More than just the beginning of a new day for lions, Danka and Ducey

Danka takes in the view in her new enclosure.As I awoke Tuesday morning in rural Missouri, I could hear a steady pitter-pattering on the windowsill: it’s raining.

Of course it’s raining.

Lions don’t typically like the water, so if it’s falling from the sky, you can probably bet that they are in their dens and unlikely to come out until the skies clear.

Thankfully, as the morning progressed and even though the clouds still hung low and rain came and went, both Danka and Ducey were willing to leave their dens and give us a reasonable chance at loading them into their transport crates.

WATCH: gearing up to rescue Danka and Ducey, two captive lions in Missouri

While the entire process took about four hours, Danka – hands down – gave me the biggest, and sweetest, surprise.

With some effort, the elderly lioness walked into her transport crate without the need of chemical immobilization, significantly lowering the risk to her health during the move.

I was both stunned and overjoyed at her tenacity and determination.

While she continues to struggle with hind limb paresis (Watch a video of her here), her spirit will clearly carry her great distances.

Mr. Ducey however, was a different story.

After much coaxing, we finally had to make the decision immobilize him and carry a sleeping, 600lb (at least!) Ducey into his crate. Once they were both resting comfortably in the warm, dry trailer - we were off!

I’m happy to report that all the kind thoughts and prayers of our supporters like you were well received and appreciated, as both lions made the 10-hour trip without mishap. We arrived at Cedarhill Animal Sanctuary on the border of Mississippi and Alabama during the middle of Tuesday night and rested until daybreak.

Like the star she is, Danka strolled right out of her transport crate into her new, beautiful enclosure. She immediately began exploring, and shocked us all when her feeble body began playing with a boomer ball!

It was more than just the beginning of a new day for her, and I felt so blessed to have had the opportunity to bear witness.

The author leading relocation efforts.Of course, Ducey needed some time.

After about two hours and a couple of tasty treats to regain some trust, he debarked his crate and met up with Danka, who was clearly excited to show him around their new home.

It is all too easy to blame the owners who acquire wildlife, like Danka and Ducey, for a myriad reasons, none of which are in the best interest of the animals.

We must continue to educate the public on the inappropriateness, inhumane, and dangerous situations created when they purchase a big cat or other wild animal. Additionally, we must pursue stronger, effective legislation, such as the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act, and support timely and proper enforcement.

Unfortunately, Danka and Ducey will never know the sights, smells, and sounds of the African savannah.

However, I believe that our efforts with the help of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge have provided these lions with the best possible quality of life at Cedarhill Animal Sanctuary. Even though it’s not Africa, they will still be able to sing and roar in unison with the four other African lions currently sharing their territory.


Click here to learn more about this issue and IFAW’s role in protecting big cats in the U.S.

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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy