Lonely Abandoned Lion Touches Grass for First Time

A lonely lion named Ruben, who had been left behind in a cage at a private Armenian zoo that closed, was rescued by the incredible people at Animal Defenders International who brought him to a South African sanctuary and gave him the freedom to walk outside and onto the grass for the very first time in his 15 years of life.

15-year-old lion feels grass for first time

Ruben had been left on his own after the zoo shut down.

He was born in a private zoo in Armenia when it closed down. All of the other animals were taken but Ruben was left behind. We were told that there just wasn’t room for him so he was on his own for over five years in that Zoo. Just concrete and bars. People were putting food through the bars but there was really nothing else for him.

To make matters worse, Ruben stopped roaring because he had no one to talk to.

These are animals that get a lot from talking to each other. A lion’s roar can travel about six miles. When he roared no one rolled back so he just gave up on roaring, which is one of the saddest things.

Animals Defenders International worked with Qatar Airways Cargo to transport Ruben in the safest way possible.

We were very lucky when Qatar Airlines cargo offered him a flight…In Armenia our biggest concern was the heat. We built a crate in Armenia painted it white to reflect the sun as much as possible. We sprayed the inside of the crate with lavender and Feliway, the hormone that cats like and keeps them relaxed and keeps them happy. …he traveled really well he seemed to know something good was happening.

The most wonderful moment came when Ruben realized that he was free.

The Magic Moment was when he walked out of his crate and he touched his first grass. You could see him almost thinking ‘what is this’? He looked up into the sky. It will have been the first time he saw the sun over his head. He could move around. He saw birds for the first time flying over his head. He sat down and the wind was blowing through his mane and he was holding his head up to the wind and just enjoying it.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails. Lori can be found posting on Threads and sharing photos on Instagram.