Seeing a lion so passionately hug a human is certainly not something you get to see every day, but for these two, it has become normal.
It all started in 2021 where Valentin Gruner rescued and raised a lion cub all on his own at a wildlife park in Botswana.
“Since the lion arrived, which is three years now, I haven’t really left the camp,” says Gruener. “Sometimes for one night I go into the town here to organize something for the business, but other than that I’ve been here with the lion.”
Sirga was unfortunately abandoned by her mum when she was only 10 days old. This was after she was rescued from a holding pen by an unethical farmer.
Now, Sirga seems to be a happy cat and hugs Valentin every time they see each other.
“That happens every time I open the door. It is an amazing thing every time it happens, and it’s such a passionate thing to do for this animal to jump and give me a hug,” says Valentin.
“But I guess it makes sense. At the moment she has no other lions with her in the cage and I guess for her I’m like her species. So I’m the only friend she’s got. Lions are social cats so she’s always happy to see me.”
The dynamic duo spend most of their time hanging out, doing what lions like doing, like lazing about, play-fighting, and even hunting!
“I don’t believe we have to teach the lion to hunt. They have this instinct like a domestic cat or even a dog that will try to hunt. Any cat will catch a bird or a mouse. The lion will catch an antelope when it gets big enough,” Gruener says.
Unfortunately, Sirga can not be released back into the wild due to her life so far being in captivity.