For six long years, a lion named Ruben has lived alone at a closed zoo in Armenia. All of the other animals were removed, and he was left behind. His health has declined as he was not properly cared for and was unable to get enough exercise in his tiny concrete cage.
His “world went silent”, states Animal Defenders International (ADI) Wildlife Sanctuary who stepped up to rescue the lion and transport him to their sanctuary in South Africa.
It took a lot of planning, people, and donations to make this transport a success. A special travel crate was created for the 15-year-old lion to keep him safe and secure on his journey home.
ADI Wildlife Sanctuary shared, “The wonderful offer from Qatar Airways to move a larger than usual aircraft to one of their scheduled passenger routes from Armenia in order to donate space for Ruben has given us limited time between knowing the departure date and leaving, but we could not say no!”
On August 22, Ruben started the long journey to his forever home. He was sedated so he could be safely loaded into his travel crate and awoke before being loaded onto the plane. He spent two days traveling to finally reach the peaceful sanctuary.
His new home was modified to fit the “old warrior’s” needs. The sanctuary said, “Ruben has suspected neurological/spinal issues which we are hoping can be treated in South Africa. He can be unsteady on his feet and that is why we have built his ‘special needs’ habitat with ramps and low platforms.”
Supporters and staff at the sanctuary were eager to see Ruben among other lions again. “On August 23, Ruben is going to be hearing the voices of his own kind for the very first time in six years – we wonder if he will roar back straight away?”
Home At Last
After the exhausting journey, Ruben was brought to Dr Peter Caldwell’s Old Chapel Veterinary Clinic for a night of quarantine. He was greeted with the best surprise.
“His day ended with a magical moment as he came face-to-face with Easy, a lioness from the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary who is also currently at the Old Chapel clinic,” wrote the sanctuary in a post.
“Easy caught Ruben’s eye as he sat in his travel crate. When Ruben was released from his crate, he walked down the tunnel and into his room. He nested there for a while, occasionally leaning to look out at Easy. Then with a tiny roar he walked to the end of his tunnel, and Easy did the same. They sat watching each other. Nikki from Old Chapel then hand-fed Ruben with tongs. He took the food so gently. What must be going through his mind?”
After a day or two of observing his new surroundings, the majestic lion took his first steps on African soil. His rescuers were there to witness the amazing event and thanked all of Ruben’s supporters.
Check it out in the video below.
“Thanks to you, our fantastic supporters, Ruben is now safe in the land of his ancestors: Africa. As we watched Ruben take his first, magical steps onto South African soil on Friday morning, it made the trials and tribulations of the past 14 months worth it.”
Ruben is slowly becoming acclimated to his new habitat and is thoroughly enjoying his large catnip toy. “He wobbled as he walked but explored everywhere, even going into his house, wide-eyed and happy. He played and played all day with a giant catnip bag, finally destroying it!”
All their hard work paid off and Ruben is finally safe.
“Our frail, elderly, yet so resilient lion, has stepped away from the horror of his past and onto the land of his ancestors. He is surrounded by the sights and sounds of other lions and native wildlife in his forever home. For the first time, there’s grass under his feet, the sun on his back, the African wind in his mane, and now, voices he understands.”
He is gaining his strength and has started to roar (softly). Watch as he walks around his habitat below.
Ruben has poor vision due to cataracts on both of his eyes and several other health issues that will require lifelong care. People can donate towards his care here. Be sure to follow ADI Wildlife Sanctuary on Facebook for more updates on Ruben.