Hugging a lion – duo build unbreakable bond with 110lb lioness
These heart-warming photographs show an incredible bond between a WILD lioness and the men fighting to save her species.
The amazing pictures show Sirga – a 110lb lioness – and her adopted pride Valentin Gruener and Mikkel Legarth.
Incredibly she treats the two men just like she would other lions and with their help she can now hunt for prey on her own.
As a cub she was driven out from a pride and rescued by German and Danish duo Valentin and Mikkel who could not stand by and watch her die.
She is now a beacon for hoped success of the Modisa Wildlife Project, founded in Botswana, Africa, by Valentin and Mikkel with the hope of saving the lion population.
Botswana could fit a country the size of Britain into it two and a half times and has vast areas of wilderness – but already increased farming is bringing lions and man into more and more conflict.
From a base camp in the African bush the Modisa Wildlife Project has been working with local farmers to find a way to keeps lions and man apart.
The plan is to relocate the lions which are coming into contact with farmers to one large protected area where they have enough wild prey to feed on.
As these amazing shots show Mikkel and Valentin has an incredible affinity for the lions they rescue and not just Sirga.
Their work has now been documented by photographer Nicolai Frederik Bonnén Rossen who himself got up-close-and-personal with the magnificent predators.
Conservationist Mikkel, 30, said his bond with Sirga was just like as if she was part of his pride.
He said: “A pride had three cubs and two were killed before Sirga was abandoned without food. It happened on our land and we could not standby and watch her die.
“We didn’t want Sirga to become like other lions in captivity, constantly fed by streams of tourists. She only interacts with me and Valentin.
“She hunts her own food, taking antelopes and she will let us be near her when she eats it which is remarkable.
“Sirga doesn’t mind people, but she doesn’t pay them any attention. Wild lions are scared of people, the problem comes if you release a lion that is used to people in the wild, that can cause problems.
“With Sirga we want to release her to the wild eventually as a wild lion not as one that has met lots of people. That would be dangerous.”
The Modisa Wildlife Project aims at removing lions from areas where they face certain death after coming into conflict with farmers.
Mikkel said: “If you release wild lions somewhere else, they will come straight back to where they were before because there is food there.
“And if you just dump a pride of lions in the middle of a new territory they will disturb the prides that are already there.
“In Botswana all lions are protected by the government – like swans being the property of the Crown in the UK. This also makes moving them a problem.
“What we have now are 10,000-hectare plots with 10 to 15 lions in fenced enclosure, they are wild lions but we do have to feed them.
“The first time you walk up to a lion all your body is telling you this is not something you should be doing.”