Leo and Muñeca are a pair of lions who have known each other for nearly their entire lives. The pair and their children were rescued from a circus in Peru in 2014 by Animal Defenders International (ADI). They briefly had to separate during their rescue but other than that they were rarely ever apart.
Leo and their sons Chino, Coco and Rolex were removed successfully during a raid on the first day of the mission in August 2014. But the circus blocked the seizure partway through and then went into hiding. The president of the ADI, Jan Creamer says that ADI caught up with them six months later and over 600 miles away, saving the lioness and her daughters, Africa and Kiara. They were almost always together, exploring their 4-acre habitat and resting together under the trees.
In August, Muñeca suddenly fell ill. Leo immediately became even more protective over her than he was. Leo has always been a protective husband for Muñeca but when she became unwell he realized something was wrong. He was seen trying to encourage her to eat her food and seemed comforting her. Leo stood to watch over Muñeca and even cuddled her to try and help her feel better.
These days it was clear how much the pair loved each other. “We have seen the closeness between lion companions and the bonds they share on many occasions,” Creamer said.
Studies have shown that lions cuddle each other to strengthen their social bonds. Muñeca and Leo were caught cuddling many and many times during their years together.
Sadly, Muñeca ended her life in September at 19 years old. Leo stayed by her side until the very end. And, she ended her life, knowing exactly how loved she was by him.
Leo’s rescuers have been keeping a close eye on him. Because of the loss of his beloved Muñeca, he seems very sad. He is been getting lots of extra treats and attention to help him cope. Even though Muñeca’s loss was heartbreaking, watching the way Leo cared for her was such a beautiful moment that people around him will never forget.