There’s nothing a baby desires more than love and affection from their mother and father. This is true with human newborns and so many animals, who rely on their parents early in life.
Sirga is no different from any other baby who craves their parents’ attention, only this incredible animal is a tiny lioness cub, a Princess of the Jungle, if you will, and her parent is not who you would ever expect…
Sirga the lioness was found by rescuers just in the nick of time, in February 2012. The baby lion was discovered close to death from starvation on a farm in the jungle.
Baby Sirga was one of three new cubs born to a pride of lions in Botswana. Yet when the other two newborns tragically died shortly after their births, something terrible happened to Sirga as well…
Since the other two lion cubs had passed, the adults of the pride decided that Sirga should not be a part of their group either. The poor cub was abandoned by his parents and left for dead.
Brink of Death
A conservationist named Valentin Gruener and his team discovered the poor baby at the farm in Botswana during a rescue mission and brought the lioness cub to their headquarters. Baby Sirga was on the brink of death due to malnutrition and effects of the harsh elements…
Modisa Wildlife Project
Valentin, who is the co‑founder of the Modisa Wildlife Project in Kalahari, worked with a veterinarian to help do whatever they could to save the poor creature who weighed just four pounds when they found her. Sirga was soon put on a drip IV to combat severe dehydration.
Veterinarians and Sirga’s rescuers hoped that the drip, combined with a diet that would help fatten up the tiny cub. Valentin created a heavy recipe that the cub enjoyed, consisting of fresh eggs, cream, milk, vitamins, sunflower oil, and calcium…
Starting to Grow
Over time, the recipe worked and Sirga started to grow. “To this day we believe she is probably the most spoiled and well-fed lion in Botswana,” Valentin Gruener said.
Nearly a year later after Valentin and his team found Sirga, she had put on about 170 pounds. The young lioness had been weaned off of her diet and onto raw meat, like she would in the wild…
Sirga was now fully grown at three years old and since she didn’t have a lion pride of her own, Valentin and the other animal experts became like a surrogate family to her. The problem was that Sirga’s animal instincts crave the kind of love and compassion one can only get from a parent…
Nature vs Nurture
For that, 27-year-old Valentin found himself acting as a parent to the once abandoned baby lion. Now a teenager in lion years, Sirga would have never have survived without his guidance and parental care…
Just like a baby would do, Sirga would put her giant head in Valentin’s lap and doze off to sleep or put his arms around his shoulders to show her affection. After all, every child craves some sort of physical interaction from their parents.
And since Valentin had been rearing Sirga since she was a newborn, there was no one better to step in and fill that void than him. However, just like with any three-year-old, Valentin certainly has his hands full…
These days, Valentin and his team are working hard with their fussy lioness by trying to teach her everything she has been robbed of away from the wild. Being raised by conservationists has been bittersweet for Sirga, as her team worries she won’t be able to take care of herself.
In the Wild
That’s why German-born Valentin and his partner, Mikkel Legarth, from Denmark, have committed to teaching Sirga everything she needs to know to be able to make it on her own in the wild. They care for the lioness but know they can’t keep such a majestic creature away from her home forever…
To Stalk & Kill
The heroes would spend endless hours coaching the “wild beast” how to hunt, as these skills aren’t always instinctive for lions. Learning how to stalk and kill their prey is usually taught by expert, older lions in the pride to younger ones, so Mikkel and Valentin had to study well to teach Sirga.
Kill or Be Killed
Teaching Sirga to hunt is everything in preparing her to survive in the wild. After all, if you don’t kill, you won’t eat, and in the safari, it’s kill or be killed…
Lions in Captivity
‘We didn’t want Sirga 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.”
Yet the experts have been very careful not to let Sirga become too domesticated over the years and hope this will give her a better chance at normalcy in the future. “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,” Mikkel added.
Filmmaker Jurgen Jozefowicz eventually caught wind of Sirga’s story and propositioned Valentin and Mikkel to invite him along on their journey. The naturalists’ incredible bond with Sirga will be featured in a six-part series, titled “Lionheart”, which will be released later in 2017. The journey will also show her eventual release and their difficult goodbye.
Unsurprisingly, the footage shows Sirga cuddling and hugging her human “parents” as they scratch her belly or rub her furry face. And just to be polite, Sirga respectfully keeps her claws sheathed and her jaw clamped during play sessions with her humans. If there is anything either one of them will miss when Sirga reaches the wild, it will be this.