Lions, unlike other cats, are social animals. They hunt together and live in an extended group, called a “pride”. A pride consists of 15-20 lions, and the females are the center of lion society. The females are the hunters and aggressors of the pride. They take care of the young. For them to thrive however, they need to be part of the group.
Sirga was just a cub at Willie De Graaff’s Grassland Bushman Lodge(central Kalahari, Botswana), when Valentin Gruener rescued her. Abandoned by her mother, Sirga weighed less than 5 lbs. and chances for survival were slim. She had to be initially fed on a drip and when strong enough, bottle-fed with a mixture of milk, eggs, cream, and vitamins (Express.co.uk). That was the start of the extraordinary relationship of Valentin and Sirga. Every time he visits Sirga in the camp, the lioness leaps at him and gives him a warm embrace.
In an article by BBC, Gruener said, “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”. Valentine is giving Sirga the opportunity to hunt three times a week, which usually takes her 5-9 hours. They walk and hunt together as buddies. Sometimes, Valentin shows him how to catch a prey. Chances are, if Sirga were left alone in the wild, other lions would kill her. It appears that since she was rescued and taken cared of by Valentin since she was young, she has considered him the only part of her family.
This strange relationship between a human and a large, ferocious animal is hard to believe but truly exists. It’s a heart-warming to know that there are good people like Valentin caring for this wild animal and being loved in return.