Friendship has no boundaries, regardless of language, culture, geography, or even species.
While the majority of pet owners scream and rave about how dogs and cats are a man’s best friend, wildlife enthusiast Valentin Gruener has a friend of a different caliber.
It is safe to assume that Sirga the lion is Val’s best buddy. Every time they see one other, they leap at each other because of their special connection.
Val believes that Sirga is maybe the kindest lion there is, yet he advises against making an attempt to befriend her because it could have damaging consequences:
“She is always gentle and friendly despite her size. But I am the only one interacting with her. It would be dangerous for people who she is not used to.
This is how Val recalls the story of their meeting: “It started ten years ago when Sirga was not fed by her mother anymore, and I had to hand-raise her.”
“Sirga the lioness was born on February 25, 2012, to wild lions captured after being identified as ‘problem animals’ in livestock areas who were held and cared for at the property of Grassland Bushman Lodge grounds.”
Valentin began looking after her when her mother stopped providing food for her.
They got along well right away. At that point, the Sirga began to make hugs for Valentin a habit.
Sirga continued to grow as time passed, and their relationship got closer as she matured.
At the 2000-hectare area created just for her, Sirga and Valentin now relax.
But now that Sirga has her own area to govern, she can, although her kingdom is remarkably calm and has few conflicts.
“Today she lives in a 2000 ha reserve specially set up for her where she can hunt and live as freely as possible under her circumstances.”
“I am still around for her on a daily basis. I am living in the middle of the bush in Botswana together with Sirga.”
Most of the time, they relax in the shade, explore Sirga’s domain, and of course, cuddle there.
According to Valentin Grüner, caring for Sirga had a profoundly positive impact on him personally.
“I’ve always loved animals but Sirga changed my life forever. Being responsible for her is still teaching me on a daily basis what it means to really be there for another being.”
“I will continue to be by her side and to fight for the survival of her wild relatives for as long as I live.”