Changing Planet

Saving Serabie: How a Volunteer Rescued “Her” Lion From Canned Hunting

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.

Alexandra Lamontagne
Alexandra Lamontagne

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.

Alexandra and Serabie at the volunteer site (image credit: Alexandra Lamontagne)
Alexandra and Serabie at the volunteer site
(image credit: Alexandra Lamontagne)

Saving 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.

Serabie today
Serabie today

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.

Becca Bryan is a published freelance writer in Florida. Her work includes interviews with celebrities, U.S. military members, veterans, journalists, and takes great pride in highlighting Florida wildlife and those who care for it.
  • Minunette Heuser

    Nice article.

    Second photo used is NOT Serabie however of Chanel.

    • Becca Bryan

      Thanks Minuette. Made a photo change.

  • Alexandra Lamontagne

    Thank you so much Becca for this amazing article !
    Thanks To Emoya for taking such a good care of my precious Serabie xox

  • Yanik Chauvin

    Nice article!

    My name is Yanik Chauvin and I was the one filming the complete documentary.

    Just a note that the film is 30 minutes not 60. Also, the correct link to the film is:

    Thanks again for this article! People need to know what’s going on.

    • Becca Bryan

      Hi Yanik, thanks for the heads up. The correct link has been added. Excellent work on this film!
      Let’s hope this documentary brings more awareness.

  • Minunette Heuser

    Thank YOU! 😉

  • Paul Tully

    Well done Alex and everyone who made it happen.

    Good article also Becca!

  • Karen Cobb

    Followed the story from the start and so proud of Alexandra and also so proud of Serabie who is a beautiful Lioness.
    Well done everyone.

  • Bill M

    Great article. Also, a great video.

  • Marc Ebing

    Great article, I would add that crowd funding was used for part of costs

  • Ingeborg Wadenphul

    Serabie and all the other lions have the right to live free in Africa because they are part of nature there!!

  • Brian Beckmann

    More that 2500 lions raised in captivity have been killed on canned hunts in the last five years, lions that are habituated to humans -not afraid of them. They are placed into an enclosure where they can be shot… I think if these ‘hunters’, and I use the word loosely, were to agree to engage in a hunt with another like-minded hunter, to the death. It would be a far more sporting proposition.

  • Nan at

    This young lady has done something wonderful. Like her my heart was breaking seeing all the other cubs that will end up dead in such a cruel way. Why do men feel the need to hunt and kill, It is so barbaric. The only reason we should kill is for food, and that should be in a humane way. Why can’t western governments do something to force changes on these African and eastern governments. There must be a way. More publicity and this great film spread will I hope start awareness to their plight. Not just lions. Tigers hunted for their bones and other big cat farms for their fur. Wolves also for their fur and the list can go on. Have we learnt nothing. It seems it gets worse instead of better. We MUST spread the word….

  • Celeste

    Appalling. Must be stopped. Ban hunting completely.

  • Valerie

    Thank you Alexandra for caring and taking the risk to save Serabie. You’ve done a wonderful thing. Canned hunt farming is a horrid practice built only around money and hunters with a thirst for blood. There is no conservation in it, just slaughter for dollars that gets put right back into those lions. It isn’t helping villages like they claim and people wanting to volunteer to help take care of the cubs need to know exactly what they are supporting.Again, thank you. Serabie has grown into a beautiful lioness who is alive because of you 🙂

  • elizabethmargarida mendes de limamadanelo

    So proud of people like you that care about the wild life and against cruelty!

  • Bina Pannell

    You wonderful, wonderful people. I am so in awe of you and my respect for you goes beyond the realms of this universe.

  • Guy

    This is actually why one of the only volunteer programs I support is They are not involved with the appalling canned hunting industry at all, nor will they work with anyone who is.

  • Lindsay

    Great Job Alexandra! I pray your efforts and publicity make a bigger difference in awareness.

  • Libby

    Thank you Alexandra …thank you Emoya.
    I found out about Serabie and Alexandra’s heart wrenching experience and journey to rescue her due to the rescue by ADI and the 33 LIONS from South America …………I was following Tim Phillip’s wonderful updates …and then saw a reference to Serabie…WHAT AN INSPIRING AND WONDERFUL HUMAN BEING YOU ARE ALEXANDRA …AND HOW BLOWN AWAY I AM BY ALL THE OUTSTANDING PEOPLE AT EMOYA …


    • Becca Bryan

      I will relay your awesome message to Alexandra for you! Thank you for posting it!

  • Alexandra Lamontagne

    Thank you very much for the Kind message you can’t imagine How that make me feel

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