Animals in some situations act like us. Majestic animals like lions can be affectionate towards people who are kind to them. They sense human’s kindness and love, so they gradually open their heart for them. When these wild animals lay trust in humans, they just consider them an important part of their life. They will enjoy cuddles, belly rubs, and big hugs from their humans. Are these something that is seen in Disney movies?
That special bond does happen in real life. Sirga, a few-day-old abandoned lion cub builds a strong relationship with her rescuer, Valentin Gruener, a conservationist and co‑founder of the Modisa Wildlife Project in the Kalahari, Botswana.
Valentin rescued Sirgo on a farm in February 2012. The poor creature, along with the other two cubs were neglected and abandoned by the adults. Sirgo was very fragile (weighing just 4lb) then but she was the only one to be alive in the litter.
Working with the vet, he created a recipe to feed Sirgo. That delicious food was made from fresh eggs, cream, milk, vitamins, sunflower oil, and calcium. The fragile cub would enjoy his meals.
And Sirgo did. She grew up healthily thank to the great care of her rescuer, reaching 175lb in the first year. The lion was later weaned and was eating raw meat.
“To this day we believe she is probably the most spoiled and well-fed lion in Botswana,” Valentin said.
Now, Sirgo is a teenager in lion years. It means that she is preparing to live in the wild. Valentin doesn’t want Sirgo to live in captivity. To help the lion adapt to the wild, adoptive father Valentin is coaching her to hunt. Valentin also invites his fellow conservationist, Mikkel Legarth from Denmark to support him.
It is not an easy task for both the “parents” and the lion. Valentin and Mikkel have to her to stalk and kill — skills that are not wholly instinctive.
‘We didn’t want Sirgo to become like other lions in captivity, constantly fed by streams of tourists,’ said Mikkel. ‘She hunts her own food, taking antelopes, and she will let us be near her when she eats it, which is remarkable.
‘We want to release her eventually as a wild lion, not as one who has met lots of people. That would be dangerous. She only interacts with me and Valentin.’ He added.
Valentin and Mikkel even invited filmmaker Jurgen Jozefowicz to capture their teaching process. They realize that Sirgo is building a unique bond with them. The lion nuzzles and even hugs both her “parents” and allows them to scratch her tummy or rub her jaws. The majestic cat even lies with her head contentedly on Valentin’s lap while he strokes her ears. His series, Lionheart will be released later this year.