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Nature

Sirga the Lioness was abandoned as a cub. She grew up to be a huge TikTok star.

nature, lions, poaching, wildlife, nature conservation

Sirga the Lion and Valentine Gruener on Instagram.

Little lioness Sirga was discovered when she was only a few days old. Born in a rehabilitation camp, her mother couldn't defend her cubs and all her siblings were killed by other lions.

To make matters worse, Sirga’s mother refused to feed her.

But then Sirga found Valentine Gruener, co-founder of the Modisa Wildlife Project. In an interview with NBC News, Gruener revealed he chose the name “Sirga” after a 1993 french film “L’enfant lion.”

The name couldn’t have been more perfect. For Sirga was clearly destined to become a star.


Their claim to fame...

@sirgathelioness

Sirga doesn‘t understand the concept of social distancing. Luckily, she doesn‘t have to. ##tiktokwildlifeday

♬ Oh No I Hope I Don't Fall... - IndieHay

Sirga and Gruener’s most viral video shows the gentle giant giving the biggest, sweetest, most exuberant greeting to her caretaker. You know when big dogs don't realize how massive they are? Yeah, it’s like that.

“Sirga doesn’t understand the concept of social distancing,“ the video’s caption reads.

This video currently has close to 195,000 likes, and received a massive amount of positive reactions:

"She’s soooo happy to see you and love up on you."

"So beautiful!!! Love your relationship with such a powerful and amazing girl."

"I want a big cat hug!"

Since rising to social media stardom, Gruener and Sirga have racked up quite a few amazing TikToks. Below are some of the highlights:

Teeth brushing (hard with big cats and little cats alike)

@sirgathelioness

The teeth in the back of a lions jaw act like scissors, they’ll cut through flesh and bones with ease. Sirga knows when to be gentle though 😉 ##wildlife

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Sirga cleans off her canines with a small stick, although Gruener admits that it's more for entertainment than it is hygiene.

Massive toe beans

@sirgathelioness

Reply to @otterlyvirgo lion claws are shaped like hooks. Deadly weapons with which they pull down large prey like antelope or buffalo

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Those are certainly some impressive murder mittens.

Some cool hunting POVS

@sirgathelioness

Hey @GoPro can you send new gear?😬🥲 ##wildlife

♬ Marlboro Nights - Lonely God

Sirga does her own hunting on the reserve, which is six times larger than Central Park in New York City.

…and hunting fails

@sirgathelioness

The poor guy had no clue 😅 ##wildlife

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Jackal: 1. Sirga: 0.

But hey, you win some, you lose some.

Plus a heartwarming look at then vs. now

@sirgathelioness

Happy Birthday big girl! We‘ve come a long way 👣🐾 ##animalsoftiktok##lioness

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

It's pretty endearing to see their bond grow over 10 years.

Gruener even uses the platform to answer some common questions, such as:

Would Sirga protect Gruener?

@sirgathelioness

Reply to @anactualpinecone Probably the most asked question about Sirga and me. Here you go!

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Camera operators, beware.

 Does she interact with anyone else?

@sirgathelioness

Reply to @sean_n17 let me know if you have any questions regarding Sirga in the comments! Cheers, Val

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

No, the trained professional is the only person who interacts with the lovable, yet all the same predatory animal.

Why not let her back into the wild?

@sirgathelioness

By hand-raising Sirga I made a commitment to care for her as long as she lives. The risks of her being killed (or she being a threat to people/livestock) in the wild is just too big. ##lionsoftiktok

♬ Stories 2 - Danilo Stankovic

Basically, the risks of being in the wild far outweigh the potential benefits.

Why does she wear a tracking collar?

@sirgathelioness

Reply to @ericsaltzman42 a lot going on at the moment so we haven‘t found the time to post on TikTok! Thank you if you‘re still here 😉🙌

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Again, this is a safety measure. Mainly against poachers and in case Sirga gets out.

How much does it cost to feed her?

@sirgathelioness

Happy to answer your questions. Feel free to leave your question about Sirga, me or my life in the comments. ##sirgathelioness

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Answer: around $500 a month. That's a whole lotta meat.

Has Sirga met other lions?

@sirgathelioness

Reply to @hetpatel4620 happy to answer your questions! ##sirgathelioness

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Yes! Though the fence has been a boundary. Sirga would at first shy away from her initial lion visitor, but then they ended up sleeping side by side. Sadly the lion visitors have since passed away (or, even more tragic, were possibly poached). But the plan is for Sirga to eventually have her own lion partner at Modisa.

Can lions be pets? (this one seems obvious)

@sirgathelioness

Predators are not pets! Sirga has 2000ha of wild Kalahari where she lives and hunts. If you have any questions drop them in comments!

♬ original sound - Val Gruener & Sirga

Repeat after me: "Predators are not pets."

Actually Gruener brings up a point here that applies to most pets: that you should be committed to the animals full life span if you're going to take care of one.

Gruener also shared that he hopes their story promotes awareness for wildlife and nature conservation, rather than using big pets for fleeting entertainment.

Gruener and Sirga are helping to spread information about the importance of protecting precious wildlife. If you’re looking to help support them, and get the lion’s share of premium content, you can join their Patreon membership here.

May we all find someone who looks at us the way these two look at each other.

All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

I have plenty of space.

This article originally appeared on 04.09.16


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