Lion refuses to leave his sick mate’s side and stays with her till the very end

Animals are a lot smarter and more emotionally intelligent than we sometimes think. They can form complex relationships with other animals — and sometimes it’s even true love.

The story of two lions, Leo and Muñeca, is both heartbreaking and romantic: they were by each other’s side their whole lives, through good times and bad — and when Muñeca became ill, Leo stayed close until the very end. According to Animal Defenders International, in 2014 they rescued a family of lions from a circus in Peru: an elderly lion named Leo, his mate Muñeca, their daughters Kiara and Africa, and their sons Coco and Rolex.

However the family became separated when the circus blocked the rescue, fled off with the lionesses still with them. Eight months later, ADI caught up with the circus and rescued Muñeca and her daughters, and reunited the family in a “bonding camp.”

The lions were then brought to the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa. After spending so much of their life in the zoo, they enjoyed freedom for the first time.

And perhaps absence makes the heart grow stronger, because the newly-reunited mates Leo and Muñeca seemed more in love than ever, never leaving each other’s side and enjoying their golden years in peace.

“Leo still watches over his Muñeca,” ADI wrote on Facebook, saying it was a “lion romance” and a “reminder of the strength, loyalty and love of these animals.” But the lions were getting older, and their time in captivity took a toll on their health. “Circus life is tough; bare, hard floors, bars, tiny spaces, no room to run, poor nutrition – it takes its toll on their bodies,” ADI wrote.

Muñeca, at 19, started to become lethargic and stopped eating. Leo knew that something was wrong, and became even more attached to his true love, never leaving her side through her illness.

“Leo clearly realized something was wrong and stood by his adored Muñeca, encouraging and wrapping his legs around her,” ADI wrote. “A reminder of just how important social bonds are to lions.”

ADI has continued to monitor Leo’s condition, making sure he is okay during this difficult time as he mourns the loss of his beloved mate. They have been providing him with extra attention and treats.

Leo is an elderly lion now, and lost an eye due to an infected cataract, a result of the poor nutrition he received in the circus. Despite everything, Leo seems to be still going strong.

“He may be the oldest of our residents, but Leo is very much still young at heart!”

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