Leo is an African Lion who, born in captivity, was sold as a cub to be someone’s pet. The love of his life is his bonded mate Cleo, a lioness who also spent her formative years as a pet. Leo’s owners attempted to remove his claws by pulling them out manually. As a result, Leo’s nails grew back and erupted through his skin causing pain, sores and infection. In 2014, at the age of twelve, Leo and Cleo’s owner was forced to surrender them both to PrideRock Wildlife Sanctuary in Texas or face animal cruelty charges.
PrideRock wrote to the Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF), “Leo and Cleo are very affectionate and gentle to each other. Leo loves to play and will come up to people for a scratch on the head. PrideRock limits interaction with the animals and we are a closed sanctuary, meaning we do not allow public tours. So it is up to Leo if he seeks affection from people or if he and Cleo remain to themselves. Except for his feet, he is a happy healthy guy.” Once in PrideRock’s care, a team of veterinarians and staff set out to help Leo. Leo’s Veterinarian felt, with surgery, he would be able to make a full recovery and walk pain free. ISF was also committed to helping Leo and gave PrideRock a Medical Emergency Grant.
Leo was transported to a veterinarian in Dallas where six surgeons and their staff performed an eight hour surgery to remove several fragments of toenail from all four of his paws. Afterward, Leo remained in a rolling cage for twenty four hours of observation to insure his body was recovering properly. While Leo was away, Cleo was steadfast by her cage door awaiting his return. Once his caretakers were confident Leo was okay, they brought him back to his den where Cleo waited. Happy to be reunited, Cleo became a big help in Leo’s recovery by taking care of him and keeping him calm.
PrideRock wrote to ISF, “Leo was the perfect patient and has no set backs or problems what so ever.” They further wrote, “Leo's surgery has shown us how resilient and caring these amazing cats are. It was rough not being able to walk for a couple days but Leo was a champ and Cleo his mate did a great job taking care of him, all the way to a full recovery.”
Leo and Cleo will spend the remainder of their lives together at PrideRock Wildlife Refuge.
Written by Veronica Hampton