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Published on Mar 15, 2008
People in Cali, Colombia, are shocked to see the bond between a large African lion and a woman who saved it from abuse, involving long, affectionate kisses and hugs between the pair. Ana Julia Torres, who runs the Villa Lorena animal shelter in Cali, fed and nursed Jupiter the African lion back to health years ago after it was found abused and emaciated in a traveling circus.
"It is amazing to see an animal like that be so sweet and affectionate," said Torres. "This hug is the most sincere one that I have received in my life."
Torres, 47, said her work rehabilitating animals began more than a decade ago when a friend gave her an owl that had been kept as a pet.
Later, when she asked her students to bring their pets to school, she realized many families illegally kept wild fauna from Colombia's biologically diverse jungles in their homes.
The number of animals under her care grew, and now Jupiter is among 800 recovering creatures at Villa Lorena, where Torres looks after, among others, burned peacocks, limbless flamengos, blind monkeys and mutilated elephants.
Most of the animals are caged, though some, like iguanas, roam freely around the grounds of the shelter, which are enclosed by a 13-foot wall.
Torres said she relies on donations and her modest teacher's salary to run the shelter.
"We dedicate our lives to the care of these animals without one single peso from the state," Torres said.
Torres said many of the animals were rejected as infants by their parents in the wild or found abandoned on the streets of Cali.
Torres said because she opposes exhibiting animals in circuses, she decided to keep her shelter closed from the public.