Animal Defenders International calls this poor animal the “world’s loneliest lion,” and his story will break your heart … but there is a happy ending to his tale.
It all started 15 years ago when Ruben the lion cub was born at a zoo in the Republic of Artsakh, near Armenia, ADI says. A wealthy businessman owned the zoo, but after the man’s death, the zoo shut down. All of the other animals were relocated to other zoos and rescue organizations, but there were no spaces available for the then 10-year-old Ruben.
As a result, the lion was kept confined in a concrete cell with no other lions.
“Ruben’s world fell silent, and his plaintive roars have gone unanswered for the past six years,” Jan Creamer, ADI’s president, wrote on her website on Aug. 11.
Here she is explaining the lion’s plight in a video that asks for donations to help Ruben get to a better place.
Since ADI funded his removal from the zoo, Ruben has been cared for in a bear sanctuary run by Armenia’s Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife & Cultural Assets.
Living in cramped isolation took its toll on Ruben. Over the years, Creamer reports, Ruben’s roars ceased, and he began only making a few piteous cries on occasion. He also suffered from malnutrition and a lack of exercise because he had little space to roam. He became unsteady on his feet and was suspected to have spinal and/or neurological issues.
Thankfully, Animal Defenders International was able to raise enough funding to move Ruben to the bear sanctuary at Armenia’s Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets. There, he was treated for medical issues and began his quarantine period so he could travel internationally and be relocated to a different zoo.
Finally, Ruben was given the all-clear to travel. He traveled 15 hours to South Africa via two donated flights on Qatar Airlines, arriving at the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary in Free State, South Africa on August 23. There, he stayed overnight with a vet, who examined him thoroughly and started creating a care plan for him.
There, for the first time in almost six years, Ruben was greeted by the sounds of other lions. And his days of concrete walls are over: The team at the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary built an enclosure with Ruben’s safety and well-being in mind.
Due to Ruben’s cataracts (he can’t see very well) and mobility issues (including an unsteady gait and an issue that causes his legs to suddenly fold underneath him), ADI wanted to make sure that Ruben’s new space would be accessible and secure for him. They built a habitat including gentle grass slopes, shallow steps, a viewing platform with guard rails and an easily accessible area of enrichment for him to enjoy. He even has a house with heated floors!
Here’s ADI’s video showing the creation of this habitat:
What did Ruben do on his first day of freedom? Well, what else would a cat do? He played with a giant bag of catnip and luxuriated in the sun.
Watch ADI’s touching video of Ruben arriving at this extra-special habitat below.:
And yes, this sweet boy finally got his roar back. In this short clip that ADI shared on YouTube, you can see Ruben take unsteady steps out of his house as he tries out his roar.
Although Ruben is finally back in a pride and enjoying a spacious habitat, he will have lifelong medical issues. You can support ADI and their work with Ruben by donating here.
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