Many of our readers will be familiar with Subira, the lion who came to Aspen Valley as a small cub. She had been purchased in an exotic animal auction by a teenaged girl as a “pet,” but the teen soon discovered that Subira was not an appropriate pet to have in a house. After a long search by the girl’s parents, management at Aspen Valley at the time agreed to take the lion in, even though she was obviously not native to Ontario.
Subira finds her pride.
Subira, who spent years alone in an Aspen enclosure, now sits among a pride of lions at a Colorado sanctuary.
Subira spent 12 years at Aspen Valley, having never known another of her own species. Lions are a social animal and do not usually live alone (unless they are older males who have lost their place in a pride). Although she interacted with humans, this could not really make up for the lack of contact with her own kind.
In the spring of 2012, staff, with the help of Zoocheck Canada, made contact with The Wild Animal Sanctuary located in Colorado who are famous for taking unrelated big cats and successfully forming prides. In particular, they are known for rescuing lions from various circuses and roadside zoos in Central and South American countries and rehabilitating them into prides. The sanctuary maintains about 780 acres of habitat for grizzlies, black bears, wolves, tigers and lions.
In late April 2012, we had reported in a previous column that Pat Craig, manager of The Wild Animal Sanctuary, arrived at Aspen Valley to collect Subira for the long journey to Colorado. She travelled well, lying down and relaxing for most of the drive.
Craig has a good deal of experience in introducing new animals to one another, and in the case of Subira, it took months. First of all, Subira was placed in her own cage near other lions, and heard them roar for the first time in her life. At first she was confused by the sound, but perked up and listened carefully, and then vocalized softly. She gradually roared back as she gained confidence. The next step was to place her within visual distance of other lions so that she could identify them as her own species. Next she was placed beside a group so that she could interact with them through the safety of a fence.
The final step was to carefully allow the pride and Subira to be together. The pride chosen for her had originated in Panama and, were deemed the most compatible.
We are thrilled to report that Subira is now part of this pride, enjoying a very large enclosure and all the enrichment that goes with being with her own kind. A happy ending indeed!
(These weekly articles are contributed by staff at the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife with a mandate to educate the public towards a better understanding of local fauna.)