Ruben, the world’s loneliest lion who was left behind when a private zoo closed in Armenia, has begun his steps towards starting his new life at the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary.
On a recent visit to Armenia, Ruben’s short, plaintive, unanswered roar in the morning was a reminder that he has not heard another lion roar back for over five years. But also, he has not given up! We can’t wait to see him when our pride roars back.
Ruben is currently in the quarantine unit of a bear sanctuary run by Armenia’s Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife & Cultural Assets, where ADI is funding his care thanks to your support. He has a heated night house and heated outdoor area which is small but believed to be more space than he has ever known.
We undertook a video assessment of Ruben with veterinarian Dr Peter Caldwell. Ruben is around 15 years old, and not surprisingly in poor condition given his background. He has health issues, but these should not prevent him coming to South Africa where we have the facilities to give him the best possible treatment.
Like most lions we rescue, Ruben will require dental surgery. He has broken and cracked teeth, but at this stage it is not impacting his eating and he is even crunching bones. To avoid repeated exposure to anaesthetics and x-rays, his dental treatment will be in South Africa where we have advanced technology and comprehensive post operative care. In addition, during dental surgery, toxins can be released into the blood which can be life threatening, so our veterinarians (including the legendary father of animal dentistry, Dr Peter Emily) have always avoided field surgery where possible. Best to have him where he can have the most advanced care.
Dr. Caldwell has requested blood tests to assess Ruben’s kidney function in order to plan any necessary pain relief and get a good picture of his overall health. We are extremely grateful to Armenian veterinarian Dr Harutyn Hovhannisyan who has microchipped Ruben, given his pre-export vaccinations, and is supervising these tests.
It is vital we get Ruben to South Africa as soon as possible to address his more serious issues. Ruben has neurological problems, potentially spinal. He wobbles as he walks and sometimes his legs fold under him, but he can move around. He has miosis of the eye – supporters will have noticed his small, constricted pupils. He appears able to see things, reacts to people around him, even some distance away, and good hearing, so there is good news, too. Ruben will not have access to the technology to properly identify these issues (CT, MRI scans, specialist ophthalmologists) until we get to South Africa. So, we are pressing ahead with the export and import protocols required, as quickly as possible.
ADI has rescued several lions with serious neurological problems, including brain damage from blows to the head and damage caused by early age malnutrition. Like these residents of ADIWS, we will ensure Ruben has access to the best possible expertise to inform treatment.
At the ADIWS, Ruben will have a habitat with multiple sections so that he can steadily be given access to more space as his movement improves. We will need to rebuild the platforms and other enrichment to meet his immediate needs – for example low, wide steps around the platforms – and stop using some toys until his neck and spine have been evaluated.
- Dr Caldwell will review Ruben’s blood tests and establish a regime to prepare him for his journey and give him any necessary pain relief.
- Ruben has now been microchipped and given the required vaccinations for international travel.
- We are applying for the export permit from Armenia and import permit to South Africa.
- We will need to build Ruben’s travel crate in Armenia because shipping one of ours from South Africa is too expensive.
- We are preparing Ruben’s habitat at ADIWS.
- We are already investigating flights for Ruben, which can be confirmed once we have possession of the CITES and veterinary health import and export permits.
- We will be arranging ground transport in Armenia and South Africa, and ground handling at Yerevan airport, Armenia, and Johannesburg, South Africa, as well as care on the journey, which may be very long.
We are doing what we can to move Ruben in March. We really appreciate the support we are getting in Armenia for this battered old lion and a huge thank you to ADI supporters helping get Ruben home to Africa and to fund his care for life at the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary. He is a lion who really deserves his chance.
To help Ruben home and his lifetime care: Donate UK £ | Donate US $