words by Sandra Tonkinson
The thing about a viral video is that you don’t always know/remember how and when you first saw it but the one of Sirga hugging Valentin I definitely saw. How can that image ever leave my heart? Sirga is a full-grown full size 110lb lioness.
With the well-known reunions of 500-pound Christian the Lion, this is not the first time the world has been moved by the undeniable bond between man and beast. The beauty of Sirga’s youtube video is staggering. It brings this sense of hope and possibility. And a reminder that we are not alone on this planet of ours. We have a responsibility, not for the future generations, or for ourselves, but just because nothing else makes sense.
The story is bigger than just Valentin and Sirga. It is heartwarming that orphaned and injured animals are rescued and cared for by people who understand the value of wild life, and of life in general. This happens around the world, and on all scales. Even when we save that little bird who fell out of a tree and nursed it back to health – that counts. But keeping them in zoos and protected reserves (not that the two are equivalent at all) is not the solution. Humans as a whole may have lost that connection to nature and the wild but we should not subjugate others to the same. I don’t want to say fate, because it is not written in stone and unchangeable. We are changing that as more and more of us reclaim who we truly are. And this is why sharing their positive-impact stories is our mission.
And finding out the story behind Modisa and about the founders Valentin and Mikkel was important. Sure, after gleaming the Modisa.org website, I could already write a decent article but it would lack heart and the messiness (and also the beauty) of being human. When I reached out to Valentin and Mikkel, I was not sure if the email would be seen among the deluge I suspect they receive, especially after the media exposure from the video . As you can see from the interview with Valentin, who is based in Botswana, the response was honest – he realizes the issue is complex and not easy. To date, Modisa is primarily funded by the two founders and through the volunteer program. I can’t imagine it being easy and I applaud their great efforts and hope our sharing of their story will help lead to the financial backing and fundamental changes that are needed to make the difference. Not only would the extinction of these beautiful animals be truly shameful and unforgivable but we live in an ecosystem. When the lights go out in one part of our world, a little bit of our heart and our humanity become obscured. We are well and it’s all good because people around the world are making that difference. We all have our part to do.
For a boy who had a big love for big cats, Valentin is living his dreams every day. And to have Sirga at his side is thawing hearts around the world. As Valentin said in his interview, this is not the life he would want for Sirga or other lions and wild animals but this is the best he can do with the situation at hand. This is why he is doing what he is doing…so these animals wouldn’t need to. And please do not go out and get a wild animal as a pet.
all images – Valentin Gruener. Thank you for sharing your story and your life with us.