Wildlife heroes come in different genders and from different countries. They can be your next-door neighbor who rescues an injured duck on the side of the road. They can be the person who takes on a great personal and financial challenge to rescue an animal in a faraway country. This is the story of wildlife heroine Alexandra Lamontagne from Montreal, Canada.
Like most foreign visitors to South Africa, Alexandra wanted to spend her vacation time volunteering with animals. She chose a game reserve that told her she would be working with vervet monkeys. But upon arrival, she learned the reserve had five lion cubs she would help care for. She asked specific questions about the lion cubs, where they came from, where they would go when older, and never really got the truth. “I didn’t know about trophy hunting, and no lions were supposed to be at this place. I was in charge of five cubs and I was asking a lot about them like where they came from and where they will go, etc. Nobody really answered me,” she exclaimed.
And then, one day, when she was home in Canada, she heard where one of the cubs was going — a private game reserve known for its trophy hunts. “It’s when I came back from South Africa that someone from the volunteer place told me [the cubs] were from a trophy hunting place, [that] four of them were going to a zoo, and Serabie was going back to the trophy-hunting place.”
Serabie, the lion cub Alexandra bonded with, was destined for the private game reserve known for its trophy hunts. This shocking news compelled Alexandra to do something she didn’t think she would ever do — rescue Serabie.
“When I found out, I couldn’t believe I helped those people. I needed to figure out something to save Serabie. That’s when I decided to buy her. I didn’t want to just give them the money and do nothing. I needed to do it to make people realize and other volunteers aware that where there are lions (and cub petting), it is (almost) always bad. So I decided to film that journey.” Alexandra took a sizable loan from the bank and went back to South Africa to rescue Serabie.
With the help of some newfound friends in South Africa, Alexandra was able to not only rescue Serabie, but find her a forever home at an ethical sanctuary, through Drew Abramson, Big Cat conservationist. Said Abrahamson, “Not too often do you find people with the courage to stand up against the lion breeders. They can be quite a nasty bunch. But Alex did not back down and fought the fight and won.”
Serabie is now living at the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa.
Alexandra performed this act of personal courage documenting every step with concealed smart phone cameras and one small device. Her story of rescuing Serabie is a 30-minute documentary titled “Saving Serabie”. It has been chosen to film at the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York City in October, 2015. Watch the trailer below.
(documentary video credited to Yanik Chauvin)
While this wildlife heroine risked a great deal to rescue lion cub Serabie, it is strongly recommended that prospective volunteers do not try to do the same. “There are very few safe places for them (rescued lion cubs), ” warns Drew Abrahamson.