“World’s Loneliest Lion” Starts NEW Life in Africa after 5 Years Alone in Zoo

The ‘world’s loneliest lion’ has returned to his natural habitat after he was abandoned in a private zoo in Armenia for five years.

15-year-old lion Ruben was part of a pride living in the now-closed zoo, but while all the other lions were relocated, Ruben was left behind in a tiny concrete cell for five long years.

Now, Ruben has made a 5,200-mile journey to South Africa where he took his first steps out of his travel crate into the home of his ancestors.

The epic journey was organized by Animals Defenders International (ADI) and Qatar Airways Cargo. Ruben is now being rehabilitated at the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary in Free State, South Africa.

“Lions are the most sociable of the big cats, living in family prides in the wild,” said ADI President Jan Creamer. “Seeing him walk on grass for the first time, hearing the voices of his own kind, with the African sun on his back, brought us all to tears.”

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At first, Ruben’s legs were wobbling due to malnutrition and a “lifetime of no exercise.”

However, Ruben’s resilience has stunned everyone at the sanctuary. He strode from his travel crate and followed a trail of sausages to a giant catnip punchbag—his first toy—and immediately started playing with it.

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After not hearing other lions for years, Ruben has already started to get his roar back, his morning calls getting steadily louder as he regains his confidence.

“His whole demeanor has transformed, his face is relaxed and no longer fearful. His determination to walk is inspiring,” said Creamer. “If he stumbles or falls he just picks himself up and keeps going. He is nothing short of heroic.”

World's loneliest lion starts new life in South Africa - SAPeople -  Worldwide South African News

At first, ADI couldn’t find a suitable flight for him out of Armenia, but Qatar Airways Cargo ‘WeQare’ charity initiative stepped in. They moved a larger aircraft with hold doors big enough for Ruben’s crate into the scheduled passenger route out of Yerevan.

“There are a lot of logistics involved in moving animals like Ruben; from the logistics at the airports involved, the process for loading and unloading the animals from the aircraft to ensuring the correct cages and wellbeing of the animals are in place,” said Elisabeth Oudkerk, SVP Cargo Sales & Network Planning at Qatar Airways Cargo.

Ruben, 'world's loneliest lion,' back in natural habitat

“It takes a lot of effort from our team to organize such transport—but it is something we are all collectively very proud to be a part of, knowing we helped give back to our planet.”

WATCH Ruben take his first steps (and find a sausage waiting for him)… 

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