Winning the love of a Leopard

2012-08-17 11:49

The special bond between an animal and his long-lost friend and human rescuer was proven yesterday when Alberto Lena (the human) and Kuna (the leopard) were reunited after 13 years at the Shamwari Game Reserve in Eastern Cape.

TimesLive reports that Lena had saved the beautiful spotted specimen from an illegal trader in Ivory Coast in 1996 when the leopard was just a few days old.

When Kuma grew too big to be kept at home, Lena had to take him to a local zoo. But after a lengthy process of negotiations he managed to get him transferred to the Born Free Animal Rescue Centre at Shamwari in 1999. He had not seen him since.

The centre gives lions and leopards rescued from zoos, circuses and other places privacy and space in a natural environment.

The tender reunion between the two, surprised Born Free animal care manager Glen Vena who accompanied Lena on his visit. "I have never seen him behave with this much affection towards a person. It shows that he still remembers you," he said.

When Lena started talking to the leopard in his home language, French, and, in a bold move, put his hand through the fence, Kuna immediately responded by tilting his head sideways and rubbing his cheek against his long-ago rescuer and friend's hand. 

It was the first time someone had touched the leopard since he had arrived in the reserve 13 years ago.

Read more on:    travel south africa

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