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Ruben the lion rescued and brought to SA

Sameera Casmod |
14 September 2023 | 09:00am SAST
2-min read

Picture: SA People News

In a heartwarming turn of events, Ruben, the world’s loneliest lion, has been rescued from a life of solitary confinement at an abandoned zoo in Armenia and given a chance at a new life in South Africa.

Ruben’s ordeal began when he was left behind as the sole inhabitant of an abandoned zoo in a remote mountainous region of Western Europe. For five long years, Ruben endured a life of solitude after the private zoo was closed down. While other animals from the zoo found new homes in various zoos and facilities, there seemed to be no room for Ruben.

Dr Peter Caldwell, a renowned veterinarian with a strong background in wildlife conservation, played a pivotal role in Ruben’s journey to recovery. Dr. Caldwell’s experience, including his work at the Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Centre and as the founder of the Old Chapel Vet Clinic in Pretoria, made him well-equipped to handle Ruben’s complex medical needs. He spoke to Radio Islam International on Saturday.

It came to light during the interview that Ruben’s condition was dire. As a 15-year-old lion, he was considered old for his species, especially given the malnourishment he had suffered throughout his life. He exhibited a range of health issues, including bone problems, spinal cord developmental issues, and deficiencies that affected his overall well-being.

The rescue mission, orchestrated by Animal Defenders International (ADI), involved navigating numerous challenges, both political and logistical. The rescue team had to overcome hurdles related to permits, sedation, blood tests, and x-rays. Additionally, they had to ensure Ruben’s health and safety during a gruelling 48-hour journey from Armenia to South Africa.

The efforts of ADI, Qatar Airlines, and dedicated veterinarians like Dr Caldwell culminated in Ruben’s arrival in South Africa. Despite the paperwork issues that caused a delay at Johannesburg airport, Dr Caldwell’s expertise and willingness to provide immediate care proved critical to Ruben’s well-being.

Ruben’s life in South Africa has been a journey of transformation. He has been introduced to a diet of high-quality venison, supplemented with essential nutrients to address his deficiencies. The enrichment program designed for him includes exercises to rebuild his muscles and stimulate his senses. Special scents, toys, and activities help him regain confidence and adapt to his new environment.

One of the most touching aspects of Ruben’s recovery has been his gradual return to socialising with other lions. Initially fearful and disoriented, Ruben has started to roar and engage with his fellow lions, demonstrating a remarkable resilience and spirit.

As Ruben continues his rehabilitation, he is gradually moving through different enclosures, each one larger and more enriched than the last. The ultimate goal is to provide him with a good quality of life for the remaining years, allowing him to enjoy the sun, the grass, and the companionship of other lions.

Watch | This is a story about Ruben, the World’s Loneliest Lion

Watch | Ruben the lonely lion takes his first steps in Africa

Listen to the full interview on the Wildlife and Outdoor Programme with Moulana Mohammed Kara and Moulana Ibrahim Daya:


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