Cat Close Ups


Olive and Leno, wild-born native California mountain lions, found their permanent home with Animazonia in 2014. The pair were discovered at three months of age, orphaned and abandoned under a car in urban Burbank, California. They were malnourished and riddled with parasites. Due to their young age and lack of hunting skills, local wildlife experts agreed that the cubs could not survive if released back into the wild.


After rehabilitation by California Wildlife Center and two years at ZooToYou in central California, Olive and Leno have come to live with us. Their story is a clear demonstration of the effects of human encroachment on wildlife and serves as a springboard to educate the public about mountain lions and all species whose habitats are under threat from human activities.


Saba, an African lioness, was rescued as a cub in 1989. She was part of a commercial breeding program and, because the breeder had produced too many cubs, she was slated for euthanasia. Fortunately, we were able to rescue her and provide her a permanent sanctuary. At AWF, her powerful presence always reminded visitors of the ferocious nature of the big cats. She lived with us for twenty-one years before passing away from old age. True to her wild nature, she did not show any sign of illness or distress until her last few days.

The Story of Saba's Unique Eye Surgeries


Sheba, a black-maned African lioness, started life as a photo booth cat. At four months old, she was no longer just a cute, cuddly kitten; she was becoming dangerous and unpredictable. Because she was too difficult to handle, her owners had decided to put her down. Her rescue by AWF was perfectly timed; she needed a home and, since lionesses live in a pride situation, we knew Saba would benefit from having a companion. Sheba was always deferential to Saba's alpha personality, but after Saba's death, she became outgoing and fierce, taking on the alpha status. She lived to be twenty-three years old (about 109 in cat years).


Magic, an Asian black leopard, was a cub when we rescued her in 1990. As a result of a badly managed declawing operation, she withdrew from human contact and refused to eat. Her owner didn't think she would live but shipped her to us as a last resort. Magic's rescue required intense physical and emotional rehabilitation. She eventually came to trust the people and daily routines of Animazonia and even to enjoy demonstrating her clicker training skills for visitors. Magic lived with us for twenty-three years.


Eden, a Siberian tiger, came to board with us when she was eight months old. She was highly socialized because her owner dreamed of hosting a magic show with Eden as the star. When plans changed, Animazonia adopted Eden, assuming full responsibility for her care. Her charming personality made her a perfect ambassador for Animazonia and she greeted visitors with her characteristic chuffing. She lived to be fifteen years old before passing away from a blood-related immune challenge.


Beauty, a California mountain lion, was a truly beautiful cougar. She was rescued from an intolerable living situation – crowded into an unsanitary cage with twenty-five other cats. She had been declawed and her canines had been filed down; both procedures were poorly done, causing chronic discomfort. Her canine teeth were not properly capped, which allowed a bacterial infection to invade her bloodstream and ultimately cause kidney failure and death. She passed away after spending twelve wonderful years at AWF.


Babu, a young male cougar, was our first big cat rescue. He had been transported illegally from Idaho to California and sold to a musician as a "pet". When Babu outgrew his novelty status, he was again advertised for sale – this time in a local throw-away paper. We were outraged that a wild animal could be sold like a used car and we had to act. We had the knowledge and resources to care for him, so, ironically, our first rescue was actually purchased. As a result, Babu lived a long, full life and will always be remembered as the cougar that showed us the plight of exotic cats in captivity.

Big Cats