The moment had finally come. After an 11 hour flight and a further 3 hour car journey across the beautiful plains of Africa, they had finally come home.
We stood on the the top of the hill, a group represented by more than fifteen countries, such as; The Congo, France, Austria, Romania, South Africa, The United States, The Netherlands, Egypt and of course Jordan, waiting to welcome the animals home. On the road at the bottom of the hill we finally saw the transport vehicle enter the park and there was a tangible feeling of elation amongst the whole group.
The first to be released were the magnificent French lions whose roars echoed across the park. Needless to say they were anxious and confused about what was going on and took time to realise they were safe. These particular lions were to be sold for a 'canned' hunt where lions are sold to people who then organise 'hunts'. Canned hunts are where hunters (who may pay up to 40,000 Euros) shoot animals who have been put in their path, often drugged, just to allow them the "satisfaction" of killing these magnificent creatures. For these lions, Vier Pfoten intervened and they will now spend the rest of his days safe at Lionsrock.
Next it was time for our lions and serval - the moment we had been waiting for and not really believing it would come. The whole party moved over to the enclosure where Hope and the cubs would be released...
The crate was in position at the entrance of her new enclosure and finally the time had come. Everyone held their breath, waiting to see if Hope would come out or prefer the crate, which is sometimes the case...
The door of the crate was opened and we all watched, and Hope very slowly took a couple of paces towards the enclosure. She needed some reassurance so Riyadh, who had cared for her during her time at New Hope, started to call from across the enclosure and lo and behold; Hope took her first steps into her new home...
Her first few steps were slow and steady as she tried to figure out what on earth the soft green stuff under her feet was! There was not a dry eye in place as we all watched with delight. Hope then headed straight for Riyadh; it was now her turn to reassure him that she was alright, although she was a little stiff from the extensive travelling.
Yet again - Hope was the star of the day as we all watched through our tears; tears of joy, tears of relief that she had made it.
We turned our attention to the next important task at hand; the cubs, now it was their turn. Again we got their crate in place and had a quick look inside before we opened up for them to join Hope.
Although they were a little anxious and unsure about what was going on we hoped that they would leave the confines of their crate to enjoy their new enclosure.
Carefully we opened the door of the crate and waited... Khawla took a few steps towards the entrance and we gently urged the others to do the same, but we were not so lucky. Hope! That is who we needed. We called her over and she answered our calls almost as if she knew she was to be reunited with her little friends. Closer and closer she came as the crowd watched in awe at the very big heart of this little cub. As soon as the four cubs saw her, they trundled out of the crate almost falling over their own paws. The five of them were off and running united after a very long trip, anxious to discover their new home together.
Now that we were sure the young pride was well, there was still one more task at hand...Cleopatra who was waiting patiently in her crate. Again the crowd moved on to the temporary enclosure made for Cleopatra, and for the final time that day, the crate was in position and opened. True to form, Cleopatra did not wait long. No sooner had the crate had been opened, we saw her elegant face appear from within and with a few sniffs of the fresh air and the lush green grass Cleopatra emerged from the crate and immediately went off to explore her new surroundings with not as much as a look at the crowd gathered around her or us! We who knew her in Amman were overjoyed and expected nothing less of our proud, graceful and brave friend.
There is a special plan for Cleopatra, after the winter she will be released on the park where she will be free to roam and meet the other wild Serval Cats who live within the beauty and safety of Lionsrock.
As we went to bed that night our thoughts were full of the events of the day. Five lions cubs and one Serval, all who had been kept in terrible conditions prior to coming to us, had made their final journey and at long last they were home. We fell asleep listening to the calls of the lions across the African plains, understanding even more what an honour it had been to be allowed into the lives of these magnificent animals.