Valentin Gruener is a German conservationist who is the founder and CEO of Modisa Wildlife Project. He is the luckiest man on earth. He is friends with one of the mightiest predators, who purrs beside him every day. He is famous for rescuing Sirga, an abandoned lioness. The cub was left destitute by its captive pride on land owned by Willie De Graaff, of the Grasslands farm in the Kalahari of Botswana. Val, of the Modisa Wildlife Project, was given permission to try and save the cub’s life. He has his hands full with the three-year-old lioness he has raised almost from birth.
Now a teenager in lion years, Sirga is preparing to live in the wild — and surrogate parent Valentin is teaching her to hunt. Sirga was found close to death in a farm, in February 2012, after a litter of three cubs was born to a pride of lions. Two of the babies died and the third was abandoned by the adults. Working with a vet, Valentin put the tiny animal, weighing just 4lb, on a drip to combat severe dehydration. Sirga never got the chance to learn to hunt from fellow lions. Gruener has spent countless hours lying low in wild brush and leaping into water to demonstrate how it’s done. And now, three years on, the 140kg lioness and conservationist remain the best of friends, and Valentin was named on Google’s 2014 inspirational list for his remarkable work with Sirga. Valentin said: “She learned to be patient, to stalk and go into ambush.” The day she brought down her first antelope was the most amazing day of my life, because I realized that she would one day be able to look after herself in the wild.
” Jurgen Jozefowicz of Tauana Films, who is producing the documentary Lionheart, due for release this year, said: “To walk with a lion in the wild, to record a unique friendship and capture the story of a young lioness born into captivity, and her development from naive novice to adult huntress, has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”