Ruben, the world’s loneliest lion, is relocated to South Africa

Posted on 7 September 2023

Ruben, the world’s loneliest lion, has found the chance at a new life in South Africa after five years of solitary confinement in a concrete cell in Armenia.

After it shut down, he was the only animal left in a private Armenian zoo. Due to a lack of space while transporting the other animals, Ruben was left in his cell.

Animals Defenders International (ADI), in collaboration with Qatar Airways Cargo’s WeQare charity initiative, transported him to the Free State’s ADI Wildlife Sanctuary.

SA People News said his legs wobbled due to malnutrition and lack of exercise, ‘but he drove himself forward, stepping from his travel crate onto SA soil, the home of his ancestors.’

Picture: Screenshot

Jan Creamer, ADI president, said the 15-year-old lion’s arrival was met with tears of joy as Ruben heard the ‘roar of other lions and [rediscovered] his own roar.

‘Lions are the most sociable of the big cats, living in family prides in the wild. So, it must have been devastating for Ruben to have no contact or communication with other lions. Seeing him walk on grass for the first time, hearing the voices of his own kind, with the African sun on his back, brought us all to tears.’

Qatar Airways Cargo’s ‘WeQare’ charity initiative offered to move the big cat with one of their larger aircraft with hold doors that could accommodate Ruben’s crate. They even used an airconditioned truck to transport him between aircraft at Doha.

SVP Cargo Sales & Network Planning at Qatar Airways Cargo Elisabeth Oudkerk said, ‘We are committed to preserving wildlife and endangered species, that is why we launched our WeQare Chapter 2 initiative: ‘Rewild the Planet’ back in 2020. We pledged to return wildlife and endangered species back to their natural habitat, free of charge, and we will continue to do so.’

With the guidance of leading big cat veterinarian Dr. Peter Caldwell, Ruben has embarked on a path toward recovery and mobility.

A specially designed habitat at the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary, complete with ramps and guard rails, allows Ruben to regain his strength and confidence. His remarkable resilience shines through as he explores his new surroundings and discovers the joy of play, even in his wobbly-legged state.

Ruban will receive the ongoing care and companionship he deserves at the sanctuary as he lives out his twilight years.

Donations can be made at

Watch Ruben’s first steps on African soil below:

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