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Guys Confront This Crouching Lion On a Path. But Watch What It Does When It Notices Who They Are.

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Lions are symbolic of courage, strength, power, leadership, and authority. They are the king of the jungle and are at the top of the food chain, which is why no one in their right mind would ever dare to mess with one. As royally majestic looking, powerful, and wild as they instinctively are, some lions have formed incredibly close bonds with a few special humans.
On such man is Valentin Gruener, a conservationist and co-founder of the Modisa Wildlife Project in Kalahari, Botswana. His closest friend in the animal kingdom happens to be a lioness named Sirga who he first crossed paths with back in February of 2012. At that time she was just a ten day old cub whose mother had abandoned her and her two siblings shortly after birth. The other two had sadly already died but Sirga was still hanging on to life by a thread.
Severely dehydrated and at deaths door, Valentin made a split decision that would change the course of both their lives forever. Rather than leave her there to die, he scooped the little cub up and brought her to a veterinarian. They worked to save the weak, tiny cub and placed her on a drip before starting her on a special bottle-fed diet of fresh cream, milk, eggs, sunflower oil, and vitamins to help fatten her up. Within a matter of days her health took a turn for the better and by the years end she was at a normal weight and eating raw meat. Valentin had saved her from certain death, but now he wanted to save her from a life dependent on humans.
Since he had rescued Sirga when she was so young and took care of her every need, Valentin had become like a mother to the lion. As much as he wanted to see her live wild and free, she was hand-reared and had become overly familiar with people, so could never truly be released on her own. Even still, Valentin wanted her to be able to do normal lion things, like hunt for her own food, and has kept her contact with humans to the bare minimum.
If Sirga were part of a pride, she’d be responsible for hunting, yet lions primarily learn to hunt by watching older lionesses stalk and ambush prey. Instincts do play a major role as well and so Valentin took her out alone for hours at a time to places where he knew she could safely practice her hunting skills. She eventually caught on and like a proud father Valentin said “Watching her kill her first antelope, when she was aged 16 months, was an amazing moment. I thought she might become aggressive after the kill but she just came back and gave me a big hug. There is a very strong connection between us.”
For now Sirga only is allowed contact with Valentin and fellow conservationist Mikkel Legarth, who has helped to raise her from day one. They feed and play with her, take her on walks, and encourage her to hunt. They are also working on raising money to build a wildlife park in Botswana where Sirga and other rescued big cats can roam safely in a huge fenced-in area.
Now on the endangered species list, many local farmers view lions as pests and won’t hesitate to shoot them if their livestock is threatened. However, lions preying on farm animals is inevitable because their natural prey is declining across the board as well, all thanks to over-hunting by humans.
Valentin and Legarth have teamed up with Tauana Films to produce a documentary on their story called Saving Sirga: Journey into the Heart of a Lion. It was recently selected to be screened at the 2017 Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York later this year which will also be its world premiere. Be sure to check out the accompanying clip of the guys interacting with Sirga and keep your eyes out for the film because it looks like it’s going to be one heck of an extraordinary story!
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