5 min read

'Pet' Lion Found In Paris Apartment Just Arrived At His Real Home

"He now takes his first steps on African soil, and can begin his happy new life. May it be a long and peaceful one.”

A tiny lion cub who was found scared and starving in an apartment on the outskirts of Paris just took his first steps on African soil, thanks to the many people who came together to help him. 

Last October, after the cub's owner took photos and posted them to social media, French authorities were able to track him down in the neighborhood of Noisy-le-Sec.

Firefighters arrived at the apartment to save the little lion, who showed scars from being hit and kicked.

People at animal rescue organizations Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis and Refuge de l’Arche coordinated the transfer of the cub to the Natuurhulpcentrum rescue center in Belgium. 

The weak, exhausted cub was given a strong name: King. And over the next several months he would prove just how perfect that name was for him. 

Lion cub saved from Paris apartment
Born Free Foundation

As King was growing both in size and in strength in Belgium, people at Born Free Foundation in the UK were working on giving him the life he always deserved: his own little piece of Africa. 

The organization launched an appeal to help fund King's transfer to its Big Cat Rescue Center at Shamwari Private Game Reserve in South Africa.

"Lions are known as kings of the jungle," Virginia McKenna, cofounder and trustee of Born Free, said in a statement. "At least we can give him love and respect and a natural environment to roam and rest in."

Lion saved from Paris suburb
Born Free Foundation

By the time King had started to grow a little mane, he was put back in a small cage — but for the best reason. 

Lion saved from Paris suburb
Born Free Foundation

King didn't know it yet, but he was on his way to his homeland.

Lion saved from Paris apartment on his way to Africa sanctuary
Born Free Foundation

He curled up in the corner of his crate as people started to transport him, first by truck, then by plane, to his new home. 

Lion saved from Paris apartment on his way to Africa sanctuary
Born Free Foundation

King left Belgium on July 5 and arrived in London, where he flew from Heathrow International Airport to Port Elizabeth, South Africa. 

Lion saved from Paris apartment on his way to Africa sanctuary
Born Free Foundation

“I am sure there will be a lot of smiling faces today!" McKenna said in a statement. "So many people responded to our appeal to bring young King to Shamwari, and now he has arrived!"

King was then allowed out of the last cage he'd ever have to be in. 

Lion saved from Paris apartment arrives at Africa sanctuary
Born Free Foundation

As the sun shone down and warmed his fur, King sniffed the new smells permeating the air around him. It's hard to know what he felt at that moment, but he certainly looked like he felt right at home. 

"King now takes his first steps on African soil, and can begin his happy new life," McKenna added. "May it be a long and peaceful one.”

Lion saved from Paris apartment arrives at Africa sanctuary
Born Free Foundation

As King settles into his new life, the people who helped save him are continuing to fight against the illegal pet trade that ensnares so many exotic animals like King.

“It is staggering that, in 2018, lion cubs are still finding their way into the pet trade in Europe," Chris Draper, head of animal welfare and captivity for Born Free, said. "We are concerned that King’s case is the tip of the iceberg."