In real life, Juhi Agrawal is a manager with an event production company in London, but on the internet she’s been memorialized as “the girl who kissed a lion.”
She has always had a passion for cats—the big ones, say 40 pounds and up. That’s why she signed up for volunteer work at Cheetah Experience, a wildlife rescue and conservation center in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
It goes without saying it was an interesting work, including feeding antelope fawns.
Bathing lion cubs.
Letting a leopard cub use her as a sofa.
Or making two cheetahs purr like a combine harvester (they’re the biggest cats capable of purring.)
But approaching a grown up lion, that’s a whole different league.
“I used to spend hours sitting by the lions’ enclosure allowing them to watch me as I watched them,” she told Bloemfontein Courant.
Over time, the lions, Jubatus and Achilles, got used to her and even developed a bond with her.
Then came the day for her to go back home. It was a hard moment for her, bidding farewell to her animal friends, knowing she’ll probably never see them again.
She came to the lion enclosure to say her final goodbye and—incredibly—the lions came to her and let her pet them, even let her plaster a kiss on their nuzzles.
“I know those boys felt my heart aching and my sadness,” she said. “The feeling of having such magnificent animals show me such unconditional love and I kindness is truly indescribable.”
The lions have since been moved to a different facility and Agrawal doesn’t plan to visit them again.
“Animal interaction is incredible for any human who loves animals, however, the truth is that this is not in the best interest of the animals, as constant human physical contact, especially when they are young is done mostly for our benefit, not theirs,” she said.
She’ll just cherish her memories.
“I feel so blessed to have had that moment with them, something I will cherish forever,” she said.