Majestic creatures, such as lions, can be affectionate toward those who treat them well. They sense the warmth and affection of humans and gradually open their hearts to them. When these wild creatures put their faith in people, they treat them as though they were a vital part of their lives. Their humans will give them cuddles, belly massages, and big hugs. Is this something you’d see in a Disney movie?
In real life, that special link does exist. Sirga, an abandoned lion cub who is just a few days old, develops a profound bond with her rescuer, Valentin Gruener, a naturalist and cofounder of the Modisa Wildlife Project in Botswana’s Kalahari.
In February 2012, Valentin found Sirgo on a farm and saved him. The adults mistreated and abandoned the unfortunate creature, along with the other two cubs. Sirgo was small and frail at the time (weighing only 4 pounds), but she was the only one of the litter to survive.
Since then, Valentin has adopted and raised the lion cub. He had to place the tiny animal on a drip to help her fight severe dehydration.
He devised a feeding regimen for Sirgo in collaboration with the veterinarian. Fresh eggs, cream, milk, vitamins, sunflower oil, and calcium were used to make that delectable dish. His meals would be enjoyed by the frail cub.
Sirgo was the one who accomplished it. She grew up healthy thanks to her rescuer’s excellent care, gaining 175 pounds in her first year. After being weaned, the lion began to consume raw meat.
“To this day we believe she is probably the most spoiled and well-fed lion in Botswana,” Valentin said.
Sirgo is now an adolescent in lion years. It suggests she’s getting ready to live in the wilderness. Sirgo should not be kept in prison, according to Valentin. Valentin, the lion’s adoptive father, is teaching her to hunt in order to help her adjust to life in the wild. Valentin also enlists the help of Mikkel Legarth, a fellow conservationist from Denmark.
Both the “parents” and the lion have a difficult task ahead of them. Valentin and Mikkel rely on her to stalk and kill, which are not entirely instinctive skills.
‘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 enlisted the help of filmmaker Jurgen Jozefowicz to document their lessons. They understand Sirgo is forming an unbreakable relationship with them. Both of her “parents” are nuzzled and hugged by the lion, who lets them stroke her tummy and rub her jaws. Valentin massages the stately cat’s ears as she lays her head peacefully on his lap. Lionheart, the first book in his trilogy, will be released later this year.