The “loneliest lion in the world” has finally found his natural habitat after being abandoned in a private zoo in Armenia for 5 years.
Rouben, a 15-year-old lion, was part of a troupe living in a now-closed zoo, but while all the other lions were resettled, Rouben was left in a tiny concrete cell for a total of 5 years.
Today, Rouben has traveled 5,200 miles to South Africa, where he took his first steps out of his transport cage, into the land of his ancestors.
This epic journey was organized by ADI and Qatar Airways Cargo. Currently, Rouben is undergoing a rehabilitation period at the ADI wildlife sanctuary in the Free State, South Africa.
“The lions are the most social of felines, as they live in family groups in the wild,” said Jan Creamer, president of ADI.
“Seeing him walk on the grass for the first time, hearing the voices of his peers, with the African sun on his back, brought tears to all of us.
Initially, Rouben’s legs were shaky due to malnutrition and lack of exercise.” But Rouben’s resilience has surprised everyone.
He stepped out of his transport cage and followed a trail of sausages to a large grass toy shaped like a boxing ball – his first toy – and started playing immediately.
Having not heard other lions for years, Rouben began to roar again, his morning vocalizations becoming stronger as he regained his self-confidence.
“His behavior has changed, his face is relaxed, and he is no longer fearful. His determination to walk is an inspiration,” Mr. Creamer said.
“If he stumbles or falls, he gets up and keeps walking. It’s simply heroic.”
Initially, ADI couldn’t find a suitable flight for Rouben’s transport, but Qatar Airways Cargo’s charitable initiative “WeQare” stepped in.
An aircraft with large enough cargo doors to accommodate Rouben’s cage was put into service on the regular passenger line from Yerevan.
“Organizing such transportation requires significant efforts, but we are all very proud to have contributed to it, knowing that we have done good for our planet.
WATCH Rouben take his first steps (and find a sausage waiting for him)…”