20. The Need to Be Loved
Babies desire one thing–love and affection from their mother. It’s true with human newborns as well as animals who must rely heavily on their parents early in life. One little lioness cub named Sirga wanted nothing more than her parents’ attention.
You won’t believe her heartwarming story.
19. Rescued on the Brink of Death
Sirga’s life was not all unicorns and rainbows when she was born. In fact, rescuers found her just in time back in February 2012. Close to death from starvation and dehydration, she was found on a farm deep in the jungle.
18. One of Three Newborns
The tiny cub was actually one of three cubs that was born to a pride of lions in Botswana. Sadly, the other two cubs died shortly after they were born. Then something terrible happened.
Due to the other cubs passing away, the lion pride chose to reject Sirga. She was abandoned by her parents and left to die alone. How could her own parents be so cruel? The circle of life definitely doesn’t play fair sometimes.
16. Near Death
Valentin Gruener was a conservationist working in Botswana. While out with his team, he stumbled upon the sweet cub and immediately brought her back to their headquarters. Malnourished and exposed to the harsh elements, they didn’t know if little Sirga would pull through…
15. The Modisa Wildlife Project
Valentin worked with the Modisa Wildlife Project and worked with a veterinarian in Lalahari to help save Sirga. At only four pounds, she was severely underweight and the vet quickly put her on an IV drip to assist with the dehydration she was suffering from.
It would be touch and go at first. Do you think little Sirga will survive?
14. A High Fat Diet
Realizing they needed to fatten up the poor little cub quickly, Valentin created a diet that would be high in fat, as well as nutritious that would get the cub back on track. The concoction consisted of fresh eggs, cream, milk vitamins, sunflower oil and calcium. Shockingly enough, Sirga loved it!
13. Slowly But Surely
As Valentin continued her care, Sirga began to put on weight and reclaim her health. According to Valentin she was likely the most spoiled and well-fed lion in all of Botswana. We have to agree.
12. One Year Later…She’s One Big Lion
After a year of rehabilitation, you’d never know that Sirga was once a scrawny little cub near death. Not only had she put on nearly 170 pounds, but she was weaned off her special diet and was now eating raw meat like she would back in the wild. She is queen of the pride lands!
11. Fully Grown with a Wild Side
At the age of three, Sirga was a fully grown lioness. And while Valentin and the other animal experts had become a family unit to her, her animal instincts were beginning to kick in. She needed love and compassion that went beyond what humans could give.
10. Valentin the Parent
With no lion parent to satisfy Sirga’s needs, Valentin had to step in and act as a parent to the now grown lioness. Now a “teenager” Sirga wouldn’t have survived without Valentin’s guidance and special parenting skills. She needed him and he began to realize he needed her.
9. Demanding Attention
Just like your typical teenager (or child), Sirga loved Valentin’s attention. She would sleep in his lap, as well as put her arms around his shoulders to show love. She adored any physical interaction she could with her surrogate parent.
8. The Perfect Parent
Valentin knew there could be no better person to help raise Sirga than he could. Since he had taken care of her since she was a cub, she trusted him. However, he did have his hands full with the lioness who had a tendency to test her boundaries.
7. Learning New Things Daily
As Sirga continues to grow, Valentin and his team continue to teach her all the things she never learned from the wild. While being raised by the conservationists was a blessing, it was also a curse due to the fear she may not have the skills to survive on her own.
6. Facing the Wild
Knowing that Sirga’s survival is a top priority, Valentin and his partner Mikkel have committed to teaching her everything she needs to know to survive in the wild. While they both adore Sirga, they know they can’t keep her in captivity forever. She will eventually need to return to her home.
5. Learning to Hunt
One of the more important things that Sirga needed to learn was how to hunt and stalk her prey. These types of skills actually aren’t instinctive for some lions and have to be taught. Therefore, Valentin and Mikkel had to study lion hunting behaviors in order to teach her what she needed to know.
4. The Code of Kill or Be Killed
Valentin knew the importance of Sirga learning to hunt. The wild would not be kind to her if she had no hunting skills and she would end up prey. He had to make sure she was ready.
3. The Problem with Captivity
“We didn’t want Sirga to become like other lions in captivity, constantly fed by streams of tourists,” Mikkel stated. “She hunts her own food, taking antelopes, and she will let us be near her when she eats it, which is remarkable.”
2. Too Domesticated for Her Own Good?
Throughout her years in captivity, Valentin and his team have made sure that she doesn’t become too domesticated. He hopes this will give her a better chance as a wild lion in the future. Mikkel stressed the importance that Sirga only interacted with him and Valentin. The danger would be too great if she met too many people.
1. A Film Star in the Making
A production company eventually caught wind of Sirga’s story and decided to film a six part documentary titled “Lionheart” about her training and eventual release. The film is still in the works but hopes to be released soon. We’re sure the eventual goodbye will be a hard one for Valentin. We’re sure Sirga will be forever grateful to him.