World’s Loneliest Lion Named Ruben, Who Was Abandoned At An Armenian Zoo, Arrives At His New Home In South Africa

Thanks to an epic journey across the world organized by Animal Defenders International (ADI) and Qatar Airways Cargo, Ruben, the world’s loneliest lion, has been saved by ADI Wildlife Sanctuary (ADIWS) in Free State, South Africa.

Ruben was the only animal left in a private zoo in Armenia after it closed down. All the other animals were relocated, but there was no room for Ruben and he was left behind in a tiny concrete cell for five long years, his roars unanswered.

Now, thanks to ADI and a flight provided by Qatar Airways Cargo, 15-year-old Ruben has made the 5,200-mile journey to ADIWS, where he is hearing lion voices again after years of loneliness. Ruben has already started to get his roar back, his calls have been getting louder as he regains his confidence.

“Lions are the most sociable of the big cats, living in family prides in the wild. So it must have been devastating for Ruben to have no contact or communication with other lions,” said ADI President Jan Creamer. “Seeing him walk on grass for the first time, hearing the voices of his own kind, with the African sun on his back, brought us all to tears.”

Ruben’s happy ending was at risk when ADI could not find a suitable flight for him out of Armenia. Then Qatar Airways Cargo ‘WeQare’ initiative stepped in, moving a larger aircraft with hold doors big enough for Ruben’s crate into the scheduled passenger route out of Yerevan. Qatar even put on an air-conditioned truck to move him between aircraft at Doha. ADI’s President and Vice President, Jan Creamer and Tim Phillips, accompanied the lion.

When Animal Defenders International approached us and explained the sad story of Ruben, the lonely lion, we immediately knew we had to help him. There are a lot of logistics involved in moving animals like Ruben; from the airports involved, to the process of loading and unloading the animals from the aircraft, to ensuring the correct cages and well-being of the animals are in place. It takes a lot of effort from our team to organize such transport – but it is something we are all collectively very proud to be a part of, knowing we helped give back to our planet,” said Elisabeth Oudkerk, SVP Cargo Sales & Network Planning at Qatar Airways Cargo


“We are committed to preserving wildlife and endangered species, that is why we launched our WeQare Chapter 2 initiative: ‘Rewild the Planet’ back in 2020,” continued Oudkerk. “We pledged to return wildlife and endangered species back to their natural habitat, free of charge and we will continue to do so.”

Years of severe confinement and malnutrition have left the battered old lion with difficulty walking, his hind legs wobbling and buckling beneath him. On arrival, Ruben was sedated and examined at Old Chapel Veterinary Clinic by leading big cat veterinarian Dr. Peter Caldwell, who has begun a course of treatment. A habitat has been specially designed at ADIWS with ramps up to platforms and guard rails.

However, Ruben’s resilience has stunned everyone at the sanctuary with his determination and response to his new life. With his wobbly legs, he strode from his travel crate and immediately began playing with a giant catnip punchbag, which was his first toy.

“His whole demeanor has transformed, his face is relaxed and no longer fearful. His determination to walk is inspiring. If he stumbles or falls, he just picks himself back up and keeps going. He is nothing short of heroic. Incredibly, in just a few days, his movement is already improving. We know this will be a long road and will require ongoing veterinary treatment, but the start of his new life could not have been better,” said Creamer.

Please consider donating to ADI for Ruben’s ongoing care and help this magnificent old lion enjoy his second chance at life HERE!

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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