Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Homeless lion gets ready to roar again in new sanctuary home

Posted: 23 October 2019. Updated: 23 October 2019

Magnificent male lion Kesari has started a new life at the Animal Defenders International (ADI) Wildlife Sanctuary (ADIWS) in South Africa after a two-year search for a home.

Watch the video here.

Kesari had been rejected by his pride at the Pretoria Zoo, and with nowhere to go, spent most of his time in a night-house. It was a concern that if Kesari had been put up for auction he could have been doomed, in a country where the trophy hunting industry brutally devours these magnificent animals.

The zoo held out for a genuine home, and conservation group Captured in Africa Foundation asked ADI to help.

Just a year ago, ADI purchased 455 acres of land in South Africa to build a sanctuary for rescued animals. In March this year, the first 27 lion residents arrived, having been rescued previously by ADI from circuses in Peru and Colombia. Another 21 lions and tigers have been rescued from circuses in Guatemala, and ADI plans to bring 18 of these to their new ADI Wildlife Sanctuary.

In the middle of a huge sanctuary building program, and with so many animals waiting to take up residence, the request to help Kesari could not have come at a worse time, but, says ADI President Jan Creamer, “One look at Kesari’s face, and how could we say ‘no’?”

Kesari was on his way.

Earlier this month, at 5:30am one morning, Kesari was anesthetized and loaded into a travel crate for the five-hour road trip to the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary.

On arrival at his new home, Kesari was positioned for release into the feeding/observation room in his 2.5-acre (109,000 sqft) habitat. Now all the ADI team had to do was wait for him to emerge. They waited. And waited. It quickly became clear that our new large yet shy lion resident, who had mainly lived in a night-house at the zoo and is also wary of humans, was working to his own schedule – the team quickly realized we were on a different clock, dubbed “Kesari time”!

ADI President Jan Creamer explains: “It’s not unusual for animals to be wary of leaving a travel crate at their destination. They really don’t know what to expect, the sights, sounds and smells are different, so we just leave them to do things in their own time. We all moved away and let Kesari come out to explore.”

Kesari was soon showing his playful side, grappling with a tire hanging from a frame, and by morning, he had torn down the tire and dragged it to his den, along with another tire and two giant catnip-scented hay sacks. Clearly, a busy night!

Steadily growing in confidence, Kesari established his feeding spot and began to greet his carers each morning, anticipating his breakfast. He was soon checking out his lion neighbors, Coco and Chino on one side, and Simba and Rey on the other.

On the fifth day, and marking his fifth birthday, it was time to release Kesari into his main habitat – his own piece of natural Africa. The gate was lifted and Kesari was left to explore. Again, he was going nowhere until he was ready.

Some 24 hours later, in the golden evening sunshine, Kesari strode out in the long grass. He was ready. He tore into another tire hanging on a rope, wrestling with it, enjoying the scent of lavender oil and catnip. He climbed onto the highest platform and surveyed his kingdom. He walked his perimeter and established his territory. He rose up on his hind legs to knock deserted weaverbird nests from a tree, and had fun with the new scents and toys.

ADI President Jan Creamer adds: “Our aim is to give these animals a life as close as possible to what nature intended. It has been wonderful watching Kesari blossom and grow into his new life. The animals we save all react differently. They have different characters and life experiences, so they must be allowed to decide what they want to do, and how they use their time. They must set the pace. We are looking forward to hearing Kesari use his voice and join in with the sunrise and sunset roaring of the rest of the lion residents. So far, he has tried a small roar, but checked himself – he’s not quite ready to announce himself yet.”

Kesari is the first South African-born big cat at the sanctuary, with up to 20 years ahead of him. ADI hopes to find him nonbreeding companionship over time.

His tale highlights the desperate need for homes for captive wildlife in South Africa. It is easy for ‘unwanted’ lions like Kesari to go to auction and end up as trophy hunter targets. The ADIWS education center, planned for opening next year, will raise awareness about wildlife conservation, the suffering of animals in captivity, animal protection, and environmental issues. Greater education and understanding of the importance of our neighbor species sharing our planet are good for both people and animals.

ADI President Jan Creamer concludes, “ADI is here to help turn the tide for animals in South Africa through education, awareness and personal stories like Kesari’s.”

ADI has launched an appeal to raise funds for Kesari’s ongoing lifetime care.

He can also be adopted here.

© Animal Defenders International 2020