HOW TO SAVE A LION | The Story of Natacha
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Rescuing a Lion Named Natacha

There is only one way to save a lion … and that’s with rugged determination!

However, there are many things to consider when rescuing and/or relocating a lion (or other animals). Why are you rescuing that animal in the first place? How will you plan and execute the rescue? Where will they live and will their new home be a place where they can live out their days peacefully?

Then of course you have the process to work through; the countless details, paperwork, transport, CITES certificates, local government approvals, veterinarian checks & certificates… it all adds up to a process which can last several months and we haven’t even touched upon how to fund such a passion to protect a lions life.

For the past 6 months, Captured In Africa Foundation has been in the process of relocating a Lion cub from Spain. Natacha. Our foundation’s founder Drew Abrahamson, has a long history of rescues, relocations and mitigation of both captive & wild big cats in need. Drew’s industry contacts, professional experience and knowledge, along with a dedicated support team, is the perfect combination when assisting in such circumstances. It’s for such instances the Captured In Africa Foundation seeks to ensure a better life for big cats.

Natacha cowers in the corner of her transport crate, unaware of what's going on.

Natacha cowers in the corner of her transport crate, unaware of what’s going on.

Natacha’s initial rescue in Spain took place in October 2015 by SEPRONA (a local authority, whose mission is to ensure compliance in the conservation of nature and environment), who confiscated Natacha from a notorious circus and took her to a temporary facility near Alicante. Natacha was then moved in November to the Fauna y Accion Centre near Madrid to facilitate her rescue to South Africa, Raul Mérida and his team here have cared & treated for various animals, including rescued lion cubs in the past.

The Lion Breeding Industry is Bigger than You Think!

Captured In Africa’s Paul Tully explains;

“Breeding of lions to be exploited for commercial use such as cub petting and circuses, isn’t restricted to South Africa, Asia and the US, it also goes on throughout Europe and South America. Spain also sees such breeding of lions, where the opportunity to make a fast buck appeals to the many unscrupulous providers of animal “entertainment” through photo props, cub petting and circuses. You also have the hundreds of lion breeders in South Africa shipping their lions to zoo’s worldwide – that’s how large this industry is.” It’s a horrendous cycle in the life of lions … one which the Captured In Africa Foundation hopes to have an impact to raise awareness of and to ultimately end.”

“the tourism side of things is huge, the use (or rather abuse) of captive wildlife within tourism is something that requires far more awareness, education and ultimately tour operators and governing bodies to help stamp out with clear guidelines and best practices – no tour operator or travel provider should rely on the word on the facility offering wildlife interactions, only through third party and independent research can you truly understand this industry to make an informed decision on if an animal interaction is ethical or not.” – concludes Paul

Natacha waits, as she's cared for in Spain following her confiscation

Natacha waits, as she’s cared for in Spain following her confiscation

Raul Mérida and his team cared for Natacha upon her arrival at the Raul Merida Sanctuary. Raul then contacted our colleagues and friends in Spain, CJ & Louis Chelui (Chelui4lions) in the hope that more could be done for this special young African lioness. They immediately contacted Captured In Africa Foundation’s Drew Abrahamson.

CJ & Luis explain;

“When Natacha arrived at the sanctuary and was released from her transport, we were all stunned by the wild, frightened and simply terrorised lion cub they were watching – spitting, growling, roaring and prepared to attack at any moment.

The signs that Natacha had been badly abused was evident by her terrible fear of brooms, shovels, and anything else that had a long handle. She had obviously been beaten. Natacha had lesions on her back and tail which looked like she had been in a fire (possibly saved by someone), although we never received answers regarding this. The lesions healed following the amazing care Natacha received from Raul and his team.”

The months of hard work and dedicated care culminated in Natacha touching down at ORT on Thursday the 7th April at 9:45am. With the help of our colleagues Michael Falls & Hilton Button at PAWS SA, who finalised all the clearances and paperwork necessary – an amazing team for such a job.

Captured In Africa Foundation and Love Lions Alive teams await Natacha's arrival

Captured In Africa Foundation and Love Lions Alive teams await Natacha’s arrival

Final checks being made in OR Tambo, Johannesburg

Final checks being made in OR Tambo, Johannesburg

Secured in her crate, Natacha is ready for departure from her former sad life

Secured in her crate, Natacha is ready for departure from her former sad life

“It is like torture standing at the receiving end of cargo warehouse looking down towards a crate neatly stacked… knowing there is a precious soul in there not knowing what is going on. Watching after a torturous, what felt like hours, they hooked the forklift into the crate to bring her out… the slow pace as the crate comes towards you is equally painful!” – Foundation founder Drew describes.

The relocation teams and airport personnel check on Natacha and accompanying paperwork

The relocation teams and airport personnel check on Natacha and accompanying paperwork

Natacha in her crate is manoeuvred onto the transport vehicle, ready to head to the Love Lions Alive sanctuary

Natacha in her crate is manoeuvred onto the transport vehicle, ready to head to the Love Lions Alive sanctuary

…and so began Natacha’s final leg of her trip to her new home;

“The weather was not in our favour but possibly was right for Natcaha. It was the coldest day we have experienced since the beginning of autumn & raining. We made our way on the highway towards Harrismith with rain beating down, only hoping that Natacha was doing ok in the crate. It was still fairly cold in Spain as they are coming out of their winter so she was used to the cooler wet weather, so not too much of a shock to her system.”

The long and (not so) winding road to Natacha's new home in Harrismith, South Africa

The long and (not so) winding road to Natacha’s new home in Harrismith, South Africa

Captured In Africa Foundation arranged a new life for Natacha with our friends and wonderful sanctuary of Love Lions Alive Project in South Africa, established and run by renowned lion conservationist Andi Rive. Andi’s work with lions has been featured worldwide, including in the 2015 Animal Planet series ‘The Lion Queen’.

“Once at Love Lions Alive Project just outside Harrismith, we pulled up, jumped out of the vehicles and under cover to strategize on how & where the crate was going to be driven in and positioned in the enclosure. We drove up the mountain (the sanctuary is set in the most beautiful of locations), opened the gate to the enclosure with Mela (another lion cub cared for by Andi Rive) closely watching on as we drove in… we lifted the crate off the back and the front grate was taken off. Andi and I walked around the side to try catch a glimpse of Natacha to see what she was doing. All we could see was her right back leg. We thought it was going to take some time for her to come out and we said to each other “she could stay in there the whole night if she wanted to!”… The last word hadn’t even come out my mouth and we saw her face…”

 

WATCH THAT MOMENT when Natacha takes her first steps on African soil >>>

Over the next few days, Natacha grew in confidence and Drew was there to watch this amazing transformation… “to watch her explore her enclosure, climb on boulders, of which she now has her favourite… smelling the African air, listening and keeping a watchful eye on her new friend Mela, words cannot express what you feel inside witnessing this, when the last 6 months boils down to this one moment…”

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Natacha explores her boundary fence. The lions here have a huge space compared to many other sanctuaries.

THAT rock is hers!!

THAT rock is hers!!

Drew and Andi look on, as Natacha becomes accustomed to her new environment

Drew and Andi look on, as Natacha becomes accustomed to her new environment

“In the weeks to come Natacha will be introduced to her life-long friend to be Mela, who is only 6 days older. I have absolutely no doubt they will become the best of friends!!”

Our sincerest thanks and appreciation go to EVERYONE who helped Natacha, as you can see already, this is one much happier lion. Thank you.

Saving a lion… “it’s not for the faint-hearted”

If you’d like more information on our non-profit Captured In Africa Foundation, or to make a donation, please CLICK HERE

#savebigcats #lionstrong #capturedinafricafoundation

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