The Lion Man is facing a raft of cruelty allegations after being accused of separating a baby giraffe from its mother just hours after it was born.

In images screened by South African news show Carte Blanche, Craig Busch can be seen hauling the giraffe into a trailer, and then dragging it on a lead.

However Busch told the show he loves his animals and the show was part of a "smear campaign" against him.

The new claims follow allegations of abuse last year by others who worked at his farm, the Jabula Big Cat Sanctuary near Rustenburg, South Africa. His critics say is not the animal lover he purports to be, but is only in it for the fame and money.


Busch did not reply to messages from the Herald.

In the programme, worker Fransisco Garcia tells how when the baby giraffe, Zenda, was just a few hours old, Craig and another man went to capture it.

"Craig was all excited, arranged for the trailer, went to fetch the creature, brought it there to his house and he still said to me if anybody asks about the giraffe just tell them that the mother pushed it away," he said.

"And then immediately after that, he was on the phone telling the whole world he's got himself a giraffe."

Garcia said he didn't think it was right to take the animal away from its mother.

"The poor thing couldn't even stand on its feet yet."

Garcia's story is at odds with the way the incident was portrayed in Busch's own show, in which he said he rescued the baby giraffe from jackals after its mother abandoned it, and is shown lassoing the animal from the savannah.

An unnamed eyewitness told the programme, however, the filming was staged.

"Craig nearly killed the giraffe just to get his shots," the witness said. He described the event as "awful" with Zenda choking on the end of the lead and getting so exhausted she had to lie down for half an hour.

The show contained a raft of other allegations, all which Busch denied, including that he wanted to catch a baby leopard in the wild; that he hits his animals; and that he would go in the cages with his cats after drinking.

Some of the claims came from former worker Fred Berrange, who last year also spoke out saying Busch was only interested in self-promotion and "making money out of it at the cost of animals".

A legal letter outlined in the show said Busch denied placing animals at risk.

"I don't do that. I love my cats. I'm sick of smear campaigns," he said.

Busch rose to fame as New Zealand's Lion Man with a television series in 2004 based at Whangarei's Zion Wildlife Gardens.

In the decade since, there has been a lengthy and costly legal battle between Busch and his mother Patricia Busch over control of the park.

In May 2009, big-cat handler Dalubuhle Ncube, also known as Clifford Dalu Mncube, or Dalu, was mauled to death by a male tiger named Abu after he and another handler entered its enclosure to clean it.

The park was reopened and renamed the Kingdom of Zion in 2012. It has since changed hands and become the Kamo Wildlife Sanctuary, run by investment company Bolton Equities. It is currently closed for upgrade work to meet new rules around animal enclosures.

It is understood Busch moved between four and eight of the 34 big cats held at Kamo Wildlife Sanctuary to his new sanctuary in South Africa.