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13 June 2001 Issue
Freedom At Last

by Melissa Waz of ADAPTT-Tampa - mlwspider@aol.com 

Over a year ago, while learning to speak Spanish at a school in Mexico, ADAPTT-Tampa co-coordinator Karen Lybrand (liltycat@aol.com) came across an enslaved, caged lion. Her class took a city tour one day and passed him along the way. "Solomon" is his name. He lived in a small cage (barely large enough to turn around) outside the residence of a man named Diego Gaona.

For an entire year, Karen thought about Solomon and wondered what we could do to get him out of there. She wasn't even positive about his exact location, but she did know the name of the small town (Cholula). Finally, in February of this year Karen and I (Melissa) took a trip back there.

We found him. He was still there. Pacing back and forth. Sadness and despair in his eyes. He stared at us, as if to say "Please don't leave me here." We promised him that we would be back.

Immediately when we got back into the United States, we began our investigation. We learned that Solomon existed for one purpose. To bring "luck" to Diego Gaona. He was a symbol of "pride" to this man (who was a witch with 18 wives), his cage had barely enough shelter to keep the rain out. Concrete floor. He was 4 years old ... and never once did he step foot outside of his cell. He ate raw chicken every other day.

After three months of negotiations with U.S. and Mexican government officials, wildlife officers, customs and immigrations and permits offices, we got our final authorization to remove him from his lifetime of misery. Beginning on June 3, Karen spent six days in Mexico -- taking a bus back
and forth between Puebla and Mexico City obtaining the remaining signatures and finalizing the paperwork.

On June 8, Pat Craig, Director of the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center arrived in Cholula to meet her, with his truck and transport container.

It is with great humbleness and pride that I announce: Solomon arrived at his new home today, Sunday, June 10.

After driving 1700 miles from Cholula, Mexico, to Denver, Colorado, Solomon was introduced to 115 acres of paradise. He will start his new life at the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center leaving a lifetime of suffering and loneliness behind him.

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