The Wildcat Sanctuary in Minnesota just said good-bye to a 27-year-old lioness named Salteña, who’d spent most of her life in an Argentina traveling circus. Several years ago, the sanctuary was contacted by a rescue group in Argentina, looking to place seven lions at the sanctuary. That group included this geriatric lioness named Salteña. At the time, she was 25 and had already survived so much in her life. She’d been used for years as entertainment by a traveling circus in Argentina. She’d spent her life in a tiny, rusty crate on wheels, barely able to stretch her legs.

Image Credit: The Wildcat Sanctuary

She suffered malnutrition, hunger, and metabolic bone disease. Her teeth were broken and rotten from a poor diet and chewing on the bars. Eventually, Salteña had been rescued by an Argentina zoo.

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Tammy Thies, Executive Director, shared, “I remember being asked if it was the right thing to try and move an old geriatric lioness literally across the world. But this zoo had been closed for several years. Sadly, that might mean Salteña would pass away in her cage, as others had already done.

Image Credit: The Wildcat Sanctuary

“I refused to let that be her fate. We knew it would be risky, but we had to try. We had to show her what life could be like.

“My only regret is that we couldn’t have rescued her sooner,” Thies added.

Life at The Wildcat Sanctuary

In late 2018, Salteña made the long journey from Argentina to Minnesota, announcing her arrival with a strong roaring session.

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Image Credit: The Wildcat Sanctuary

At The Wildcat Sanctuary, Salteña was finally able to bask in the sun, roam her grassy habitat, and cuddle up in the soft, straw-filled beds she loved so much. She enjoyed the most freedom she’d ever experienced in her life.

Image Credit: The Wildcat Sanctuary

Now, at 27, she let everyone know it was finally her time to pass. With her health declining, she was surrounded by sanctuary staff who lovingly helped her go in peace.

As the oldest lioness known in captivity, Salteña inspired so many not to give up, no matter the difficulties you’re forced to endure. In the end, the last 16 months of her life at The Wildcat Sanctuary were all she’d ever hoped for.

More information can be found at WildcatSanctuary.org.

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The Wildcat Sanctuary (TWS) is the only accredited, non-profit sanctuary in the Midwest.  TWS provides a natural sanctuary to wild cats in need and inspires change to end the captive wildlife crisis.  Combining natural and spacious habitats with a life free of exhibition, TWS allows all residents to live wild at heart. As a true sanctuary, we do not buy, breed, sell or exhibit animals. The Wildcat Sanctuary is accredited by the American Sanctuary Association and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries

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