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Tribute to Hera


In the end, destiny only granted her a few months of happiness: Hera the little lioness had to be put to sleep when she was diagnosed with a spinal tumor, terminal due to its size.

© FOUR PAWS | Mihai Vasile

When Hera was born in a zoo in Romania less than one year ago, she never realised that her surroundings were unnatural. Freezing cold conditions, concrete floors and bars was the only home she knew. Her growth was stunted due to malnutrition as was her sister’s, Sara.


In April 2013, Sara and Hera realised that they were lions for the first time when they stepped out into the African sun at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary, with their parents Tarzan and Siba. Hearing the call of other lions on the wind, seeing the bright blue sky above their heads and the golden grass around them, completely free to play, run and climb, they quickly adapted. With this exercise, sunshine and good, healthy nutrition, their visible wounds soon healed. It seemed to be more than a miracle when after three months, x-rays and a medical check confirmed that internally, their condition had improved and bones were growing stronger. Their rescuers rejoiced at the news that these young cubs now had a fighting chance to live a normal life and that this family, rescued from such suffering, would be able to live the happily ever after they so deserved.

Unfortunately, just a few short weeks after this happy news, the animal keepers who have been caring for the family noticed that Hera was dragging her hind limbs. She had been playing with her sister and mother just a few hours earlier.
The vet was called immediately and Hera was treated with medication. When it was clear there was no response to the medication, she was taken for x-rays, which proved to be inconclusive. Hera was then transferred to a clinic in Pretoria for full body x-rays and an MRI scan.
The MRI scan proved conclusively that young Hera had a spinal tumor, terminal due to its size.

We know that Hera had a much better life in the last few months at LIONSROCK and that everything was done to ensure that she did not suffer. It is with sadness that Hera was laid to rest. Although she was not with this world for very long, her indomitable spirit will live on. We will always remember her voice calling as for the first time, she stepped onto grass under the warm African sun.

VIDEO: Tribute to Hera