Once the solitary captive in a deserted zoo, Ruben, a 15-year-old lion, spent five years in silence. Today, with the support of a UK-based animal welfare organization, he’s rediscovering his voice.
The dejected lion found himself alone after the demise of the Armenian businessman who owned the zoo in the Artsakh Republic, a self-declared republic within Azerbaijan.
Jan Creamer of Animal Defenders International (ADI) explained that while other animals were relocated after the zoo’s abandonment, Ruben was tragically overlooked. As a result, his roars, once part of the everyday chorus of the zoo, faded away.
The lion’s confinement left its mark. Born and raised in captivity, Ruben was not just physically hampered by a meager diet and limited space but also psychologically affected, never having felt natural elements like the sun and wind.
However, Ruben’s silence is poised to end. His journey toward a new, healthier life has begun, courtesy of his rescuers who aim to help him find his roar again.
Ruben’s rescue was an operation of precision and timing. Amid regional tensions patrolled by Russian peacekeepers, the objective was to ensure Ruben’s safe transition without causing additional strife.
The late businessman’s family agreed to the relocation, which navigated through numerous armed checkpoints.
The first leg of Ruben’s rescue journey was a nine-hour ride under a vet’s supervision to a bear sanctuary near Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, run by the Foundation for Preservation of Wildlife & Cultural Assets (FPWC). Next, he’s destined for an ADI sanctuary in South Africa designed specifically for lions and tigers.
Despite his past health problems, Ruben’s recovery has been remarkable. Thanks to a nutritious diet and improved living conditions, his once-dull coat has begun to gleam again, including a hay bed, two heated rooms, and a 30ft by 15ft enclosure.
Though he’s enjoying more space than he’s ever known, the real game-changer, as per Creamer, will be his relocation to Africa.
Here, Ruben will have access to 2.5 acres of natural habitat. Despite his physical challenges due to his past confinement, his recovery is proceeding well with regular exercise and nourishing food.
Ruben’s transformation has not just been physical. He has begun to engage and interact with people, a significant shift from his years of lonely silence.
With renewed hope, his rescuers are confident that Ruben will regain his ability to roar again.