Homeless Kesari is now a resident of the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary.
The operation at Pretoria Zoo began at 5:30am and some of you joined us in the early hours/late at night on Facebook Live, as Kesari was loaded into his travel crate ready for the journey to the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary (ADIWS).
Kesari had been driven out of his pride at the zoo and was homeless for two years. He spent most of his time in a night-house, due to lack of space. We are grateful the zoo did not take the easy option of putting him up for auction, where this magnificent lion would certainly have been in the sights of a trophy hunter.
Kesari traveled well on the five-hour journey to the ADIWS and we prepared to release him into the feeding and night-house area in his 2.5 acre Phillips Habitat. This smaller area has a platform with den below, toys and a night-house so that Kesari will learn to come into the smaller space to eat each day, and perhaps sleep in the night-house. We are monitoring him as he gets used to his new home, before we release him into the larger habitat.
With much excitement, we opened the crate and waited for Kesari to come out. And waited some more. And more. We were on Kesari time.
Most animals step cautiously out of their travel crates, not knowing what the new world they are entering holds for them. A few stride out and explore immediately. Others will sit quietly for a while, before making a move.
We respected Kesari time, ended our live coverage, retreated and five minutes later, Kesari stepped out.
At the zoo, Kesari had mainly been living in a night-house, so to be out in the open, sky above, the wind on his face, grass and toys, was quite an experience for him. There are new lions next door, so understandably he took his time over this life-changing event.
Kesari is a very large lion, but shy and very wary of humans – something we are all too familiar with when we rescue animals.
He established his den under the platform as his safe area and soon began to play. He tried out his huge catnip toys, battled with a tire, and explored everything else, before spending his first night cozy and snug inside his lavender-scented den. In the morning we found Kesari surrounded by his toys – during the night he had dragged them all to his den, including tearing down the hanging tire!
We are watching Kesari gain confidence and settle into his new home but we know, before long, he’ll be roaming and roaring with the rest of our growing pride.
Today is Kesari’s 5th birthday, and what better gift for him than a loving forever home?
This is another huge commitment for our young sanctuary, where we are still in urgent need of donations for equipment and facilities such as vehicles, tools, and more habitats. Kesari could be in our care for 20 years, during which time he may once again become part of a pride. It is a story that will have a very, very different ending to what might have been.
To help care for this handsome young lion for life, donate here.
You can also be one of the first to adopt Kesari here.
UPDATE: Kesari explores his 2.5 acre habitat
The next morning, as the sun dipped in the sky, shy Kesari finally stepped out into his main 2.5 acre habitat. The entrance had been open for 24 hours but cautious Kesari was staying close to his den.
Now he is out and roaming his entire habitat, walking the perimeters and playing with the trees, rising right up on his hind legs to pull down old birds’ nests and play with them. He was very attracted to the hanging tire, and played with it for a long time, trying different ways to break it off the frame. The platform was thoroughly inspected, and he checked out the logs. Kesari looked at Simba and Rey next door, who had settled down to quietly watch him. He did not fully join in the end-of-day roaring with all the other lions, but for the very first time we saw a very small part roar.