A 15-year-old lion abandoned in a cage at a private zoo now can roam freely outside for the first time in his life.
Ruben was left at a private zoo in Armenia after it closed. But the wonderful rescuers at Animal Defenders International arranged to transport Ruben to a South African sanctuary.
The lion had been born in captivity and later forgotten.
“All of the other animals were taken but Ruben was left behind. We were told that there just wasn’t room for him so he was on his own for over five years in that Zoo,” his rescuers say in the video. “Just concrete and bars. People were putting food through the bars but there was really nothing else for him.”
The lion had also stopped “talking” which was a concern for Animal Defenders International. They explain in the video, “These are animals that get a lot from talking to each other. A lion’s roar can travel about six miles. When he roared no one rolled back so he just gave up on roaring, which is one of the saddest things.”
They began to work with Qatar Airways Cargo to figure out the best and safest way to transport Ruben. They built him a special crate to help reflect away the sun and even sprayed the inside of the crate with lavender and Feliway, which is a hormone that helps relax cats.
While on his journey his rescuers note that “he traveled really well…he seemed to know something good was happening.”
The lion’s reaction when he was set free was incredibly heartwarming.
“The Magic Moment was when he walked out of his crate and he touched his first grass. You could see him almost thinking ‘what is this’? He looked up into the sky. It will have been the first time he saw the sun over his head. He could move around. He saw birds for the first time flying over his head,” the group says. “He sat down and the wind was blowing through his mane and he was holding his head up to the wind and just enjoying it.”
It was an epic moment that made the effort all worthwhile.
The group has shared further updates on Ruben on their Instagram channel. They mentioned that he developed difficulty walking because of all the years confined in his cage. But “he has stunned people with his determination to stay on his feet and keep moving, and is now able to do a full circuit of his camp without falling.”
They also shared that Ruben has found his voice again. “Ruben’s roar is getting louder,” they share on Instagram. “His roar is getting stronger and louder, and he is listening to the roars of the residents next door….He’s a big boy and we think he is going to have a very loud roar one day!”
To help support Animal Defenders International visit their website.