We all love stories about wild animals, and you cannot deny that you haven’t watched documentaries as a kid on animals in the savannah. Nowadays, we learn more about them through stories shared online about giraffes, elephants and other magnificent beasts. Many of these stories are sad, with them losing their habitat or being rescued from circuses or poachers. This story comes with a wonderful ending, although it starts a little bit sad…
Almost a year ago, Saeed, the lion was rescued from a Zoo in Syria. After months of recovery, he is now ready to meet a friend!
The lion sanctuary in South Africa – LIONSROCK, and the animal advocacy group Four Paws International helped two lions got together last month. One of the big cats is Saeed, a lion who was rescued from Aleppo, Syria. The two-year-old cat had a very tough childhood, but thanks to his rescuers, he is now a happy and healthy animal!
19. TRAUMATIZED ANIMALS
Dr. Amir Khalil was the leader of his rescue mission and the Head of Project Development for Four Paws. In an interview with PEOPLE, he explained that Saeed was rescued from a war zone, meaning that the poor car was traumatized. However, after a year of rehabilitation, Saeed looks great. Here is what Dr. Khalil said…
18. SAEED IS NO LONGER SCARED
“He is touching grass for the first time in his life. He smells the African air. He hears other animals; he smells antelopes running outside and hears other lions roaring,” explained the doctor, adding that the sanctuary is not like a real savannah, but it’s better than a zoo.
Now Saeed’s psychological condition is better. What was wrong with the kitty?
17. ROYAL AMBASSADORS
The poor animal was traumatized by the sounds of bombs and explosions. As cars and airplanes passed close to the zoo, he got scared. But the past is now nearly forgotten, said Dr. Khalil:
[The trauma] is not finished yet, he has a long way to go, but I’m very glad to see he’s thankful for his care team…”
16. HELL ON EARTH
Now we have to find the correct partner for him, so he’s not lonely. Just like a human being likes to have a partner to share their life with,” added the doctor. Thankfully, Nala, a lioness rescued from an illegal circus breeder in France was going to become Saeed’s neighbor. What happened to Nala in France?
15. THE NEW NEIGHBOR
David van Gennep, the CEO of Animal Advocacy and Protection (AAP) said that for the lions bred by that man in France, “it was hell on earth.” Fortunately for her, AAP rescued and rehabilitated Nala in Spain and then she was sent to LIONSROCK.
Assuming Saeed was used to living with other lions in the zoo, things should go well…
14. NALA DIDN’T WANT TO LEAVE THE CRATE
Saeed showed signs that he needed company, explains Ioana Dungler, who is the Director of the Wild Animals Department at Four Paws. Dungler added that the two lions would be introduced slowly, and if they show interest, they will be moved into a shared enclosure.
As Nala arrived at the sanctuary in her crate, she was a bit scared…
13. WAIT AND SEE
According to the Head of Animal Welfare at LIONSROCK, Hildegard Pirker, these big cats need about three-six months and even a whole year to get used to the surroundings and the other big cats:
“We have seen that she’s extremely scared in the crate, that she might not even come out,” he said.
12. SHE IS USED TO PEOPLE
The expert explained that Nala’s behavior would soon be revealed as she decides to get out of the crate and into a small area: “The smaller area for us is better to control and to see her close up, to see how she reacts,” added Pirker. He also explained that she is used to people, but scared of the new things around her, and she is trying to hide in the crate for now…
11. FREE TO WANDER
If she doesn’t seem too stressed, they can release her in a bigger enclosure – everything is done in the animals’ best interest. The staff attached her crate to the drop gate and opened the door to her crate. She was free to get out but chose to spend a little time deciding whether to get out or not.
Then, she peeked her head out…
10. CHECKING THE LANDSCAPE
Tentatively, Nala surveyed the surroundings. From afar, Saeed already picked up her scent, as she was his neighbor now. She ventured out and ran directly into the indoor habitat. Saeed was already making his move by spraying his scent around his house, appearing quite satisfied!
9. SAEED WAS EXCITED
Elke Sammer, LIONSROCK animal behaviorist, said in the interview with PEOPLE that Saeed was very excited and that Nala went into a small habitat and can check out her neighbor on her window: “They each deserve a new friend and life partner.”
Thanks to the international support, these two would learn how to be lions together…
8. BECOMING LIONS
LIONSROCK Director and Country Director for Four Paws South Africa, Fiona Miles, explained that it’s not just about the rescuing, but also about having a lion socialized “with a lioness, and they both have similar personalities, and they’re so peaceful together, their companionship in the sun, for me, it’s a perfect example of seeing them strengthen and really become lions.”
7. GETTING TO KNOW EACH OTHER
Miles added that these cats need companionship to thrive. Fortunately, both Nala and Saeed have similar personalities and age, but they need to get to know each other. They just met, but will need six to eight months to complete their meetings before living in the same enclosure:
“We can’t put a timeframe on it, it’s really up to them.”
6. CATCHING THE SCENT
Both groups of lions need large enclosures, but the pairs need a smaller enclosure so that they socialize and smell each other. For now, these cats sniff each other through the fence, learn to communicate, and the staff can observe them and see when the two cats are ready to move together…
5. COMMUNICATING THROUGH THE FENCE
The first night Nala got her first night in a natural African habitat. The second day she looked very happy. Then, after five days, Saeed and Nala started to communicate through the fence, watching each other. According to Miles, the first stages of pairing two lions are closely watched by the staff. Is it a flirtatious welcoming they showed?
4. WELCOME PARTY!
“Normally, all the lions start roaring, it’s sort of a big welcome party,” says Miles. That evening, far away, lions roared at Nala, and she responded, roaring in unison. On the day she arrived, a group of local children visited the sanctuary to celebrate World Animal Day 2018.
3. ALL ABOUT HOPE
Miles says that Nala and Saeed’s relationship is “all about hope:”
“It’s about looking to the future and knowing that it’s possible.” Considering they were found in terrible condition and that they went through a lot, these kind people are giving the wild animals a good future…
2. A GOOD FUTURE
“We’d rather be able to come to a country like South Africa and see animals in the wild, and support sanctuaries that are doing good rescue work,” added Miles, explaining that people shouldn’t pay to interact with wild animals.
1. WILD ANIMALS IN THE WILD
“It’s much better to see wild animals in the wild, and to afford them that dignity and protection. It really is possible, it’s just a mindset change,” concluded the LIONSROCK director. Let us all stop thinking about what we want and leave wild animals alone to live in their natural habitat!