Four-month-old Mangus the lion cub was kept on a liquid-only diet by owners of a circus two months longer than he should have been so that he would stay small for visitor’s selfies, according to The Mirror.

The circus owners were charging about $22 per selfie with Magnus and deliberately starved this young cub to ensure that he would not get too big for customers to pick him up. Not only is this incredibly cruel treatment for a small lion cub, but it has lead Magnus to develop serious health problems that will last for the duration of his life.

As a result of the liquid-only diet, Mangus’ esophagus had shrunk and he was unable to eat solids. Thankfully, he has been taken into care by Let’s Adopt, a global animal rescue that paid for a surgery to have his esophagus widened.

Lion Cub Starved to Keep Him Small for Selfies, Finally Gets the Treatment He Needs
CEN/The Mirror
 

Little Mangus has recovered from the surgery and can now eat crushed chicken! His weight has doubled since the operation, from 24 pounds to 48 pounds.

“The circus regarded the baby lion as an attraction to bring in visitors and they were keen to keep it small for as long as possible,” Ivan Jimenez, a spokesman for Let’s Adopt, told The Mirror. “We decided to pay for the surgery although we usually only treat cats and dogs.”

Lion Cub Starved to Keep Him Small for Selfies, Finally Gets the Treatment He Needs
CEN/The Mirror
 

Veterinarian Nelo Civera told The Mirror that it’s unlikely Mangus will ever be able to eat huge chunks of meat, and his meals will always have to be cut up for him to make sure he doesn’t try to swallow things that are too large.

“He certainly would never survive in the wild,” Civera says. Luckily, thanks to the kind people at Let’s Adopt, Magnus will be well looked after and will never have to endure this sort of abuse again.

While Magnus’ story is heartbreaking, unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident for small lions and tigers. Big cats used for photo opportunities are often drugged or severely abused, even though the industry tells visitors that the cats are just trained to be more docile. Cubs like Mangus typically have their claws and canine teeth removed to keep them from harming visitors. And it only gets worse: A recent undercover investigation revealed that big cats at two major facilities that allow selfies were infected with giardia and ringworm, which can both be passed to humans. Both of these organizations also masqueraded the selfies as part of their “conservation” message.

But that isn’t conservation at all — wild animals don’t want to snuggle with you. Cubs are taken from their mothers at eight weeks of age or earlier so that they’re easier to handle. This means that they don’t learn tiger social skills and become so over-socialized with and dependent on humans that they can never be released back into the wild.

Further, Big Cats Rescue says that entertainment acts with big cats or photos with them gives the public a totally distorted message:

“These acts either show man dominating one of nature’s most magnificent creatures, which would never happen on an even playing field, or, worse, are promoted as illustrations of the ‘special bond’ the trainer has with his captive.”

The latter view fuels the illegal trade for big cats and ruins our education concerning what these animals are really like in the wild. By boycotting circuses and parks that allow selfies with big cats, we can help save them. Lion and tiger cubs should never have to suffer solely because we want a selfie!

Lead image source: CEN/The Mirror