come up with enough funds “to
pay off the huge debt that has been built up over the time since he [Craig] was
thrown out of his Park.” The campaign target was to raise $3,000,000, but
according to what is known of the site’s pages, only just over $79,000 was
raised. On 14 June, an update on the page advised that the campaign
wasn’t going to come anywhere near to the target, so the focus had shifted to
negotiating “terms that are acceptable to all parties and explore all avenues.”
“I suppose that there may be some that take a cynical view, a sort of ‘I told
you so’ stance, but the goal posts have changed considerably. Although we
could not buy the Park for the $80,000 or so raised, by skilful negotiation we
still hope to achieve the purchase of the Park, albeit with a mortgage …”
18 July 2011, this appeared on Albrow’s page:
“When we began this campaign, we thought everything would be resolved
within a few weeks. As with most things in life, it has all become a lot more
complicated than we anticipated. It is all far from over, but it is certainly taking
much longer than we hoped. Unfortunately this leaves us with a problem.
“All the funds that have been collected by Paypal, that we have not received
instructions for, remain held in our Paypal account. We have not withdrawn
them to a bank account. We are not collecting interest while we hold this
20 July 2011, this appeared on Albrow’s page:
“The original campaign for funds was on the basis that payments would be
returned if were not successful. We had hoped that the situation would be
concluded by now, but it is not. Since we only have 60 days to make Paypal
refunds without penalty then we are starting to make those refunds in order to
avoid the fees. Some people have opted to allow us to keep the payments to
continue to fight the battle and not to get a refund whatever the outcome. We
are just seeking your instructions on this. If you want a refund then you need
not respond as that will happen automatically. If you don’t, then we need your
confirmation that you don’t.”
Looking at it, I’d say that while the funds were called for to achieve one
purpose, when that purpose wasn’t achieved, then the fans and subscribers
were advised of the change in purpose – but probably not that, once they
agreed that the campaign could keep the money and not be refunded, that it
would be used to pay off sundry debts, like that to Samuel Graham. During
the second stage, when only under $80,000 had been reached, one of the
purposes mentioned wa that funds would go towards veterinary care for the
cats. No word on how much of any remaining funds from the Fozzie
campaign have gone towards that end: as at April 2012, the Kingdom of Zion
are campaigning for more donations for vet care for the cats …]
The Albrow statement also said they offered no comment on the BCRT
accounts (as they hadn’t received a copy), felt that Catterall is in no
way a “representative of the UK fans, and this in itself was misleading.
The quoted paragraph from an unnamed trustee, was taken from a
private message to Ms Catterall, from someone who considered her a
friend at the time. The person concerned has already confirmed to
Campbell Live that they had not been bullied in any way and did not
want to take part in their programme.”
Albrow also maintained that Campbell Live simply didn’t receive
answers they wanted, not that the Busch team “failed to answer their
questions. We were in protracted correspondence with their producer
prior to broadcast. They did not include our statement in the
Not surprisingly, Campbell Live disagreed.
“This statement made by Jill Albrow is not factually correct. Craig Busch had
each and every allegation put to him via email for a full nine days before the
story aired. Neither Busch nor his solicitors answered a single one of our
questions. They told us they could not reply to the statements. Campbell Live
has correspondence from numerous UK fans expressing concern about funds
raised. Money mentioned in our story that went to Craig's lawyer was done so
before the Fozzie campaign changed over and outside of what was promised
to fans. Money used to pay a debt was also outside of what fans were
promised. Ed Hern and Fred Berrange interviews were done very recently.
The story was extensively researched and every endeavour was made to
provide balance in the story, it was Craig Busch's choice to give us any.
Campbell Live stands by the assertions made in the broadcast.” (Albrow’s
Facebook page, 18 April 2012)
News media announce that Patricia Busch lodged another court claim, this
time alleging “receivers PricewaterhouseCoopers failed to publicly advertise
the sale of the park through an open tender for land and assets.” Damages
are sought against Craig Busch, receivers of the park
PricewaterhouseCoopers, MAF and the Kingdom of Zion and its owners Beth
McVerry and Ian Stevenson.
“Receiver Colin McCloy, of PwC, said the claim was without foundation. He
declined to comment further given the matter was before the court.
“PwC wrote to Mrs Busch in September saying it was seeking expressions of
interest from parties willing to buy the park. She alleges PwC failed to inform
her of the value of the land and its assets. She also alleges PwC failed to
obtain a proper valuation of land and assets.”
Also, on 30 April Megan Busch files an application of personal grievance
against the receivers PriceWaterhouse Cooper (agents Colin McCloy and Mr
David Bridgman). This application failed as it was said to have been filed
outside the 90 days statutory limit.
Late April-early May
First, in an article by Neil Reid in the Sunday Star-Times (29 April)
(http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/latest-edition/6824876/Lion-Manwarned-ministers-of-cat-danger) and then, 2 May, in the Northern Advocate,
a repeat of the revelations from 30 June 2011 (see Campbell Live report) that
Craig Busch, after being sacked from Zion Wildlife Gardens, wrote to
ministers and to MAF about his concerns regarding safety at the park and the
level of skill and training of staff employed there.
Why this information surfaced again a month and a half before the due
opening of the coroner’s hearing into the death of Dalu Mncube has yet to be
Caveats placed on the sale of the subdivisions of the Kamo property around
the main park site by Elizabeth Lambert (based on the sales agreement
between herself and Country Developments via Megan Busch earlier in
January) are removed by the courts. “In the absence of any consent to the
sub-lease, Rabobank New Zealand Ltd is entitled to exercise its power of sale
and to transfer the land subject to its mortgage free of the interest claimed by
Ms Busch … As there is no basis for the sublease relied on by Ms Busch and
it does not bind the bank, there is no reason for the caveat to stay on the
On 26 May NZ Time, Craig Busch was apparently spotted by a fan at Hemel
Hempstead’s town centre in the UK. Jill Albrow responded to the fan’s post on
the NZ Lionman Facebook page on 27 May: “I believe he was very briefly in
the UK, but has now left.” Yet, another fan posted on the page on 3 June (NZ
Time) that her sister was serving Busch dinner at Harefield, just outside
London. In both cases, he provided autographs when asked, but was reported
to be somewhat surprised at being spotted in the first instance without his
“Lionman gear” on.
A photograph taken on the second occasion was removed from the NZ
Lionman page twice, with these comments (deleted soon after posting) on
that page from Jill (4 June):
“Yes Craig was in the UK briefly, as I said correctly before, he then left again,
he was back for one day in transit. I was not aware that he had to report his
“There are suggestions elsewhere that I was lying when I said that Craig was
in the UK briefly last time he was seen here. I was not, that was correct.
When he was photographed yesterday he was back again very briefly. I do
think that he is entitled to some off duty time. As it was he made time for a
supporter when he was in his private time, he was friendly and gave an
autograph and had his picture taken, even though he was out for dinner. But
he is entitled to some privacy and if he does not want the photo to be
published that is his choice. I can see why now when there is all this
obsession and inquisition regarding his whereabouts as a result.”
Hard to see how Craig Busch was there in the UK, flew back here for a day,
then flew back to the UK again.
Information began to appear in the NZ press, in the first stages of the coronial
inquiry into Dalu Mncube’s death back in 2009 (see under October for the
actual hearing), regarding confusion over his official identity (especially in
terms of his status here as an immigrant), and also statements from Patricia
Busch as to Dalu’s professional relationship with Craig Busch.
“Dalu Mncube was also known as Clifford Mncube, Dalubuhle Ncube and
Darlington Tembo a pre-inquest hearing into his identity was told yesterday …
In her deposition to Whangarei coroner Brandt Shortland, police inquest
officer Constable Andrea Magill said the true identity of Mr Mncube had not
been confirmed and was unlikely to be. Police inquiries after his death
revealed he entered New Zealand on November 10, 2005, on a South African
passport under the name of Clifford Mncube with a birth date of October 7,
1986. This would have made him 19, when he arrived. In fact, he was actually
about 27. Before his arrival, Mr Mncube worked at The Rhino and Lion Nature
Reserve in Krugersdorp, South Africa, where he met former Zion Wildlife
Gardens' operator Craig Busch and they became friends. In October 2004, Mr
Busch sent a letter to Darlington Dalu Tembo, offering him a job at Zion.
Mr Mncube came to New Zealand and obtained a work permit to work as an
animal handler at the Whangarei-based park. Ms Magill said police enquiries
revealed Mr Mncube had told Zion operator Patricia Busch that his real name
was Dalubuhle Ncube and he was born on July 13, about 1975-1978.”
“Lion Man Craig Busch knew about irregularities in a worker's passport before
bringing him to New Zealand, a Whangarei coroner has heard … In a
statement to police, Mr Busch's mother and Zion Wildlife Kingdom operator
Patricia Busch said her son had offered Mr Mncube a job because he had
previous experience in the field. Mrs Busch said Mr Mncube had told her
Craig threatened to report him to Immigration New Zealand if he did not side
with him over issues at the park. Dalu told Craig that if that happened and he
ended up in a cell, then Craig would be in the next cell because he knew
about his passport and identity prior to him coming to New Zealand," Mrs
Busch said, in documents submitted to coroner Brandt Shortland.
"I asked Dalu what he was going to do and he said that he would take
holidays in September, and go back to South Africa and sort out his identity
through his school records. Dalu wished to be known by his own name and to
have an accurate passport. I believe he would have carried out his intentions
if he had survived. I do know that at some point Dalu had said to Craig that it
was not his fault that Craig had brought him from Africa to work with the big
cats and that he had turned out to be better at this than Craig," Mrs Busch
bout two weeks before Mr Mncube's death, both men had an argument at the
park, where Mr Busch accused the cat handler of "stealing his life and a lot
more," Mrs Busch said.”
Neville Bradford, employed by Earth Crest from the takeover at the end of
January as a full-time groundsman (at the suggestion of his accountant Ian
Stephenson) is sacked by Earth Crest. He later applies to the ERA on the
grounds of wrongful dismissal, given that he was an employee, not a
contractor. The ERA finding on 20 May 2013 agreed with this, and the case
During his employment, despite him filling out IRD forms for PAYE tax to be
deducted from his wages and submitted to the department, the tax apparent
wasn’t forwarded until Stephenson sorted it out in July.
“Initially Mr Bradford said he had reported to Mr Craig Busch, but
subsequently to Ms Eisenhut, and then latterly to Ms Michelle Potter, who
had been appointed as the Park Manager on or about March 2012, and they
had directed him as to the work they required to be carried out on a daily
basis. Mr Bradford who said he had received training, primarily from Ms
Potter,provided as evidence induction and training records which had been
signed by him, and initialled by the trainer, whom Mr Bradford identified as
Ms Potter. Mr Bradford said that the tools and equipment which he had used
in carrying out his duties had been leased by Earth Crest from the Park’s
landlord, Zion Wildlife Kingdom Limited. Mr Bradford said that whilst carrying
out his duties he had been issued with a shirt to wear which displayed Earth
It was noticed on the NZ Lionman facebook page that a UK group of
fundraisers called “Charity Dalek” attended a Lions Charity Motor Show at
Norwich Rugby Club, fundraising for “Craig and his big cats.” Nothing
mentioned as to exactly who would be receiving the proceeds, whether it will
be the non-registered “Wildlife Trust”, the Kingdom of Zion business, or Busch
At the Nor-Con 2012 science fiction convention (2 September), one of the
“charities” reported as being supported is the “Craig Busch Wildlife
Foundation”. The convention website stated that “payments would be made”
to that charity.
It is announced near midnight on the NZ Lionman Facebook page that the
serval Zoe had died of natural causes at the Kingdom of Zion the previous
weekend, aged 14. This follows the 9 March 2012 announcement, also by Jill
Albrow, of the death of Silas, also 14 years old and also from natural causes.
According to sources on servals, the animals can live up to 10 years in the
wild, and up to 20 years in captivity.
I took a look at easyfundraising.org.uk, a fundraising tool used since 2009
(http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=60350304918) by Craig Busch
and his supporters. As at this date, the site registered 893 supporters of the
Busch Wildlife Foundation, raising £4699.41 with online shopping and
websearch links back to the site.
“easyfundraising.org.uk helps charities, schools, sports clubs, community
groups, and other good causes to raise money when their supporters shop
online. So far we've raised over £3 million for causes throughout the UK. It
works in a similar way to nectar, but instead of earning points when you
shop, you raise a donation for your cause instead. It's as simple as that!”
[Bolding as appears in the online text.]
The site does say the organisers check to ensure causes are genuine before
signing them up to receive fundraising cheques each quarter where £15 or
more is raised. The site defines a “good cause” as (from their Terms and
“Good Cause' means an identifiable grouping of more than one person having
a common interest, whether an unincorporated or incorporated association, a
charitable body, a firm or partnership, a company or any other organisation
So, in this case, despite no evidence of registration found supporting the
Busch Wildlife Foundation as being a charity, easyfundraising.org will still
include it as a company.
“A Good Cause may not be an individual acting on his own behalf although
we may accept Registration from an individual who intends to benefit a charity
or other Good Cause by his actions. A Good Cause must be a Registered
Good Cause in order to become eligible to receive Donations and can only
become Registered if represented by a person (whether that representative is
the Applicant or not) who is 18 years of age or older. At time of Application,
the Good Cause must also have an active bank account in its own name for
receipt of any Donations.”
“Because a Good Cause may include unincorporated associations or other
non-corporate bodies, it is understood and accepted that applications for
Registration will be made by an individual Applicant whether acting on his
own behalf or on behalf of the Good Cause. That Applicant may have a direct
or indirect interest in the Good Cause or no connection with or interest in the
Good Cause at all.”
In comparison on the same site, Big Cat Rescue Trust UK has 2 registered
supporters, raising £34.43.
The name “Big Cat Rescue Trust” is the name given for the fundraising drive
on the Kingdom of Zion website (NZ BCRT), complete with both New Zealand
and United Kingdom bank accounts, but with no apparent affiliation between
the two BCRTs.
The NZ Lionman Facebook, apparently blocked to New Zealand viewers,
published an appeal for funding – to United Kingdom fans only.
This was the text retrieved from the site at the time:
We have now been back at Kingdom of Zion for 8 months – it is
fantastic to be back and we never forget that we would not be there
without all your fantastic support. There is still plenty to do, and
of course the big cats always come first, so there is always something
that needs attending to – and it all costs money. Unfortunately when
we returned, the state of the enclosures and the health of the cats is
not what we hoped it would be; we have been working hard to improve
the enclosures and attend to the health issues as best we can, whilst
getting the business back on its feet, with all the economic
challenges that we are all facing in the world today.
There are 34 big cats at the Kingdom of Zion who rely on us for their
health and wellbeing. So many of you have been in touch to let us know
that you want to help and be part of the rebuilding of Zion,and this
is how you can. You can make a one off deposit to our UK bank account
or set up a monthly direct debit for as small or as large an amount as
you want to. Every contribution helps and we thank you on behalf of
all the big cats at Zion for your kindness and generosity.
Here are some examples of what your contributions will help us withGBP2.00 will buy one worming tablet
GBP5.00 will buy a bale of straw
GBP10.00 will buy chickens for the cheetahs
GBP25.00 will help us provide behavioural enrichment
GBP50.00 will buy 5kg of Predator Powder dietary supplement
GBP100.00 will buy 1 week’s supply of medication for Narnia
GBP150 will buy one hour of specialist vet’s time
GBP250.00 will buy a new den box
A British bank account and details was provided.
The coroner’s inquest into the death of Dalu Mncube began on 1 October
2012. Dalu’s full identity was confirmed by the coroner on 5 October as
Dalubuhle Ncube, aka DaluMncube, Clifford Mncube, Dalubuhle Mncube and
Ncube met former Zion Wildlife Park owner Craig Busch at a private game
park in South Africa, the coroner said in a report released today. But when
Busch offered him work in New Zealand, he needed a passport. The coroner
said that in order to get that passport Ncube provided false documents
suggesting he was born in South Africa in 1986. "It was under the name of
Clifford Mncube that he was able to get these identification papers based
onthe information he was born in South Africa in 1968," said [coroner Brandt]
(TVNZ online report, 5 October)
“Mr Shortland said Mr Ncube had manipulated a number of names to obtain a
South African passport which he used to enter New Zealand. His motivation
was unclear, but Mr Shortland heard from Mr Ncube's fiancee, Sharon Arnott,
who said two or three months before his death he revealed his real name "in
the context of an emotional discussion''.
"Despite that revelation, he was unable to give reasons why he had not told
her earlier,'' Mr Shortland said. “This was an important demarcation in their
relationship, and as Ms Arnott has said under oath, she felt that he was
being honest and believed him. “Despite her attempts to ask why he chose to
make this revelation now, he would only answer that he couldn't go into
it and was unable to tell her.'' Had Mr Mncube not died the Department of
Immigration would probably have had a prima facie case to charge him,
Mr Shortland said.”
(NZ Herald 5 October 2012)
Reports said that Dalu was the eldest of six children, growing up at the
Hwange National Park, “the largest game reserve in Zimbabwe”. Fortune
Shumba, a brother of Dalu, is said in some reports to have worked at Zion
Wildlife Gardens alongside his brother, saying, "We used to bottle‐feed these
lions. The cats were his babies." (NZ Herald, 1 October 2012)
Former staff member Martin Ferreira told the hearing that there were no
written guidelines or procedures in place in case of emergencies at the park.
"Our safety procedures that we normally would follow would have been a fire
extinguisher, that we would use first, and after that, maybe a stick." Patricia
Busch on 2 October stated that she “believed staff carrying guns was too
dangerous.” Andrew Ward, former staff member testifying on 3 October, said
“there was a meeting regarding safety” and he “recalled how it was decided it
was impractical to carry firearms around …Ward said [his] friend's [Dalu]
views on weapons were clear. "He said if you needed to take something in to
protect yourself you probably shouldn't be there, Ward said. "He was quite
clear on that."
Ferreira alleged that Patricia Busch “told staff not to enter enclosures when
inspectors were there, and to lie about any injuries they may have received
from the animals” [this was denied by Patricia Busch on the second day of the
inquest], and that Craig Busch “was threatening the Zimbabwean over his
immigration status” at the time of the incident. According to Patricia Busch,
"Craig accused Dalu of stealing his life and he replied by saying the fact I
turned out better than you is not my fault.”
“…Mrs Busch said it was sad to see the deterioration of their relationship.
Despite being dismissed from his beloved role as operator of the park in
2008, Mr Busch was living onsite. Two weeks before Mr Mncube’s death, he
was showing a photographer around the park when they were approached by
“Morale among staff before Mr Mncube's death was low with Craig Busch –
known as The Lion Man – threatening the Zimbabwean with deportation,
[Ferreira] said. “It wasn't a nice time to work at the park when all the politics
were going on – the cats were stressed out in the mornings,” he said.
“Craig would move around the cats at night and staff didn't feel safe because
we didn't know what he was up to.”
“[Ward] said [Craig] Busch organised the construction of an enclosure in the
native bush at the park but allowed the white tigers in there too early for them
to build a lock off area. Mncube asked him how handlers were supposed to
clean the pen. "That's your problem now," Busch is reported to have said.”
(TVNZ online report 1 October 2012, other reports from 2 and 3 October in
NZ Herald, Stuff.co.nz, and TVNZ)
Despite any background concerns Dalu may have had regarding his
immigration and residency status, Patricia Busch testified that “…she did not
think Mr MnCube's mood reflected on Abu's behaviour before his death.
On the day Mr MnCube died, Mrs Busch said he was "on top of the world"
after giving his partner Sharon Arnott a lovely dinner the previous night.”
(Northern Advocate 3 October 2012)
This was contradicted by Sharon Arnott in her testimony on 3 October.
“Sharon Arnott says her fiance Clifford Dalu MnCube was over-worked and
stressed while working at Zion Wildlife Gardens. She says he went months
working six days a week and was often called into work on his days off. She
says MnCube was told because of finances, the park couldn't hire any more
staff and if he didn't do the work, he would be deported back to South Africa.
Ms Arnott also says he regularly came home with bites to his hands and legs
caused by the animals, and one time he had large puncture wounds to his
calf muscle and was told by the park's former owners Craig and Patricia
Busch to say he was bitten by dogs.”
(Newstalk ZB, 3 October 2012)
She felt that both Craig and Patricia Busch put pressure on Dalu. “Away from
work Mr Mncube told Ms Arnott the current staff were not quite up to the task
and he needed a capable “back-up man”. But when he took his request to
park director Patricia Busch, she told him there were no available funds. Mr
Mncube had a valid work permit but was in the country on a false passport, a
fact that was known to both Busch and the former operator of the park, her
son "Lion Man" Craig Busch. “His position was he did as he was told and if he
didn't he would be deported,” Ms Arnott's counsel Juliet Golightly said …
Immigration had been in touch with Mr Mncube in the weeks leading up to his
death and it is understood he thought he would be deported. However, he did
not tell Ms Arnott of his fears.”
(Stuff.co.nz, 3 October 2012)
“Mr Ferreira said on the day of the fatal mauling, he and Mr MnCube had
given a group of foreign tourists interaction with a young big cat, then went to
clean the enclosure where Abu and a female, Rewa, were living. The inquest
heard that Abu came out of his den and grabbed Mr MnCube by the leg.
Despite being hit, Abu did not let go. Mr Ferreira joined in, and hit and
punched the nose of the tiger. Abu dragged Mr MnCube half way into his den
as the cat handler called for help. Mr Ferreira said he called for a fire
extinguisher which was used to squirt the tiger through the rear of the den.
The tiger re‐emerged, this time dragging Mr MnCube by the back of the
shoulder. He was dragged along the fence line of the enclosure and mauled.
Mr Ferreira said he was now hitting Abu with a stick and cattle prod ‐ to no
effect. The inquest heard Abu then bit into Mr MnCube's head and crushed it.
The tiger was shot and MnCube was pulled from the enclosure.
(NZ Herald, 1 October 2012)
The staff member who retrieved and used the cattle prod on the day was
actually identified during the inquest (3 October) not as Ferreira but Andrew
Ward, first employed as a builder at the park in 2004. He was also given
responsibility of retrieving the firearms as needed. Ward “said it was his
responsibility to retrieve the cattle prod or firearms during a "code red"
scenario. When he heard screams across the park he grabbed the cattle prod
from the lock up and approached the enclosure were he saw Mncube's
lifeless body in the jaws of the adult male tiger. Martin Ferreira, another
handler who was inside urged him to "zap" the cat but Ward said Abu just
absorbed the shock and even took a second blast before dragging the victim's
body away from the fence line. Ward returned to the lock up and grabbed a
shotgun and waited until the cat was just metres from him before pulling the
trigger… He shot it three times but the tiger seemed unhurt and retreated to a
rock. Eventually Ward was able to drive a ute into the pen and with Ferreira's
help, loaded Mncube's body into the back before taking it to the park's
entrance where they met an ambulance.”
(Stuff.co.nz, 3 October 2012)
“Mr Ward said he was felling trees not far from the enclosure when he heard
somebody yelling for a cattle prod to be taken to the enclosure... the tiger was
so powerful it took up to 10 shots to kill it, up to seven shots while it was
attacking Mr MnCube and another three or four after his prone body was
pulled from the big cat's enclosure…Mr Ward said a 4X4 was then backed
into the enclosure, but its path was blocked by a log and as Megan Busch,
daughter of then park owner Patricia Busch, was trying to move the log Abu
went for her. He said he had to pull Ms Busch out of the way to prevent the
tiger getting her and the cat reached the gate moments after he closed it.
Abu was then forced away with a fire extinguisher and Mr MnCube's body
recovered and taken to an ambulance that had arrived at the park's front
gates, but he was dead by that time. Mr Ward said he then went back to the
enclosure and Abu was still alive so up to four shots from a rifle were then
needed to finally kill the tiger.”
(Northern Advocate 3 October 2012)
Going by the reports of Ferreira’s testimony, he contradicted himself in terms
of the safety procedures in place at the park under the management of Glen
Holland as licensed operator. He was said to have testified at one point “that
Zion had a safety manual in place in terms of securing big cats but said the
practice ceased between February and May 2009,” yet:
… prior to Mr MnCube's death, Mr Ferreira said it was a norm to lock Abu
away but it was not done on that fateful day. He asked Mr MnCube prior to
entering the enclosure whether Abu had been locked away. "He (Mr MnCube)
answered me like I know what I am doing,'' Mr Ferreira said. He said he took
Mr MnCube's word for it. (Northern Advocate, 2 October 2012) [Bolding mine.]
Patricia Busch said that she had discussed “matters pertaining to risks” with
Dalu, but “said she did not tell him not to enter Abu's enclosure without first
locking Abu up.” (Northern Advocate, 2 October 2012) [Short of viewing the
transcript of the actual testimony to find out what Patricia Busch said at the
hearing, this sounds like Patricia is underlining that Dalu, in her opinion, knew
what he was doing at the time, as head handler at the park.] Ferreira testified
(according to the news reports) that “all other staff had been instructed to lock
the tiger away and Mncube was the only one who was allowed to do it
differently.” (TVNZ report, 2 October 2012)
“The culture in the park was absolutely hands on. We didn’t lock the cats
away . . . that was why it was unique worldwide,” Mr Holland said.
(Stuff.co.nz, 2 October 2012)
Ferreira was cross examined by Juliet Golightly, counsel for Mncube’s fiancée
Sharon Arnott, during which Ferreira stated that there were no training
protocols at the park at the time. “Mr Ferreira said he did not receive any
written information when he started at the park and instead learned by
following Mr Mncube around.” (Stuff.co.nz, 2 October 2012)
Glen Holland’s testimony as reported conflicted with that by Ferreira.
“Former park operator Glen Holland, who has 30 years experience in wildlife
management, said he was shocked by the lack of policies and protocols when
he arrived at the park and he only took the job on because the staff were so
upbeat. “The park manual [written by Craig Busch] seemed to be made up
and only there to keep MAF happy,” he said. He told the court he quickly
rewrote it and began implementing more robust safety procedures, such as
having two handlers in an enclosure at any time. Mr Holland said he was
horrified when he first arrived at the park and saw Mr Mncube cleaning out an
enclosure, surrounded by four big cats, alone with no radio.”
(Stuff.co.nz, 2 October 2012)
Sharon Arnott’s reported testimony appeared to underline Holland’s
impressions of the park’s shortfalls in safety and training procedures during
the period when Craig Busch was the licensed operator. Arnott met Dalu in
2007, she said, “and shortly afterwards asked to see the wildlife park to allay
her fears. However, her visit only amplified them. Mr Mncube asked her to be
his lookout while he cleaned out an enclosure containing four lions. When Ms
Arnott asked him what to do in an emergency he told her she should use a
fire extinguisher to scare the lion, but she pointed out the nearest one was
inside a nearby pen. Instead he suggested she run her hand along the fence
to make a noise to distract any potential attacks. “It's really amazing nothing
happened sooner,” she told the court.”
(Stuff.co.nz, 3 October 2012)
Patricia Busch raised the possibility that the tiger Abu involved in the fatal
incident may have been influenced by past events at the park.
She says the previous year, the tiger Abu had become unsettled because her
son Craig Busch had moved it several times. Mrs Busch says it had become
trapped in a smaller enclosure and was threatening to break free when
MnCube stepped in. "He'd gone round there, heard the commotion, and with
his tone of voice and the fire extinguisher, he held the tiger back. It was very
dangerous and could have been a tragedy right then." Patricia Busch says
that marked the beginning of the tiger's change in temperament.”
(Newstalk ZB report 2 October 2012)
[According to Patricia Busch] “…Craig Busch's actions in dismantling animal
enclosures and moving them elsewhere changed the psyche of a tiger that
later killed big cat handler Dalu MnCube …Mrs Busch said in the months
before the attack, and at her request, contractors built lockout panels as
a safety measure for ease of cleaning the big cats' enclosures. But, she said,
her son took an excavator one weekend and started moving the panels which
signalled the beginning of a change in behaviour of Abu. "Abu, apparently
panel-jammed, was threatening and wanting to come out and Craig and his
partner were there," she said yesterday. She said Abu was acting threatening
and wanting to come out when Craig and his partner were working on a
jammed panel. "Dalu had been in my office with some other men and then
he'd gone around, heard the commotion and he got his fire extinguisher and
held the tiger back while they freed up the panel. And so all was well but it
was very dangerous and could have been a tragedy right there. "But it was
the beginning of the tiger being put under some sort of a dominance or a
threat or however a tiger might view it. I don't know the psyche of a tiger but
I'd imagine he'd feel dominated or threatened in some way."
(Northern Advocate 3 October 2012)
The issue of the park management over time failing to advise MAF of
incidents involving the animals and either staff of the public over time, or
containment breaches, was raised “ … management failed to tell the then
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of several incidents. These included a boy
being bitten by a lion cub and requiring hospital care, a cheetah escaping in
2011, and a fence being blown down which led to a lion escaping. The park
was being operated by Craig Busch and then later his mother Patricia, when
these incidents happened.” (Newstalk ZB report, 2 October 2012)
From Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) reports online:
A three year old child was scratched on the leg by a lion cub at the Zion
Wildlife Gardens, January 2007.
This case was that of Ethan Hughes, three years old when he was injured by
a year-old lion cub at the park.
“In 2006 his dad was diagnosed with a brain tumour and told he had less than
a year to live, so he treated the family to a special day at the Zion Wildlife
Park. Ethan's mum and older brother signed up to pat the lions, filling out a
safety waiver. But then the zoo handler, Dalu Mncube, asked if Ethan wanted
to pat a cub. Ethan tried but was scared, and asked his dad to pick him up.
“The cub swung around and grabbed Ethan with his frontpaws and pulled him
to the ground,” says mother Nicola Hughes … His dad didn't want to pull back
too hard, fearing Ethan would lose his leg, so instead he crouched over his
son while Mr Mncube and two co-workers – one armed with a spade –
dragged the one-year-old lion away. “I turned around, dropped everything,
dove in and punched this thing in the mouth,” says Ms Hughes. “I got a tooth
in my hand. But I just kept punching it.” Ethan, oozing blood and flesh from
his legs, was admitted to hospital and underwent surgery … She wanted to
speak out back then but her husband said no. He didn't want to hurt the
popular Lion Man's image. Peter Hughes eventually died in May 2009, a day
after Mr Mncube was mauled to death by a tiger at the park. Craig Busch is
now back working there, and Ms Hughes says that also makes her angry. “It
angers me knowing that he is back at the park and he's doing it all again, he
just doesn't care.”
(3News online, 4 October 2012)
From Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) reports online:
A young girl was petting ‘Foxy’ a female baboon at Zion Wildlife Gardens
when the animal put the girl’s hand in her mouth then let go. October 2008.
A keeper was bitten by a tiger at Zion Wildlife Gardens. The animal was being
moved down a race to a new enclosure. Following an altercation with an
adjacent pride of lions the tiger was startled after bumping into a fence and bit
the keeper. February 2009.
A keeper was mauled and killed by a tiger at Zion Wildlife Gardens. Two staff
members were cleaning the enclosure when the keeper was attacked. The
enclosure had a separation area to isolate the tiger, which was not used by
the staff. May 2009.
In 2007 the then zoo operator of Zion Wildlife Gardens took acquaintances
into an enclosure for an unofficial encounter with five young lions and tigers. A
12 year old boy was attacked by one of the lions.
A zookeeper at Zion Wildlife Gardens was scratched on the lower arm by a
tiger cub. Three cubs had been taken to a stream for an enrichment exercise
and on exiting the stream the cub had grabbed the keeper. August 2009
“Specialist adviser [to MAF] Howard Hamilton said there had been five animal
attacks since January 2007 on either park staff or the public before Mr
MnCube's death in May 2009. The ministry was not informed about a staff
member being bitten in January 2007 until June 2009.”
(NZ Herald, 5 October 2012)
On 4 October, as the coroner’s hearing was drawing to a close, Dr Barry
Wards, specialist adviser to the then Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries at
the time of Dalu’s death, testified “that the political backlash from supporters
of Lion Man Craig Busch after he was sacked from the park reached the very
top of Government, including Prime Minister John Key. The ministry
determined that based on the level of support Mr Busch had, revoking the
park's operating licence would seriously harm New Zealand's international
reputation… Dr Wards was questioned extensively by Anthony Jackson,
lawyer for Mr MnCube's partner Sharon Arnott, on the ministry's concerns
about safety and actions it took to remedy the situation. He said closing the
park would have put the welfare of 40 big cats at risk… The view of [Craig
Busch’s] supporters, he said, was that Mr Busch was being removed from the
animals he reared. "If that decision [to close the park] was made, there would
have been an outcry ... directed at the ministry.”
(NZ Herald 5 October 2012)
[An astonishing thing for any NZ government department to state in testimony
at an inquest; that a decision to keep a wildlife facility open, one with a long
and complex history of accidents, incidents, financial woes, family feuding
and doubts as to the value of the animals within in terms of conservation,
hinged upon what members of an internet site thought. Members which
mostly come from the United Kingdom, and number most likely (regular
contributors and viewers) to little more than 2,000. As a born and bred NZ
citizen and taxpayer, I was appalled. The statement appears to have been
welcomed by Jill Albrow on her NZ Lionman page on Facebook, 16 October,
when a long comment appeared purportedly authored by her, making an
appeal for Craig Busch to be allowed to have “hands on” at the park once
again, despite New Zealand regulation against the practice for safety reasons
since Dalu’s death. Perhaps to see if the thoughts and opinions of 2000
internet users can influence the procedures and policies of New Zealand
government departments once again.]
From around the beginning of the month, Jill Albrow shut down the part of the
NZ Lionman Facebook page which allowed the page’s members to post their
own threads, restricting the page solely to administrator posts.
November 6: “The sun came out for our special VIP Farmers event which we
held on Tuesday 6th November. Almost 200 local farmers, their workers and
families attended the special day we arranged to say a huge thank you from
Craig, to everyone who supports the big cats by donating livestock.” (NZ
Lionman Facebook page)
Craig Busch’s lawyer Noel King announces to the media that mediation talks
with Patricia Busch had broken down, and that all outstanding matters would
head back to the courts. According to him, views expressed by Patricia to the
Herald on Sunday (published 28 October) regarding apparent mistakes (in her
opinion) made by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in issuing his zoo
operator's licence in the 1990s for the Kerikeri zoo, along with revelations that
animal trainers in America had opposed the granting of the licence, had
“made it clear that mediation would not work”. (NZ Herald, 11 November
Jill Albrow had already signalled in late October that the Herald on Sunday
article and Patricia’s comments could end the mediation process.
“Albrow says the disputes between Craig and his mother have been subject
to a mediation process at the High Court. "Agreement could have been
possible next week," she says. "Why Mrs Busch has chosen at this time to
send unsubstantiated photographs and letters to the media at this time is
incomprehensible. But it has shown that agreement with Mrs Busch will never
be possible and has destroyed this settlement process." Craig will respond
once that process is discontinued and the Coroner's report on McCube's
death released, she said.”
(Herald on Sunday, 28 October 2012)
November 14: The “Barbary” lions of Zion
Both Zion Wildlife Gardens and Kingdom of Lion have made much of the fact
that, supposedly, the stock of tawny lions at the park are examples of the
Barbary sub-species of lion, long since extinct in the wild. This is from a post
made by Liz Clark at the “Just Say It” Facebook page:
“I was just thinking about old Samson the father of the wild pride and
the others at Zion today. He was from Tony's circus as I recall. I
had a read of Tony's book "The Elephant Man" it's his story of
his circus. Turns out that Samson doesn't appear to be a so
called Barbary Lion. Tony gave his sources where he obtained
his lions from. The first two he obtained were from Wellington
Zoo - they were African Lions. He also had some from Orana in
Christchurch. He started a Lion park in Mystery Creek in 1970
the rest of his Lions were obtained from Bullens Lion Safari
Park in Australia. Also African Lions. These Lions were sent to
Paradise Valley Springs who on their website say:
"African Lions were first introduced to Paradise Valley Springs
in the 1970s. The founding members of our current pride were
retired circus Lions, born in Australia. We have been breeding
Lions for over 20 years, and all of our Lions have been born at
Paradise. Some former cubs and members of the pride have
been donated to other Wildlife Parks and Zoos throughout New
Zealand and to Australia."
“Shania was born at Paradise Valley Springs in 1994 which means she is also
an African Lion, so how can Lions change their subspecies from Sub Saharan
Panthera leo to Pathera leo leo? They can't.”
I asked Liz to make this entry into Paw Prints:
“The foundation pair Samson and Shania were born at Paradise Valley
Springs Wildlife Park, Rotorua. Both are recorded as African lion (Panthera
leo) with possible Barbary (Panther leo leo) traits. Paradise Valley do not
make any claim that their lion stock is Barbary lion or has any descent from
Barbary lion lineage. In order to ascertain any type of genetic lineage to
Barbary subspecies mitochondrial DNA tests would be needed.” (Entry by Liz
Clark, 18 November 2012)
“On 10th December 2012 an application for putting EARTH CREST
LIMITED (c/o KINGDOM OF ZION, Gray Rd, Kamo) into
liquidation by the High Court was filed in the High Court at
Tauranga. Its reference number is CIV-2012- 470-001033. The
application is to be heard before the High Court at Tauranga on
24th April 2013 at 10:45 am.” (Public notice, published NZ
Herald 28 March 2013.)
As at December 2012, Earth Crest was the official operator for Kingdom of
Zion. On 6 December 2012 Dean George Abel joined Suzanne Eisenhut as
co-director, but on 18 February he ceased to be a director, leaving Eisenhut
as sole director. She was also left as sole shareholder – M Trustees Limited,
(sole director Ian Stevenson who is also co-director of Zion Wildlife Kingdom)
ceased to be a shareholder as at 30 October 2012.
At some point during February, Craig Busch returned to the park after an
absence since at most late August the previous year. There was some
conjecture on the Zoo Chat messageboard that he had left again around early
March for South Africa.
At some point in 2012, Shania the matriarch African lion died. The Ministry of
Primary Industries advised in a letter to Rawson J Bradley (8 April 2013 -http://www.scribd.com/doc/134848638/Death-of-Shania) that they had been
informed of her death in December 2012, but that they did not know the exact
date of death. “… this information will be recorded in the register of zoo
animals he;ld by the Kingdom of Zion.” Kingdom of Zion issued an update on
the park on 23 March 2013, and referred to Shania’s death along with those of
the servals Zoe and Silas. A memorial post was put up on the NZ Lionman
Facebook page on the evening of 25 March, but the date of Shania’s death
was not disclosed. According to Jill Allbrow, Shania was buried by Craig
Busch in a designated graveyard. Given the time difference between
December, when MPI were advised of Shania’s death, and February, when
Craig Busch returned to the park – it is likely that her body was frozen until the
time of burial.
At the same time, over the course of the two days between the announcement
of Shania’s death via the KoZ update and the memorial post two days later,
Jill Allbrow advised that the remains of Foxy the baboon had been disinterred
from her grave in the grounds and reinterred in the same graveyard, and that
the administration were looking for the remains of Abu, Shia and Sita to do the
In a response dated 8 April to an Official Information Act request by Rawson J
Bradley, MPI stated that they were not aware of the exact date of Shania’s
death, but “MPI was advised of the death of Sharnia [sic] in December 2012”.
This means that until February 2013 when Craig Busch returned briefly to the
park, Shania’s remains were apparently left in storage, as Jill Allbrow stated
publicly on the NZ Lionman Facebook page that she was buried by him. See
also circumstances after the deaths of Khan and Samson, where freezer
storage was utilised while waiting for a convenient time to film burials.
Tauranga business consultant Sam Bailey applied to the Tauranga High Court
registry for the liquidation of Earth Crest Ltd. A disputed facts hearing was set
for 21 May. Bailey’s application later failed.
Sightings of Craig Bush in the United Kingdom at Uxbridge were reported on
the NZ Lionman Facebook page. Speculation began as to what enterprise he
may be involved with in that country.
“The mother of Lion Man Craig Busch has lost everything after a finance
company called in her debt, forcing her out of her home. Patricia and her
daughter Megan were told to leave their once-freehold 25ha Karapiro farm on
Tuesday. The property was also home to their six horses, four cats and two
dogs. Patricia Busch said she hadn't been able to meet her payments on
loans to help keep Whangarei lion park Zion Wildlife Gardens - now called
Kingdom of Zion - open.” http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?
“Lion Man Craig Busch has been ordered to pay Whangarei lawyer Wayne
Peters more than $90,000 for legal work carried out in 2008.
“In a judgment released by Judge John McDonald after a hearing in August,
Mr Busch - who shot to international fame as star of the TV programme The
Lion Man - was ordered to pay Mr Peters $86,351.47 for the legal work
carried out when Mr Busch was in a dispute with his mother Patricia Busch.
Mr Busch was also ordered to pay interest on that amount at 5 per cent from
May 20, 2009; and costs and disbursements of $3617.28.” (Northern
Advocate 9 November 2013)
A change of directors for Zion Wildlife Kingdom Limited, the owners of the
park at Kamo, to which Kingdom of Zion pay their lease. The new directors
now Murray John Bolton and Robyn Jo-anne Bolton, replacing Tracey Beth
McVerry and Ian Stevenson. (Companies Office)
Murray Bolton is chairman of Bolton Equities, a private investment company.
Ian Stevenson had earlier (November 2013) been struck off the register of the
NZ Institute of Chartered Accountants and ordered to pay $60,000 after a
disciplinary hearing in October.
An announcement from the NZ Lionman Facebook page on 1 May that Jill
Allbrow/Ward is no longer the administrator of the page, after five years. An
unnamed person replaces her as Admin.
13 May – case heard regarding a setting-aside application by Wildlife Pictures
in relation to a statutory demand of $21,000 made by Craig Busch on the
company. Judgement was made in favour of Wildlife Pictures, with the
demand set aside. The demand was originally served 5 July 2012.
Rumours online from the third week of the month that the park was closed to
the public proved correct when it was revealed on the Just Say It page that
the Ministry of Primary Industries had ordered the closure. (Communication
between MPI and Liz Clark, 18 July).
On 27 July, Sunday News reported the following:
While overseas fans enjoy new TV show The Lion Man: African Safari, gates
have been locked to the public at the big cat park that was the scene for
much of the filming of Craig Busch's earlier reality series The Lion Man. The
Ministry of Primary Industries - the Government department charged with
overseeing safety and welfare standards and operating practices at New
Zealand zoos - confirmed to Sunday News it had "ordered" the closure of the
Kingdom of Zion to the general public.
"MPI is responsible for approving zoo containment facilities and their
operators and auditing them to ensure the requirements of the approvals are
met on an ongoing basis," the ministry's director, verification services, Chris
Kebbell told Sunday News. "Part of these responsibilities is to ensure that the
animal enclosures meet approval requirements. MPI ordered the facility to be
closed to visitors while work is undertaken around upgrading of the closures."
Kebbell said the forced closure of the Kingdom of Zion would remain in effect
until at least Thursday, when the "closure order will be reviewed" when
officials return to the popular tourist attraction, on the outskirts of Whangarei.
Busch, who in 2012 was contracted to care for the big cats and run interactive
tours for visitors at the Kingdom of Zion, did not return messages from
Sunday News. Busch's partner, Suzanne Eisenhut - listed as the Kingdom of
Zion's director - also did not return messages from Sunday News. The park's
website has an online tool offering tours from August 1.
On 11 July Selina McMinn is appointed as director of the Busch Wildlife
Foundation Ltd, replacing Suzanne Eisenhut (director from November 2013).
McMinn is also co-shareholder with Craig Busch for the total 10,000 shares of
the company. (Companies Office records)
“New Zealand's controversial Lion Man has drawn criticism for opening a new
wildlife park near Rustenburg in South Africa. Craig Busch has opened the
Jabula Big Cat Sanctuary, much to the concern of the conservation
community, the New Zealand Herald reports.
“Fred Berrange from the Leopard Conservation Park says Mr Busch is not into
conservation and more into self-promotion and money making.Mr Berrange
worked with Mr Busch on Lion Man: One World while it was filmed in South
Africa and found Mr Busch's methods did not meet the country's conservation
standards.The new parks star lion, Jabula, has been with Mr Busch since he
was a cub, according to Mr Berrange.
"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 said.
TV 3 Newshub.
“A war of words has broken out between big cat conservationists, with Lion
Man Craig Busch hitting back at South African critics who claimed he abused
his animals. Mr Busch has accused his critics of being jealous of his fame,
and engaging in a smear campaign against him, as well as accusing one of
cruelty to animals. It followed allegations last week in which he was accused
of not being interested in conservation, but self-promotion and "making money
out of it at the cost of animals", by South African conservationist Fred
“Mr Busch has opened a new wildlife park near Rustenburg, about 115km
west of Pretoria, called Jabula Big Cat Sanctuary. Mr Berrange, of the
Leopard Conservation Park, worked with Mr Busch on Lion Man: One World,
which was filmed in South Africa. He said he witnessed Mr Busch beating his
star lion Jabula as a cub …
“But Mr Busch has denied such abuse, saying it is "very untrue".
"My animals are the happiest animals you will ever see on this planet, and
when you see them you can not fault that," he said in an email statement to
NZME. News Service.”
“A head keeper is among three new staff hired by the revamped Kamo Wildlife
Sanctuary as the park gears up for opening in summer. Vanessa Rowe,
former zoo keeper at Hamilton Zoo, will lead the charge in the sanctuary formerly known as Zion Wildlife Gardens and run by Lionman Craig Busch.
She worked with mainly carnivores and primates in Hamilton and will be
joined by two more keepers who have been hired by the sanctuary.
“Educating zoo visitors about how to prevent animals from becoming extinct
and syringe-feeding baby red panda triplets milk formula when their mother
could not produce enough milk were among tasks Ms Rowe did in Hamilton.
Martin Weekes, a director of Bolton Equities that bought Zion Wildlife Gardens
early last year, said Ms Rowe was an experienced and knowledgeable zoo
keeper as were other new staff.
"We are really gearing up for the opening," he said.
“Remedial work, he said, was progressing well and with fine weather he
hoped for a summer opening.”
A lion at the Zion Wildlife Kingdom had to be put down after vets could not
discover what was wrong with the animal. Under the operator's licence issued
by the Ministry of Primary Industries, park operators are not required to inform
the ministry if they are planning to euthanise an animal.
Martin Weekes, a director of Bolton Equities that bought the business in early
2014, said people needed to understand animals in the enclosures were
getting old and would have issues in future. He said a tiger which had a lump
in an eye was recently operated on and was expected to make a full recovery,
while the lion was put down in the past few weeks.
"When an animal becomes sick, as was the case with this lion, we run blood
tests, urine tests and the animal just wouldn't eat and becomes more sick. "If
you can't find out what happened to it, do you let it suffer or you do the most
humane thing and put it down? Some were declawed by Craig (Busch, former
operator) and they'll have difficulty walking properly and can't climb as it puts
pressure on their feet," he said. Mr Martin said park staff would have to keep
an eye out on the health of de-clawed cats in future. …
“The park's reopening has been further delayed as upgrading has still not
been completed. Mr Weeks earlier hinted the reopening would be some time
in the New Year. The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) first ordered the
park closed to the public between July 1 and July 31, 2014, while the animal
enclosures were upgraded to meet new standards. MPI then extended the
closure until August 31 but the upgrading still has not been completed.
“Mr Weekes said most of the upgrades had been finished, except six new
enclosures. There was slight delay in the construction of the new areas as the
park management and the new keepers were taking another look at their
designs. The new enclosures are not requirements set by the MPI, but are
needed by the park for more space.”
Carte Blanche, a South African investigative journalism television programme,
included a segment on Craig Busch’s activities in that country. They asked “Is
Craig Busch the animal lover he claims to be?”
They described that in 2010 Busch left New Zealand and “soon after bought
himself a farm in Africa,” named the Jabula Big Cat Sanctuary (JBCS), home
to his cheetahs, giraffe, tigers and lions.
Fred Berangé of the Leopard Conservation Project was interviewed. The
programme described how he and Busch began filming a television series.
Busch was accompanied by Jabula, then 8 months old. According to Berangé,
“I never saw affection for Jabula while we were filming. He would always be
bullying him, to try and get the shot … It’s about him and his fame, it was all it
was ever about.” According to Berangé, Busch kept asking him to capture a
baby leopard, “so he could rear it the way he was doing Jabula.” Their
agreement collapsed when funds were allegedly diverted by a donor from a
leopard collar project to Busch’s own projects. The final straw was when
Berangé saw Busch beating Jabula with a stick “to watch television. Jabula
was on his back snarling and grunting and Craig just wouldn’t stop and he
kept jerking him and hitting him, so that he could watch television.”
Then the programme talked about Zenda, a young giraffe at the JBCS. She
was born on the farm, but when only a few hours old Busch and a neighbour’s
son removed her from her mother. Francisco Garcia, a witness to this, told
Carte Blanche that he was sworn to secrecy, and to tell anyone who asked
that Zenda’s mother had “pushed it away.” In his Animal Planet series, Busch
dramatised finding Zenda in the bush as an abandoned giraffe, and capturing
her with a lead. An eye witness to the film shoot told Carte Blanche: “I thought
Zenda and the lead was awful. They wanted to create catching the baby
giraffe on film, so they dragged her down into the bush with the lead, I was
there as well. We spent about half a day doing this, Zenda always trying to
run off – at one point, she was getting so badly choked she dropped down to
the ground, she wasn’t fit to raise her head. She was still breathing but I
thought she was a goner I am sure, so did everyone else. She had to rest for
about an hour.”
In October 2015, one of Busch’s lionesses Shia gave birth to four male lion
cubs, but shortly afterwards Busch removed the cubs, calling it “standard
practice.” According to Busch (from a clip used from his Animal Planet series)
“Cubs do better if you hand raise them in captivity.” Carte Blanche sent in
researchers undercover to JBCS. They remarked that he has an “odd way” in
disciplining his animals, but when guests arrive it all looks above board.
Theo Potgieter and his wife Marleen worked at the park for a time, initially
thinking Busch was “an amazing human being, looking after animals, always
putting them first and never himself. Once we started working there, we
immediately saw totally a different thing, coming out his house at 12 o’clock in
the afternoon, only waking up …” They saw Busch force a young female lion
cub Thembi to interact with his cheetahs and learn to walk on a lead, dragging
her often on the leash. When one day Thembi caught and killed a chicken,
Busch started kicking her. The Potgieters left disillusioned, Marleen telling
Carte Blanche that she can’t watch reality shows on TV anymore “because it’s
all a scam. And I hate what he’s doing to those lions.”
ZAR 1500 will buy a walk with Thembi, now a fully grown lioness. The
programme showed footage of Busch dragging Thembi along the ground.
Steven Kelly witnessed Busch dragging Thembi around the farm. Kelly has an
interim harassment order placed against him, after he sent a series of
unpleasant messages to Busch. Kelly described Busch going in with the cats
after drinking, “and prove that he’s the Lion Man. But everything he’d tried to
teach me, he was directly contradicting himself.”
The programme revealed Busch’s criminal record in New Zealand – from
dangerous driving in August 1981, through to assaults on women in 1991 and
2007. Busch refused to come on camera, but was interviewed over the phone.
He denied treating his lions badly.
The farm the sanctuary is on doesn’t belong to Busch. Around 2011, he
agreed to pay the owner, Tinus Rautenbach 4.5 million rand for the property,
with a deposit of 1 million rand, and the balance up to 5 months later. Busch is
apparently involved in litigation to do with a “substantial” counterclaim against
Rautenbach. But Rautenbach still has the deeds to the property, and
cancelled the contract with Busch in 2014. He is however unable to access
In a legal letter to Carte Blanche, Busch said he would never abuse his
animals as that would jeopardise his own safety. He denied putting any
animals at risk during filming, and denied any misappropriation of funds raised
A South African digital media outlet called 24.com, using their travel-based
page Traveller24, published an article on 8 September entitled “Controversial
Lion Man lodges BCCSA complaint for Carte Blanche exposé.”
“Busch laid the official complaint denying the allegations. He attributes the
accusations to his own mother, Patricia Busch, saying she is "the mastermind
behind a smear campaign to tarnish his reputation". Following the
complaint, Carte Blanche has taken the video from their site … Now, Busch
has laid the complaint with the BCCSA. He says "Carte Blanche interviewed
two former employees who had their wages paid by Robyn Bolton of Kamo
Wildlife Sanctuary in New Zealand (a business associate of Patricia).
"Incidentally, the people interviewed on the show, were asked to leave the
park in 2014 due their laziness and for having sexual intercourse with an UK
guest at the park," the media statement reads.
Before the show aired, Carte Blanche sent undercover reporters to Busch’s
park to investigate the claims made by the interviewees. The reporters
booked to go on a lion walk with a white lioness. But Busch says, "They
agitated the lioness by continuing to laugh and giggle loudly, even after I
asked them to be quiet. They also took footage of a lion after signing an
indemnity form stating that they will not take video footage," Busch says.
The footage showed him dragging the animal by the rope. His statement
justifies his actions saying, "what the viewers saw was Busch trying to get the
lion back to her camp as quickly as possible to avoid an incident. “I took the
right and only actions for the situation after what these two undercover people
had caused,” Busch says.
Busch maintains his mother, Patricia Busch, who has been in a battle with
him for several years, tried to take control of his career by the use of false
contracts that were never abided to by herself.
“She has a lot to hide as various people on the Carte Blanche programme
have a direct association with the ring of people from New Zealand that stole
my many years of hard work and are still trying to steal my animals,” Busch
“Now she gets a few people to say that I am a monster that abuses wildlife
animals and that I am just after money. All the people interviewed on the
show, has ties with my mother – directly or indirectly. She is doing the very
same thing to media in New Zealand. She is rounding them up and using and
manipulating them against me.
“I have proof that a lot of the people interviewed on Carte Blanche are in
some illegal activities themselves. But I will expose these evidence when I
deem it necessary,” Busch says.
In response, an article appeared the following day (9 September) on the
“Carte Blanche stands by its story despite Lion Man 'smear campaign'.”
Carte Blanche has responded to a Broadcasting Complaints Commission of
South Africa (BCCSA) complaint lodged by the controversial Lion Man, Craig
Busch following its expose of alleged animal cruelty saying, “We once again
stand by our story and reject all his allegations with the contempt they
According to Carte Blanche the expose was based on reports that Busch is
“not the animal lover he claims to be”.
Joy Summers, Carte Blanche Investigative producer responded saying, “Mr
Craig Busch has decided to use Traveller24 in an attempt to discredit our
expose on himself and his operation even though, as he rightly says he has
laid a complaint at the BCCSA against Carte Blanche.”
“Mr Busch has every right to do so, but the complaint has not yet been heard
at the BCCSA and no findings have therefore been made. Carte Blanche
stands by its story and we believe that the evidence we present at the BCCSA
will stand up to scrutiny.”
In the statement announcing his BCCSA complaint Busch attributes the
accusations investigated by Carte Blanche to his mother, saying she is "the
mastermind behind a smear campaign to tarnish his reputation"
Summers says, “Mr Busch suggests that his mother Patricia Busch is
masterminding a smear campaign from New Zealand to discredit him. For the
record Carte Blanche has never spoken to Patricia Busch.”
There have been allegations that Busch declaws his cats, but Summers
disputed the statement made by Busch in the Traveller24 report which says,
“Carte Blanche showed footage of Busch abusing lions and tigers by hitting
them with canes and dragging them with ropes.”
Summers acknowledged that she did not want to go into too much detail due
to the BCCSA complaint made by Busch but says Carte Blanche’s report “did
not show Busch hitting tigers with canes or dragging them with ropes.”
“What we did reveal was how Craig Busch dragged his lion Tembi with a
leash during a walk with our two undercover researchers.”
“Carte Blanche will continue to expose without fear or favour. We will keep
our viewers informed of the outcome of this story in due course. In the interim,
while Craig Busch continues on his own smear campaign, we once again
stand by our story and reject all his allegations with the contempt they
Two days later (11 September), the Sunday Star-Times here in NZ published
an article, following on from the first two.
“Casandra Mac Donald, a national inspector for the South African SPCA,
confirmed she recently visited Jabula for a routine inspection, and there were
no grounds to launch an investigation.
"No contraventions of the Animals Protection Act were noted at the time of my
inspection," she said …
And Busch went into the “conspiracy” against him.
He maintained that his estranged mother, Patricia Busch who still lives in New
Zealand, and her colleagues are behind an alleged "smear campaign" against
him. Busch became emotional when asked whether he'll ever be able to
reconcile with his mother. "I've gone past the hurt stage, she's more than hurt
me. She's destroyed everything inside me. I'm ashamed of being her son."
Busch and his mother, Patricia Busch, have been embroiled in legal battles
over Zion Wildlife Park in Whangarei, north of Auckland. He said his five-year
contract comes to an end at the end of 2016 by which time he will decide
whether to buy back the park for $1.2 million. Busch said he believed that
"they" will try to stop him if he decides to buy back the park. "I have never
seen anything like this conspiracy. It has a criminal element to it. To live with
the amount of pain and suffering I've gone through, and to stay alive like I
have. Well, I think I have done alright so far. I'm still alive and they haven't
The journalist also interviewed Patricia Busch:
Patricia Bush said she had heard there had made negative comments about
her. "I haven't seen him for so long. It seems a pretty unusual sort of thing to
say. I have heard I'm being blamed for everything, but I can't say why, I don't
have anything to do with Craig," she said. "I'm an elderly person now, and I
was bankrupt because of all of this and so I really had my own issues to deal
with, with my changed circumstances and poor health.”
Of the alleged conspiracy, Patricia Busch said: "I think he needs to prove the
allegations if he's saying that."
Her son, however reiterated that there's nothing left for him in New Zealand
apart from his animals. He said he has been collecting evidence against the
people behind the alleged smear campaign and that he will act on this in the
near future. For the time being he will however focus on sanctuary in South
Africa, which remains open to the general public.
In a video attached to the Star-Times article, apparently filmed at Jabula
Sanctuary, Busch spoke about a contract agreement to buy back 55% of what
is apparently the Kamo park in Northland, his end coming to NZD$1.254M,
with a promised lease to him of $1 a year for the lifetimes of both him and the
cats. Names were not referred to, but he linked the allegations made by Carte
Blanche somehow with the contract agreement to buy back (in part) the Kamo
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