This is the heart-warming story of Valentin Gruener, Mikkel Legarth, and a lioness called Sirga. The video you are about to watch is a demonstration of the bond that has been created between Valentin and Sirga in the time since he rescued her from certain death two-and-a-half years ago. Be prepared for what happens when Valentin opens the cage to be ‘greeted’ by this 110kg cat as you are in for a shock. However we can assure you that what you are about to witness is one of the most remarkable moments shared between any lion and a human being.
After meeting on a wildlife farm in 2009, Mikkel Legarth from Denmark and Valentin Gruener from Germany fulfilled a lifelong dream both of them had to help create a stronger bond between people and the wilderness. This was done with the establishment of the Modisa Wildlife Project in an area of Botswana just to the west of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. In conjunction with William De Graaff, owner of the neighboring Grassland Safari Lodge, and as is explained on the Modisa website, “Modisa and Grassland have a mutual target of contributing to a better future for big cats and surrounding wildlife. Grassland started their conservation work by capturing lions and other big cats in conflict with farmers to spare them from certain death.” While it is against the law to kill any lion in Botswana, it is one which at times has little effect.
The story of Sirga is the stuff of films. Two-and-a-half years ago she was born in the wild among a pride of lions. Sirga however was pushed out of the pride very young by a mother whose milk had dried up. She was found by William De Graaff, who then told Valentin Gruener that his help was needed. Sirga was totally dehydrated and near death, but Valentin refused to give up. With the help of telephone advice from a vet, he was able to put Sirga on a drip, and once that had been absorbed, she regained sufficient energy to be able to be bottle fed. Valentin slept with her for many, many nights before he was convinced she would survive. The following months saw Valentin and Mikkel Legarth continue to make their own brand of milk for Sirga. “We made her milk from scratch – fresh eggs, cream, milk, vitamins, sunflower oil and calcium – luxurious meal for a little lion.” Her health blossomed as a result and very soon she was no longer just a little lion cub.
There was never any question of Sirga being able to be released back in to the wild after such a close bond had been created between her and Valentin, so it has continued to grow unhindered. However Sirga was born a wild cat and there would normally be no telling if that wild instinct would dominate. As you can clearly see from Sirga’s reaction to meeting Valentin and how they enjoy going for a walk together, there is no question of that happening now. This is indeed a quite remarkable bond between man and beast.