finally. The loneliest lion in the world is free. After five miserable years alone in a concrete cage in an abandoned indoor zoo somewhere in Armenia, Robin the lion has a new home. The animal is taking full advantage of its large eyes at a game reserve in South Africa. He sees others of his kind for the first time in years, and finally feels the grass beneath his feet. Robin is pleased with that. And every day, his long-lost roar sounds a little louder.
All you have to do is draw the shortest straw for the “world’s loneliest lion.” But he was the lion Reuben. It was the only remaining animal in an abandoned private zoo in Armenia that closed its doors five years ago after the death of its owner. In the following years, new homes were found for all of the zoo’s other animals. But none of the locations had room for Robin.
The great predator was the only one left behind. For five long years, Robin spent his days in a cage that was very cramped, on a concrete floor. Due to malnutrition and lack of exercise, his health deteriorated significantly. Since there was no one to communicate with, Robin stopped roaring. Loneliness makes you calm.
“Lions are the most sociable of the big cats, they live in large family groups in the wild. So it must have been really terrible for Robin not to have any contact,” says Jan Kramer, of animal rights organization Animal Defenders International (ADI). “At all for a long time, or communicating with other lions.” Additionally, due to his confinement, malnutrition and lack of exercise, the approximately 15-year-old animal suffers from spondylitis, an inflammatory disease that can cause bones to fuse. As a result, Robin’s legs became extremely weak. He has difficulty walking and his spine is curved.
Fortunately for Robin, ADI did everything in its power to save him when the organization learned of his situation. In December last year, the lion was transferred to a bear reserve near the Armenian capital, Yerevan. There he received more space, better care and a healthier diet. It was an intermediate step before true freedom. But the past few months have been full of headaches for the ADI team.
“We couldn’t arrange flights for him in Armenia. We were already starting to fear he might get stuck there.” But persistence wins. The organization is very grateful that Qatar Airways Cargo eventually provided assistance through its WeQare charity initiative.
Finally on the plane
On August 22, the major relocation could finally begin. Two trips – first to Doha and then to Johannesburg – and much hassle and hassle later, Robin reached his final destination, 8,000 kilometers away: a large game reserve in the Free State of South Africa. A house in its natural environment. Forever home. (Read more below the photos.)
The first emotional steps
Robben’s first steps out of his travel box and into the reserves were particularly poignant for the team. “Seeing him step through the grass, seeing him hear the sounds of his own kind, the African sun on his back…we all cried,” Kramer says.
The organization says Robin is currently right and is still undergoing a long rehabilitation process to complete the lonely years he spent at the zoo. But he does a great job. When Robin arrived, he was still wobbling on his weak legs. They are already seeing a difference there in South Africa. This big cat shows incredible flexibility.
His attitude has completely changed. “His face became relaxed and he was no longer worried,” Kramer says. “His determination to step up is inspiring. If he stumbles or falls, he gets up and keeps going.” Robin also appears to be a playful lion. Pictures show him mischievously attacking a catnip punching bag. He’s even starting to regain his roar now that he’s surrounded by other lions again. “His morning cries are getting louder every day. A day where he starts to regain his confidence.”
The organization said: “We all marvel at the courage of this old, exhausted warrior, who stubbornly pushes himself on his wobbly legs and plays with his toys.”
President Kramer called it “absolutely impressive.” “We know it’s going to be a long road and that he still needs a lot of care. But this beginning of his new life… couldn’t have started better.
Free unlimited access to Showbytes? Which can!
Log in or create an account and never miss a thing from the stars.
“Friendly communicator. Music trailblazer. Internet maven. Twitter buff. Social mediaholic.”