Marlene – In Memory


Marlene, a female lioness, arrived at the sanctuary in November of 2020. She’s estimated to be about 25 years old, though we don’t know for sure.

Our sanctuary had been called upon to help four big cats. They were located out-of-state and one of their caretakers had passed away. Though many other people were coming forward, trying to take the cats, sell them or send them to a pseudo-sanctuary for more breeding or display, we were so grateful to be there for them.

As soon as we arrived, we knew this wouldn’t be easy. A single lane, curvy dirt road through the woods, led up a quarter of a mile to the cages of these lions and tigers.

We knew there was no way our transport trailer could make it up that hill. And with piles of scrap metal, cars and other collections lining the road, there was nowhere to turn around or come back down either.

The terrain was so rough that the tires on our transport crates bent and could not make it up the hill on their own. It was obvious, we had to come up with an alternative plan right away.

We had no other choice than to sedate these four big cats individually, put each of them into our vehicle, drive them down to the city road and load them into our trailer a quarter of a mile away.

This would all have to be done quickly, before the cats woke up. Not an ideal way, but the only way, given the circumstances.

Their Previous Years

Cubs had been bred at this location for years. They’d been sold on the internet, as well as for cub petting profit. Thankfully, the decision had been made to finally give these remaining cats sanctuary.

Years of producing cubs, having them pulled away to be sold – this would be the end of that cycle.  Our hearts broke when the story of Sara, one of the lion cubs born here, was shared with us.

“In 2014, I started working selling cubs.  This was my first lion cub I held and thought this was so cool. I thought I located a great home for her.  It was a roadside zoo, a petting zoo. They destroyed her when she got too old to pet and it broke my heart! She was 4 months old when they destroyed her.  She would have been almost 7 years old today.”

Wally and Marlene had lived together in this 20’ x 30’ concrete cage for two decades.

We sedated them, got them safely loaded into transport crates, and started out on our long 13 hour journey back to the sanctuary.

Life at the Sanctuary

Caretakers at the sanctuary had also been busily preparing habitats for the big cats while we were away. Once we arrived with them, the cats were all safely unloaded. We watched over them closely for days as they adjusted.

Like most new residents, it was scary for the cats at first. But, the moment they finally felt grass under their feet and ran in an open space for their first time ever was exhilarating!!

Wally and Marlene will live out their geriatric years together with lots of room to roam, something they truly deserve. Even though they’re past breeding age, Marlene has received an oral contraceptive to stop her cycles and the risk of life-threatening pyometra.

Now, they get to live wild at heart together. And they’re certainly enjoying every minute of it!

We love them like they have always been part of the sanctuary. And knowing their future is bright helps fade the hardship of that day – the first day of the rest of their lives.

How You Can Help

Rescuing geriatric cats like Marlene is such an expensive commitment. It can cost as much as $10,000 every year to support just ONE big cat! That’s why our sponsorship program is so important. It helps provide the best life possible for those we’re able to rescue.

Thank you for considering becoming Marlene’s sponsor parent, or even giving a one time donation toward her care.  There are easy buttons at the top of this page you can click to help. It makes such a difference for her!


In Memory

Our dear lioness Marlene got her wings and has joined our TWS pride on the other side.

Preparing for Chupino’s passing, as we watched him decline, was hard enough. After a few days of Marlene being picky with food, we sedated her for an exam. We certainly were not at all prepared to say good-bye to her, too.

Lioness Marlene was strong and confident.  When we rescued her, we were told by the USDA that she could be as old as 31 which seemed unlikely. The day of her transport, her caretakers confirmed she was at least in her mid 20’s.  Either way, she was in good condition.

Marlene always knew what she wanted and communicated it clearly. She demanded respect and we were happy to give it.  She deserved it.  Food was a big motivator for Marlene so when she only ate half of her meal for a few days, we were cautious and sedated her for an exam.

We were shocked at what we found. She was pale, very anemic, and had elevated kidney values and masses were found.  Our hearts sank.

Her blood was no longer able to clot due to cancer in her bone marrow and she was bleeding internally. There was nothing we could do.  Marlene passed away peacefully while she was still  sleeping.

I find peace in knowing she didn’t leave us in pain.  And also peace knowing Marlene left this world the way she would have wanted – very few sick days, not confined to a recovery room.  She got her freedom here at the Sanctuary, being strong and in charge, leaving on her own terms.

Marlene leaving suddenly was very difficult, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way for her.

Yet, I had a hard time dealing with the loss. I went into a depressed state.  And I know I’m not alone.  You love them as deeply as we do, so I know you feel the losses as deeply as we do.

I tried self-care and doing all my favorite things, knowing I had to move through this.  But no matter what I did, it didn’t help.

I listened to my favorite music. I went to my favorite winery. My sister took me on a peaceful boat ride, but I was still very low.  I went for a walk-in nature and did meditation, just praying and hoping for a sign I could get through this.

I looked up at the gorgeous sky and saw such beautiful clouds.  And I said to myself, the way they overlapped looks like angel wings.  And that resonated with me.

That helped me feel better – realizing Marlene now had her wings and was forever free.  No more cages, no more years of having litters only to be sold to roadside zoos.

She may have been with us less than a year, but time doesn’t matter – their souls are deep in our hearts. And it doesn’t matter to them.

Animals live in the moment and Marlene, with her partner Wally, experienced freedom here at the Sanctuary. And those are the memories I’ll always cherish.

We’re giving Wally extra attention since Marlene’s passing. Wally always had Marlene to lead the way. And now our caretakers are filling that role for him.  We know he’ll need time just like all of us. But I think he knew before we did that it was her time.

Marlene, it was a pleasure being your final chapter.  You story will live on here at the Sanctuary.