It is quite rare for lions and human beings to have a heart-warming relationship mainly because of the different natures. Lions are beautiful creatures, at a distance, but for a person to get into their personal space and become best friends with one is something else entirely. It has been my belief for years, that people and lions simply cannot be friends. It might have been my fear of wild creatures that was behind that belief, but after learning of this touching companionship between a lioness and a man, I may have another think coming. Allow me take you through a relationship which has caught many people by surprise, Sirga (a lioness) and her human best friend, Valentin Gruener.
It was in 2012 when conservationist co‑founder of the Modisa Wildlife Project-Valentin Gruener, rescued Sirga when she was just a cub. Sirga was approaching death when Gruener took her in and saved her life by putting her on a drip. Gruener raised the cub by himself at wildlife park in Botswana, a non-coastal country situated in Southern Africa. In an attempt to get the tiny cub to gain weight, Gruener experimented with a couple of recipes and finally found a winning recipe which entailed mixing fresh eggs, cream, milk, vitamins, sunflower oil and calcium.
Now, three years later, the lioness is alive and kicking, arguably the most well-fed lion in Botswana. Picture this- every time Gruener arrives to see Sirga, the lioness leaps for joy and wraps her arms around her best friend to hug him, a true reflection of affection and appreciation. Gruener, who was studying towards a PhD, put his studies aside to focus all his attention on Sirga, who is now a teenager (in lion years).
Just as best friends spend hours having fun together, so do Sirga and Gruener. The two spend most of their time play-fighting, hunting and lying together under trees. Gruener has also been teaching her how to stalk and kill and she is now able to hunt for her own food. Sirga does not have other lion companions, which is why Gruener is doing all he can to prepare her to live in the wild.
A six-part series called “Lionheart” by filmmaker Jurgen Jozefowicz will be released later this year, showcasing this extraordinary relationship between a human and a lion.
One can only imagine the excitement of having a lion feel so strongly about you. I think I speak on behalf of most people when I say it is fulfilling to have someone thrilled to be in your presence, overjoyed just by seeing you, showing passion at every encounter- for most people it’s their children, for some it’s their partners, but for Gruener, it’s a lioness. Definitely a one in a million.