CJ writes: October is here and we are turning another page in this adventure with the boys. The summer was not typical. For Madrid, it was rather mild, which was much better for the boys. Now Autumn is here. It gets cool at night and remains that way until mid morning. We have had a few rain storms. Something new again for the boys. They like their shades lowered at night, if you can imagine. As of now, they are on a training schedule - learning how to be lion It seems just like yesterday when we finally found them in a sanctuary in Alicante - when we actually saw them for the first time. The thrill of that moment is still fresh with me today even though it has now been a few months ago. There they were. So small. Side by side in the fresh air and sunshine just waiting to be loved and made well again.
My mind traveled backwards at that moment to why and how this entire adventure began. I had no idea how much my life was going to change. I sat down on March 6th, 2013 to my morning coffee. An American news channel was on. Suddenly "A Breaking News" story appeared about a tragic accident involving a lion and an intern in California. Both had lost their lives. The beautiful face of an adult male lion covered the television screen. He had killed a young intern - so it was said - and the details of just what had happened was not clear at that time. Like all stories of this nature, the lion, at first, was made out to be responsible. Later on in the investigations it was found that that was not the case at all.
Upon hearing the news that morning, I felt like I had been stabbed in the chest. I couldn´t quite get my breath. I spent the rest of that day with a deep sadness. I could not shake it off. I followed the story for several days after - something out of the ordinary for me. My family became concerned as time went on because I actually went into a depression which I could not explain. This went on for weeks - months - and I too could not understand why this incident was taking such control over me.
I began having little incidents take place in my life that involved lions; lions here and lions there. You know, lions everywhere. It was the strangest thing. I have always loved animals and always been involved with animals. However, lions had never had such a hold over me nor had they ever appeared so often from out of no where. It seemed like every time I turned the television on, there was a lion. Every magazine, book, advertisement, etc., that I picked up contained something about lions. I was drawn to the sanctuary where the tragic incident had taken place and stayed in contact with them often for over a year. I could not sleep. It began to physically wear me down. I still couldn´t understand why.
Then one day, I turned the television on and there was Kevin Richardson on National Geographic Wild looking right into MY face. It seemed like he was in the room with me and he was talking directly to me and no one else. He was talking about canned hunting and lions. I immediately went to the computer and looked up Kevin´s website, sent a message to him and simply asked what could I do to help. Mandy Richardson answered me and told me to contact Chris Mercer at CACH. I did and I immediately knew that this was what I was being guided to do. This was the direction I was meant to go in. I felt a weight lift away.
When we got the word from Linda Park about two abused cubs in Spain, we had no doubt that we would find them. Although it took a lot of time and a lot of hard work, all of the bits and pieces just seemed to come together naturally.
When that moment arrived, my heart just seemed to stop. I stood there looking at them and they looked back at me. There are no words to describe the thoughts that were "roaring" around inside of my head. When I finally knelt down to touch them, I knew that our journey together was just beginning and that we would stay together until we got it right.
During the next few days, it became apparent that these two little boys were very sick. One more than the other. Little George, (then called Spain), was riddled with problems and although the Veterinarian at that time said they both would recover with the right diet and care, I knew this was going to be a long, emotional, rocky ride. One that would bind us together forever.
During the first few days, I felt so troubled. I only had to observe little George to know that he must have gone through such a great deal of abuse. His trouble seeing well - the sadness in his eyes, his inability to walk for short periods of time, the terrible sores on his feet, his swollen joints, his infections, and on and on. These physical road blocks had me questioning whether or not it was fair to continue asking more and more from him. Should he be put down? But George was the one who answered that question for me. George chose to fight. His inner spirit and courage surfaced over and over again. He met his challenges face on - often exhibiting his feelings verbally with his little roars, his need to be hugged, and his nose to nose little chit chats with me designed specifically to express his opinion that life was what he wanted and the chance to prove it. He moved me to tears every day. George was far from being the perfect little lion cub on the outside, but a more perfect, loving and forgiving little lion on the inside he certainly was.
George has fought his physical handicaps. He has earned his right to survive. He will still need a great deal of time to mend and may never be perfect, but he will be, without a doubt, a very, very, special lion who has pulled himself up out of the deepest hole and made his way into the sunshine.
We knew we needed to move the cubs to a sanctuary near Madrid in order for us to oversee their care and welfare. We were advised to move the cubs to a center where the owners and veterinarians were specialists in caring for big cats. We have been grateful for this advice and although we question certain practices, the love, care, guidance, and help that we have received has contributed greatly to the boys surviving and having a life to look forward to.
Morning for the boys begins early with a hearty breakfast. A bowl containing chunks of chicken breasts, chunks of red meat, and minced meat served portion appropriate for each. Not however, served on a silver platter! Morning medications, (which vary with time), given as well. Fresh water and sometimes, (when a little comfort food is needed), George gets a bottle with minced chicken. We call this his chicken shake. Then outdoors for some play and exercise.
Lunch time offers the same varieties of meat, vitamin supplements and for George, his eye drops. He makes the biggest stink about this routine. More fresh water. By this time, we have already had a great time role playing with towels, toys, shoes, and shirts. I have plenty of bruises from head to toe to prove that I am always the loser regardless of the activity. Playing with the boys and keeping them mentally and physically stimulated was the reason we had to have them near us. The center is a two hour drive back and forth each day, but we get to be near them and keep a watch over their health and welfare.
Dinner is pretty much the same. George is eating well and now weighs close to 15 kilos. Yame woofs his food down and hopes his brother has missed something in his bowl. Yame now weighs close to 22 kilos.
In addition to the three stables, the boys get an early wake up call feeding and a late night snack. Their needs have been well attended to with tender love and care.
Lately, Yame has been sitting on his tree trunk starring out the window into the play area or beyond into the hills. That lion instinct is calling him. He knows that his life is not meant to be lived inside - although he does keep a careful watch on his den and does make it clear when HE WANTS to be there. His moments of deep thinking can be seen quite clearly by the far away look in his eyes and there is no doubt that he´s wanting to be free. These moments make me think about all of those "out there" living such horrible lives; clawing and chewing at bars with broken nails and bloody gums. Hungry and thirsty. Bodies broken and wasting from illness and abuse. Lives spent in breeding factories or caged up in circuses.
I am beginning to feel the loss of these two beautiful boys. Time is winding down fast. Soon we will be filming their departure from the center, their arrival to the Madrid airport and then their arrival in South Africa. It is such a long, long trip and I will be a wreck until they get there. I know that they will be flying towards a wonderful future and that their lives will change again. This time they WILL have freedom and they will have the love and care of Kevin. If only all of the "lost ones" could have had such a chance in their lives.
I hope that Yame and George will represent their brothers and sisters well and that as little ambassadors, they will help people understand that a soul is a special gift given to all the living - to be respected - to be allowed to go forward until it is time to move on.
Hugs and loves from the cubs
Update by Bev
We are all still waiting for CITES permits. CJ and Luis and the freight and shipping agents are pressing the conservation authorities, but bureaucracies live in a different time dimension from the rest of society. Physically, the cubs are ready to fly right now.
Once CJ & Luis have all the permits, then they can book the tickets to bring them and the cubs to Kevin's sanctuary in SA. We were hoping for mid-October but now it is looking more like mid-November.
We are extremely grateful to all who have donated to relocate the little Spanish lion cubs from Madrid to South Africa. Without your generosity we would not have been able to rescue the cubs. These little babies were abused from the day they were born, until they were rescued by CJ & Luis. Now the cubs will have a new beginning and will live in SA at Kevin's sanctuary.
We ask everyone to please spread the cubs' story through your social networks. Cub petting is an evil and by sharing the story of the cubs we bring awareness to many that do not know the repercussions to the cubs in this industry.
FUND RAISING Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the animal welfare community we have almost reached our target of US$15,000. Please continue to spread the word and help us raise the full amount to bring them home.