During the time our caretakers at Black Beauty Ranch have gotten to know a lioness named Douala, we’ve learned a lot about her personality. Douala likes to begin each morning with a strong roar, which can seemingly be heard for miles. She spends much of her time in the cooler mornings and evenings high on her perch where she can observe her environment, and during midday she can be found in the shade of her lush forest. Of her enrichment activities, playing with donut-shaped toy is the favorite; she’s often seen carrying it around in her mouth. Come autumn, as she plays with the pumpkins the sanctuary provides, Douala’s inner kitten comes out.

Life has not always been this sweet for Douala. Just over five years ago, our teams rescued Douala along with more than 200 other wild animals from the St. Edouard Zoo, an unaccredited zoo in Quebec, Canada, which had a history of warnings and charges from the local government. This time, the operator of the zoo had been charged with two counts of criminal cruelty and neglect following an investigation by the Montreal SPCA, leading to the seizure of these animals and the closure of the zoo. 

Humane Society International immediately assumed the care and placement of more than 200 wild and exotic animals. Rescuers found a kangaroo family in a tiny indoor pen huddled together with no sunlight. We found a zebra with painfully long hooves languishing in a small dark stall where he stood in urine and feces and chewed on the walls out of boredom and frustration. And a wildebeest trapped in the barn was so stressed he would charge the gate of his small enclosure.