we need to talk about AMY…
and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.”
His most beloved Amy was showing an enlarged and distended chest cavity.
The grief for every ageing or sick lion that had passed on before flooded Kevin’s mind… please, not Amy.
Kevin took photos of her chest and sent them to vet Peter Caldwell.
“Bring her in,” said Peter. “I don’t like the look of it.”
Kevin’s heart sank, and the next few days passed with a shadow of anxiety lurking over the day-to-day activities. The day arrived for Amy to be examined, and, knowing she tends to hold a grudge, Kevin walked away whilst Peter darted her to put her under anesthetic. Maybe it was more than just Amy’s resentment towards darts that caused him to walk away… Seeing her anesthetized took his mind somewhere he would rather not be.
Ninety minutes later Kevin waited, with a hand on her chest and a worried brow, to hear what the vets had discovered through their examination.
“There are no enlarged organs here,” said the vet, and a palpable sigh was heard across the room. “It seems to be her metabolism has slowed down after her hysterectomy as well as her age.”
“That is music to my ears,” said Kevin. “She doesn’t look like an obese cat but I guess she has picked up some weight.”
The news lifted a weight of fear off Kevin and his team and there was a celebratory atmosphere for the next few days. Amy had been given a clean bill of health (other than the general recommendation of some more exercise and some calorie counting. ☺ )
“Amy is 16 years old,” Kevin said. “This experience has been a stark reminder that my animals are nearing old age and I need to prepare for the inevitable. The fact is that in the next few years there is going to be some real heartache, as these personalities that have filled my life begin to age… and eventually pass on.”
In the wild, male lions live to around 12 years old, females a bit longer. In captivity they can live on average between 16 and 20 years.
“You know I get messages from viewers all over the world, and I received one the other day from a young man who was 16 years old,” Kevin recalls. “He wrote to me and told me he was born the same year as Amy. He has grown up watching her and her sister – learning about them as lions and falling in love with their personalities and quirks. (He wants to be a veterinary scientist when he leaves school.) These lions are actual friends to millions of people, and they aren’t going to live forever.”
Kevin and his team always knew that this special group of lions that arrived so many years ago from the Lion Park would eventually pass away, but Amy’s health scare brought this reality home.
“I need my supporters and online family to start preparing themselves for this inevitable truth. God knows I will need them to help walk me through the next season,” Kevin says quietly.
The whole sanctuary family have been important characters in the story of the Lion Whisperer and the work of the foundation. Their story is written on the hearts of many people from different places and cultures and walks of life. Their legacy is one that will be remembered – and one that reminds us that all lions, whether in captivity or in the wild, are sentient and unique beings that live out their own story.
It has often been said ‘captive lions have no conservation value’ and it is true that you may not be able to empirically prove the value of our sanctuary lions. This is probably because you cannot empirically measure the value of love. If Meg or Amy or any of the others have helped inspire one person to be a conservationist, then we believe they have had conservation value. After all, the foundation’s founding director was living in France with no experience in conservation who has now emigrated to South Africa and is serving the cause of lions full time (read her story here)
Many thanks to the thousands of parents, teachers, artists, students, biologists, working moms and retired grandparents who have written to us and expressed their love for these lions, and who have helped inspire others to care about and understand these beautiful animals.
As we enter the next season and prepare for a tough few years, we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that these lions that we love will leave an indelible mark on the narrative of lions and bring to light the importance of making the world a more just and humane place for such remarkable creatures.
Images courtesy of Harry & Danny Schafer from Story&Co Films.