Sasha the lioness once lived a cruel life in captivity with a circus in Guatemala, where she was starved, beaten, overworked, and kept in a tiny cage.
When she and 5 other lions, and 12 tigers, were rescued by Animal Defenders International (ADI), veterinarians thought Sasha was facing certain death. But she’s defied all of their predictions and is now recovering after a miraculous surgery.
Daily Mail reports that at the time of her rescue, Sasha was in horrific condition. Not only was she kept in a tiny cage for six years, fed scraps, and forced to perform three times a day, but her owners artlessly declawed her, causing significant injury to one of her paws.
By the time she was transported to ADI’s wildlife sanctuary in South Africa, the 8-year-old lion’s leg was so badly injured, she’d developed a debilitating limp. Her toe had been crushed, causing an infection that had developed into bone cancer. Veterinarians were sure she would lose her leg, and that she would eventually have to be put down.
But the possibility of surgery offered a sliver of hope for Sasha.
Experts attempted a groundbreaking procedure that removed about 3 inches (8 cm) of infected bone from Sasha’s leg. They replaced the missing bone with a titanium rod, support mesh, and medical cement to restimulate bone growth.
The four-hour surgery was an unprecedented success, much to the joy of rescuers.
ADI vice-president Tim Phillips shared that Sasha was pain-free after her surgery.
“We thought she was doomed,” he said. “She’d have struggled if we couldn’t save the leg.”
“Sasha is such a sweet personality but she’s also a fighter,” ADI president Jan Creamer added. “She existed in an oppressive environment where every day was full of fear. It has been a long, tough road to get these lions and tigers to safety but it is wonderful to witness.”
The organization posted an update on Facebook on Feb. 2.
“Her toe had been crushed when the circus cut off her toes to stop her claws growing, it led to cancer in her leg,” they wrote. “Veterinarian Dr Peter Caldwell fixed her leg with a titanium implant and also removed some tissue causing her to grow a mane. 8-year-old Sasha returned home from hospital two weeks ago. …
“Sasha remains very cautious about putting weight on her leg, which is a good thing. This will be a slow process.”
They added that she received a visit from her lifelong lion-friend, Kimba, who came to cheer her up after her surgery.
“We are happily stunned and grateful at everyone’s response,” ADI said, thanking all who donated to the lioness’s surgery. “We took a chance on a revolutionary operation, and you supported us and Sasha.”