-- When a Zookeeper Picks Up a Cub, A Lioness Sprang to its Feet and Did the Unexpected

 In this world, neither humans nor lions can survive in isolation. As the functional ecosystems continue to fade due to human activities, all the more these wild animals become reliant to human beings. While it’s true that some people are slowly getting close to these creatures, one must not forget that these animals tend to be consistent to its nature and biology, especially when provoked.

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Aside from being territorial, lions are extremely protective of their cubs, too. They will risk their lives and fight any predator who intends to harm their young. There are lots of recorded cases in which lions attack humans and mostly, the damages are fatal. These horrible events seemed to put the boundaries between lions and humans once again.

However, it seemed that a zookeeper from South Africa doesn’t know anything about these dangers. He gets inside a den and picks up a cub as if he’s picking a kitten or a puppy. But when a lioness saw what he did, the events that followed would surely leave you in awe.

A Dangerous yet Challenging Job

With a lot of possible jobs and professions in the world, it is safe to say that only a few people would accept the challenge of being a zookeeper. While there are cute and completely harmless animals in the zoo, no one can tell where you will be assigned. In this case, Kevin Richardson from South Africa seemed to land in the worst position possible.

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Assigned to look after a group of lions, Kevin knows that his job is not a joke. Either female or male lions can be aggressive in a blink of an eye. He is aware that these beasts are ready to attack and tear through any kind of enemy once they feel aggravated. Still, he didn’t say no to the job. He is confidently up for the challenge.

Assessing the Enemy

Of course, Kevin Richardson did his assignment before accepting the job. For many years, he had been learning about lions and lioness, as well as their cubs. Known for their beauty and strength, the zookeeper is aware that lions wouldn’t be called “the king of the jungle” for nothing.

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It’s interesting to know that when it comes to food, a group of lioness called “pride” does most of the hunting. The males, on the other hand, defend their territory. But when it comes to protecting the younger members of the family, the lions and the lioness are both a force to be reckoned with. They will attack anyone who poses dangers to their cubs. But the zookeeper seems to have the wild beasts under his fingertips.

Working with Caution

Despite knowing a lot about the animals he had to care for, Kevin knows that he couldn’t afford to be careless. One mistake in dealing with lions can get him injuries, or worse, it could mean his life. The kings of the jungle are fully aware of their strengths especially when they are smelling danger. Without a common language to use, Kevin had to rely on his wits and instincts.

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But one day, it seemed that Kevin is too confident to enter the animal den. The lion enclosure is home to female and male lions. He had a job to do and he made it sure that he would have a remembrance. Without protective gears or weapons, Kevin made his way inside. He walked in where adorable cubs lie in wait. Was he supposed to take photos?

Getting Closer to Danger

With his video camera on, Kevin slowly walks inside the lions’ enclosure. The lioness just stared at the zookeeper. However, her eyes are evidently on the look. Her cubs are with her and she doesn’t seem to detect any sign of danger. Kevin had to be attentive. Any sign of anxiousness can lead to an unfortunate event. Although it was not his first time to enter the lion enclosure, the zookeeper still feels a little bit nervous whenever he gets too close.

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Slowly and quietly, Kevin approached the group. With his heart in his hand, he then picks up a cub. Lunch time is approaching and there are jobs to be done. The other staff waited outside. The lioness wouldn’t just sit there and watch. What happened next was jaw-dropping.

The Sudden Attack

Kevin knows how to appear harmless to the lions. With years of experience dealing with their behaviors, he had learned how to act confidently. Although his life is always at rish whenever he approaches them, he knew he would always say yes to the job. He must never appear anxious or agitated or else, the lions will react differently.

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The zookeeper seemed to be lost in thoughts while holding an adorable cub in hand. The lioness wasted no second and jumps on him! Dumbstruck, all that Kevin could do was to raise his hands and cover his face. The massive beast can easily tear him into pieces. But the fatal attack didn’t happen. Instead, the lioness acted in a gesture of embrace. She seemed to miss the zookeeper. What could be the reason behind the sudden jump for joy?

Saying Hello to a Friend

The lioness didn’t attack Kevin in a fierce mode that’s meant to hurt him. Instead, the happy mother was in a playful mode. The zookeeper had been with her since she became pregnant. An unusual friendship between a human and a lion had blossomed within a span of a few months. Just like in human, the pregnant lioness remembered how the zookeeper had kept her well-fed, comfortable and protected. In the wild, it wouldn’t be this easy to survive.

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The lioness seemed to show her appreciation because the zookeeper had taken good care of her while she was in such a vulnerable condition. As if saying thank you, the lioness jumped on Kevin and was in the gesture of hugging a dear friend. How is this possible?

The Beginning of an Unusual Friendship

No mother would want to be separated from her kids, may it be humans or animals. Kevin knows that he is risking his life in trying to separate the cubs from the lioness. However, being a zookeeper, he had jobs to do. For those lions in captivity, there’s a strict nutritional plan and the zookeepers have to follow them strictly. Kevin has to separate the cubs to feed them properly.

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Knowing that one day he would eventually come down to this task, Kevin worked his way out on being a constant sight to the pregnant lioness. He wants her to be comfortable with him. Whenever he comes to the enclosure, he would greet the lioness and ask if she is okay as if he’s talking to a fellow human.

The Daily Encounters

At first, Kevin was really cautious and always attentive. There are times when he would stand and watch for hours from outside the animal enclosure. There are also days when the lions would not be in the mood due to a variety of reasons. It could be the weather or the other lions in the group. However, even if he can’t get close enough, he made it sure the animals can see him every day.

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For Kevin, caring for animals is just like caring for humans, too. One needs to be compassionate and understanding. But most of all, one has to devote time. As patient as he can, Kevin included in his schedule a play time with the lions. He called the daily encounters “office meetings”. It was like an ordinary job in the city!

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Understanding the Language of the Lions

Anyone who can build a close relationship with animals, especially with the wild ones, seems exceptional. Not all people are given the chance to see these magnificent creatures. Sometimes, it takes a considerable amount of money and courage to do so. Undeniably, Kevin Richardson is one of those brave and fortunate people who had been allowed to enter the territory of the kings of the jungle.

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Following a rigorous work schedule every day, Kevin had soon learned the language of the wild beasts. He would say hi to the lions when before starting on his jobs and he makes it sure to say goodbye to them as well before heading home. As the lions began to feel safe in his presence, his co-workers in the zoo began to call him as the “lion whisperer”.

A Once in a Lifetime Experience

Not all humans have the opportunity to see lions. As the world heads towards development, the natural habitats of these animals are continuously getting destroyed and put in peril. Some breeds of lions are now considered endangered species. Even if some people are raising awareness, some choose to stay silent about the alarming issue.

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With these unfortunate happenings, one can consider himself lucky at the mere sight of these majestic creatures. It is not impossible that one day, their population will just perish. That would be heartbreaking. Given the chance to be close and to be treated as a friend, Kevin Richardson knows that this kind of experience is something to nurture in his lifetime. Even if he is aware that anything can go wrong at any moment, he chooses to trust the lions just as the beasts trust him, too.

Cuddle Sessions to Cherish

Even the people who visit zoos and lion sanctuaries rarely see cubs. Either they are heavily protected by their mothers or they needed delicate care and attention. In the jungle, the female lions do everything they can to hide their cubs from possible predators. But in captivity, the lions can still find ways on how to defend their young.

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Kevin was so thankful he had the chance to interact with cubs, especially those who are just weeks old. He knew from his learning that cubs love to be cuddled. They see it as a sign of protection from other predators and even from their own kinds. The zookeeper was glad that their daily cuddling sessions allowed the cubs to show their affection towards him. In the process, Kevin had something learned something new as well.

Knowledge from Experience

A big part of Kevin’s confidence in his job was acquired through experience. The major tips are provided in the books but he had to muster enough courage to get as close as possible to these wild beasts. His daily routine had helped him to build a relationship with the lions. Aside from talking to zoologists and researchers, Kevin takes time to learn about them even more. He loves to observe.

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While there is no shortage of reference from the Internet about lions, their behaviors and literally about everything that relates to them, nothing beats real experience. Although the steps on how to approach, how to take care and how to deal with these animals can be read from the books, zoologists and researchers there’s more than just meet the eyes.

Feeding Time

While adult lions can be easily fed, the lioness that had just given birth had to be treated with double caution. She is still recovering and just like humans, female lions tend to be aggressive when provoked, even to their own kind. Kevin knew his task was not easy.  It is time for lunch. Although the lions tend to be calm whenever they are eating, one wrong move in their surroundings and they get alarmed and agitated easily.

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Aside from bringing food to the lion’s enclosure, Kevin and some of his aids couldn’t leave. Even if they don’t have to move so they couldn’t interrupt the eating beasts, they have to be patient. Their job is to guard to the lioness and the cubs while they are eating. Why do they need to watch?

Avoiding Interruption

The lioness and her cubs are not isolated from the pride, a group of female lions. Inside the enclosure, they still have to adapt and mingle with the others. The pride loves to interact with one another and play. Even Kevin enjoys these moments. It is his favorite time of the day when he can finally play with the lions. But he has to make sure they have eaten well or else, their moods will not be so good.

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During feeding time, Kevin and some of the zoo staff had to stay and wait until they are finished. They need to restrain the rest of the lions they would interrupt the mother and cubs from eating. It can easily lead to a dangerous situation. For the meantime, the playtime has to be put on hold.

Until They are Ready

While it’s true that lions are one of the most feared groups of animals either in the jungle or in animal sanctuaries, they can only inflict that fear when they come of age. But until they are cubs, they have to hide under the protection of their mother. They are as vulnerable as kittens.

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At eight weeks old, the cubs would be permitted to play with the rest of the pride. While they might have the strength to play inside their enclosure, Kevin still has to be on guard for a couple of months. The cubs are still smaller than the adult ones and they must not fall victim in the false sense of security. Until they can defend themselves from everyone around them, Kevin has to wait. He loved it anyway.

A Temporary Father

As absurd as it may sounds, Kevin Richardson feels the responsibility of a father towards the lion family in captivity. Winning over the trust of the lioness and doing everything just to get close to the cubs was not an easy task. He had to spend hours watching them and learning about their behavior. He quietly approached the beasts and showed them he is a friend. Now, more than ever, the zookeeper feels the need to protect them.

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Inevitably, a time will come when the cubs will be introduced to the father and they will be allowed to mingle with the other lions. So as long as he has the opportunity to protect the lions he had learned to love dearly, Kevin knows he will stay.

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Mutual Understanding

Kevin’s job in the zoo is enjoyable. Being naturally fond of animals, he doesn’t regret becoming a zookeeper instead of pursuing a career in the city that can pay him well. However, he had to admit that there are days where he really feels tired and exhausted. But even so, he had no plans of leaving his post. It’s as if he felt he was really born for this. He wanted to a lion whisperer and he knows, he is as close to his dreams as possible.

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One day, after playing almost all day with the lioness and the adorable cubs, Kevin lay down on a grass bed inside the lions’ enclosure to take a rest. Seeing the lions calmed and resting, he decided to take a nap. Instead of seeing a helpless prey, the lioness came closer and laid beside Kevin just a protective mom!

It Became a Habit

Just like in humans, being a mother is a cumbersome job. The lioness had to deal with her cubs and make them feel loved and protected despite their father away from them. While Kevin does everything to lend a helping hand, there are still limits. Even though they think they can understand each other, there are feelings and emotions that only the lioness can feel towards the cubs.

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As days passed, Kevin and his special friend were not aware that taking a nap together was slowly becoming a hobby. The other staff in the zoo would see them resting and the sight was too good to be true. No one can believe at first how Kevin can walk in and walk out safely every day, and now, he can nap with the animals without worrying about his life. Indeed, a special friendship had been formed.

Saying Yes to the Challenge

Being a keeper of lions is something that would take a lot of convincing to most people. In South Africa, people are used to seeing animals, even the wild ones, and most of them thought they will be in this world forever, being taken care of or not. But the job description seemed to knock on Kevin’s heart. He had no doubts he would be a good fit despite the possibility of dangers.

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Kevin goes to the job the same way corporate employees go to the office. He works hard but still finds time to chill and relax with the lions. There was never a day in his life where he regretted where he is today. He even wants to recruit people and show them that kindness and compassion can make miracles.

A Big Trust

The lions’ population is in a rapid decline not only in South Africa but in the rest of the world as well. As the wildlife habitats of these wild animals are being affected by a variety of human activities, all the more Kevin feels the need to protect his friends. He knows in his own simple ways, he can inspire people to do the same. One by one, he started teaching his co-zookeeper the secret language of the lions.

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He is grateful that he had successfully proved that he is no threat to the lioness and the cubs. His efforts had paid off and he had earned their trust in the process. Thinking to himself, Kevin knew he still had more to give to his friends. What could that possibly be?

A Bigger Endeavor

Kevin believes that if he can, others can do it as well. His special friendship with these massive beasts inspired him to reach out to others and to bring awareness to what is happening. He can’t imagine a day when there are no lions roaming around and showing off their majestic stance and fearsome clan. They are wild and they can kill, yet they are only being true to their nature. Kevin fully understands that.

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While there is no such thing as a human-predator conflict between them, Kevin knows that the lions are facing plenty of dangers out there such as disease, unscrupulous hunting, bush meat, and illegal trade, among others. But above all these threats, Kevin Richardson is determined to keep them safe, no matter what it takes.

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Keep reading to hear about another lioness, that was in danger until zookeepers did this >>

This Lioness' Life Were Changed After Meeting Him at the Rescue Center

Lions are perhaps the most magnificent animals on the planet. Unfortunately, we humans do not appreciate them as much as we should. To make things worse, we even lock up these creatures and make them show animals that appear in private parties. Sheila, one truly unique lioness, had such a sad life.

Sheila is a unique lioness who used to be a show animal. Unfortunately, her owner didn't take proper care of her. The hard work started taking its toll on her health and it only got worse. One day, she was lucky enough to get rescued. Unfortunately, Sheila was in such a bad condition that the rescuers thought they were too late. Still, they tried to get her back on her feet but everything seemed pointless. Just when they were about to put her to sleep, one remarkable thing happened and changed Sheila's life for good.

Helping Sheila Out

Back in July 2009, Sheila was rescued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture along with a few other animals. All the animals were in a bad shape, but Sheila's condition was the worst. 

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This lioness looked like skin and bones; she was weak and frail. She seemed to be in such a bad condition that her rescuers thought she won't get to live another day. However, they decided to give their best and help the poor lioness out

Causes of Sheila's Condition

Sheila was held in an entertainment center located in Texas. She was one of the animals who performed in entertainment shows and her task was to amuse the audience.

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Not only were the performances exhausting but Sheila's caretaker didn't pay much attention to her or the other animals. eahey, founder of In-Sync Organization explained, ‘when the animals are no longer useful to him, he throws them aside and stops taking care of them.’

Captive Since Birth

Sheila was born in Africa, however, she was stolen and brought to Texas. This means the poor lioness has been held captive since the day she was born.

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As soon as she was brought to Texas, Sheila started living as a pet and appearing in photoshoots. It took only a year for this lifestyle to start harming Sheila's health.

Brought to Safety

Sheila's condition was so bad that she couldn't stand up on her own. Her rescuers pointed out that "she had very little muscle coordination, and thus when she walked, her legs would slip out from under her.”

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Sheila was so weak that she could barely lift her head up to drink water and she refused to eat anything. It seemed that she didn't want to live anymore.

Not The Only One

The saddest thing is that Sheila is one of so many animals who share this horrible faith. It is common for people to steal animals, take them away from their natural habitat, and use them for entertainment practics.

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Only few of these captured animals manage to survive in these horrible conditions. Most of them die after a few years. Luckily, Sheila had something amazing waiting for her.

Handing Sheila Over

The organization that rescued Sheila in the first place didn't know how to help her out. That is when they decided to hand her over to In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue and Education Center, an animal social welfare organization.

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This organization shelters and looks after animals who have been suffering for a while. The U.S Agriculture Department turned to the wildlife rescue center hoping that they could save Sheila. If not, they approved Sheila's euthanization.

Helping Sheila Out

As soon as Sheila was admitted into the organization, the resucers started working on helping her out. They were willing to do anything to help her get back in shape.

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Since Sheila rejected food, the rescuers would hand feed her. The founder of In Sync said, “For two weeks, I had to go in with Sheila and hand-feed her.” She added further “I’d meatballs balls and literally stuff them down her throat.”

Losing All Hope

No matter what the team did, Sheila's health was not getting any better. The team started losing all hope.

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An In-Sync member stated that “Sheila had very little muscle coordination, and thus, when she walked, her legs would slip out from under her.” It seemed as if nothing could help her out.

Nothing Can Help Her Out

Even the rescuers themselves were shocked. It seemed as if Sheila was reluctant to get better. After some time, she even became motionless.

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Sheila would even throw up after eating, which made her even sicker than before. The team didn't know what to do. But, still, they were not willing to give up

Making Tough Decisions

Despite the efforts that the rescuers put in, Sheila's health condition was not improving. The team then started considering USDA's advice and thinking about euthanizing this lioness.

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The rescuers noticed that Sheila was in lot of pain and wanted to end her suffering. Letting her live like this would be nothing but torture. So, the team started considering giving Sheila a merciful death.

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One of a Kind Lioness

Losing a unique lioness like Sheila would be such a shame. Her unique color made her stand out from all the other animals. We're quite sure that other wild cats were jealous of her looks.

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When it comes to her unique color, it is caused by a unique gene called color-inhibitor or chinchilla gene. Only lionesses from TImbavati and South Africa look like Sheila does. And, moments before she was euthanized, something incredible happened.

Deadly Disease

Soon, the In Sync team made another discovery. Sheila was suffering from the lack of vitamin A and a disease known as Toxoplasmosis.

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The parasites that carry this disease get mixed with the blood of the disease. Toxoplasmosis is not harmful to humans, but it can be quite dangerous for cats. The team was worried about saving Sheila. If she wouldn't eat anything, how would she take her medicine?

What Is Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is an infection commonly found in cats. When an animal's immune system is not strong enough to fight infections, Toxoplasmosis is very likely to occur.

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The symptoms of this disease are lack of coordination, breathing difficulties, disorientation, lethargy, anorexia, enlarged lymph nodes, and even blindness. If not cured, the disease can cause death.

Taking Care of Sheila

The rescuers started immediately treating Sheila's condition with antibiotics. They were aware that it was already too late for the treatment and were unsure about its results.

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Still, they decided to give it a try. Getting Sheila to take her antibiotics was not an easy task. At first, she refused to take it but then started to change her mind.

Getting Better

To everyone's surprise, Sheila started getting better. She started walking and eating on her own.

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Everyone thought that the medicine she was taking helped Sheila get better. But, in reality there was something else. Something that no one else noticed before.

Hopping With Joy

In-Sync team was glad to share the good news on social media. "Sheila has made a remarkable improvement. She has regained muscle control, swallows easily, and runs and hops like a bunny.”

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However, the team still couldn't understand what made Sheila change her mind. She was reluctant to have the antibiotics and, all of a sudden, she decided to start taking them.

Meeting Someone Special

Sheila was living in a big chamber which had another one attached to it. And, there was a special someone living in the neighboring chamber.

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This special someone helped Sheila get better. And, the rescuers were shocked when they realized it. What do you think, who lived in the chamber next to Sheila's?

Meeting Another Lion

A handsome lion lived in chamber next to Sheila's! From the moment these two noticed each other, they started bonding. And, this handsome guy's name is Kahn.

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Soon, Sheila fell in love with Kahn. And, it took the team quite a while to notice the affection they had for each other. But, when Sheila started getting better at such a fast pace, the team realized it was because of Kahn's company. Unfortunately, he also had a painful past.

Meet Kahn, The Lion

Kahn is a six-year-old lion. He was rescued by the organization a few months before Sheila was.

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Kahn shared the same fate as Sheila. He was trapped in the hands of reckless caretakers and performed in the entairtainment centers in Texas. When he was rescued, his condition was almost as bad as Sheila's.

Kahn's Terrible Past

Kahn was a show animal and his main task was to entertain the audience. He would often appear in private parties.

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In order to do his "job", Kahn was carted to different events every day. A hectic schedule like this started making him sick. But, his caretaker didn't pay attention to Kahn and still made him perform, despite his illness.

Pathetic Living Conditions

Kahn's living conditions were pathetic. When the team found him, he was malnourished and weighed 100 pounds less than the average male lion of his age. Similarly to Sheila, his owner treated him badly.

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Kahn's living space was very small and it hampered his physical growth. All of this made him do something that was quite unexpected.

Kahn's Frustration

Kahn was frustrated and bored. This made him chew his own tail off. As a result, the tip of his tail became raw and swollen. If the In-Sync team hadn't found him in time, Kahn would have died.

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Keahey explained, “When Kahn came, the end of his tail was completely chewed off and [he] was very thin.” The lion also suffered from a bone condition that made it difficult for him to walk.

Aggressive Behavior

When Kahn came to the rescue center, he was very aggressive. But, the team knew the reason behind his behavior - his illness and the bad living conditions he was in.

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Perhaps the fact that he wasn't given enough food also made Kahn aggressive. However, the team knew that once Kahn started feeling better, his behaviour would change.

Becoming a Friendly Face

And, they were right. Kahn was a fighter and he recovered very soon. Formerly an agressive beast, Kahn became a disciplined animal and an integral member of the rescue center.

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Once Kahn was cured, nothing could get him worked up. His previous agression was due to his health issues. Even though Kahn recovered from his illness, he still has some difficulties when walking.

A Gift for Kahn

The team was glad to see Kahn getting better. And, because of his good nature, they gave him a gift - cinder-block stairs.

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The stairs were made to help Kahn reach his den easily. This ill-treated lion was finally able to live the life he deserves. His den was well-kept, big, and spacious. And soon, he would meet someone special.

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Everybody Loves Having Friends

Even animals need to have friends; someone to play and have fun with. The chamber next to Kahn's was empty until Sheila arrived.

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When these two met, they hit it off in no time. In short time, they became very good friends. But, their relationship was much deeper than that. Because of Kahn, Sheila started taking her medicine and her condition started improving.

A Few Things In Common

Sheila and Kahn had a few things in common. Both of them had gone through the same tragedy. However, their situations were a bit different.

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The In-Sync founder explained that treating Kahn was easier since he got comfortable with his new surroundings in no time. Sheila, on the other hand, hand a hard time adjusting. It was because she was in a very bad shape; she was almost dead when she arrived to the center.

Becoming Beautiful Again

Keahey was so happy to see the condition of both lions getting better. She stated that, "as time went by they both healed and grew into beautifully grown lions.”

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She also pointed out that the team had built a new lion enclosure. It was designed so that Kahn and Sheila could live next to each other.

More than Friends

Kahn and Sheila spent so much time together. The team suspected that their relationship could be more than just a friendship. Keahey noticed that “Sheila spent the next few months showing off for Kahn, and Kahn strutted his stuff for her.”

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These two lions didn't even try to keep their love for each a secret. Everyone had realized that and they were glad to see Kahn and Sheila happy together.

Going On Dates

After the rescuers noticed Sheila and Kahn's affection for each other, they decided to let them "date." But, to prevent any accidents from taking place, they spayed Sheila. And then, the two started spending so much time together.

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Vicky, one of the rescuers, explained that they "did short dates every day, then the dates got longer and then the dates became unsupervised."

Lions Getting Married

Then the team let these two lovebirds spend the night together. And, after three months of dating, they allowed them to get "married."

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The team built a special enclose for these two. There, they get to spend their special time together. But, it seems that Sheila is the boss in their relationship.

Kahn Is All She Wants

Kahn and Sheila seem to can't get enough of each other. Sheila is absolutely in love with the attention and affection she gets from her husband. Oh, let's not forget those special cardboxes he brings her all the time.

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Vicky also talks about Kahn’s possessive nature for his wife. Whenever he notices other lions getting close to his wife, he does not hesitate to confront them. Oh, and there are so many other ways he expresses his love...

Beautiful And Rough Love

Having a wife as special and beautiful as Sheila is, Kahn has to make sure she is safe all the time. He protects her from all the other lions.

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Vicky says that Kahn lets all the other guys know Sheila belongs to him. He roars and sometimes even charges at them. Who would say that two animals can make such a perfect couple? But what happened to their owners who almost caused their death?

Punished For His Deeds

Sheila and Kahn's owner were punished for their improper treatment of animals. They are no longer entitled to keep big animals.

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Even though the owner was punished, many petitioners expected a stricter action and weren't satisfied with this minimal penalty.

Beautiful Love Story

What started out as a sad story about a mistreated lioness ended with unconditional love.

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Sheila was so close to getting euthanized. However, after meating a special lion named Khan, her condition improved and she ended up in a blissful marriage. Such a beautiful love story, isn't it?

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