An animal lover living in a remote mountain village keeps two adult lions as pets much to the chagrin and criticism of his neighbors and friends, who he says think they’re just ‘killers’.
Ales Basista, 53, from Stupava in the Czech Republic, has had lions since 2012 and has done everything from nursing them back to health to playing with them in the garden.
Meanwhile, their neighbors and friends have been highly critical of the decision to keep and breed the lions, and many others around the world disagree with keeping lions as private pets.
Ales Basista has been raising lions for two years since she rescued a lion cub from a circus and, with the help of a hospital, nursed it back to health.
Playful: Big cats are really just that: big cats, and they enjoy playing in the garden with their owners.
All Adults – The lions are now fully grown and have formed their own pride, but this comes with its ups and downs.
Mr. Basista rescued his first lion from a circus when he was seven months old, back in 2012.
The pup, named Alex, was born with deformities including a misshapen spine.
At the time, Basista was convinced that the lion cub would have died without his help.
A short time later, Lioness Myjanka, who was only four weeks old at the time, joined the family at their home in the Czech Republic.
Purr-fect: Lions, like Alex (pictured) are friendly and would never attack their owners, but sometimes accidentally scratch them.
Huge – The lions have outgrown their earlier, more cub-like beginnings, but are still just as playful and enjoy socializing with Mr. Basista and his family.
Dangerous: Sometimes lions, during fighting games, common among adult lions, cause their owners to suffer scratches or minor injuries.
Sarkа, the daughter of Mr. Bаsista, with the lioness Mіjankа. She explains that their relationship has changed since the lions’ childhood from a friend to a competitor.
Mr. Basista reminisces about Alex’s road to recovery, and especially how his deformity could have killed him.
He said: ‘Alex was very ill and suffered from a twisted spine when he first came here, he had to spend four months in hospital.
“But now he’s in good condition and luckily he’s okay.”
“I think if he had stayed in the circus, he would have died because they couldn’t take care of him.”
Previous days: Mr. Basista with one of the lions during his teenage years; they have since grown to their full weight and height.
Tiny – One of the lions as a cub, playing with a pet parrot in the garden – Lions have grown up around their human owners and are therefore very social with them.
When they were puppies, having both Alex and Mijanka was like having a slightly larger pair of house cats, but now that they’re fully grown, it’s a lot different.
Both lions are from different areas of the world: Alex (pictured) is a male Barbary lion weighing 250kg.
Alex is a male Barbary lion who weighs 250kg, and Myjanka, a female Somali lioness, weighs 100kg.
Together they eat more than 200 kg of meat a month, which can be made up of 70 chickens, almost a whole cow or two whole pigs.
Mr Basista said: ‘They eat beef, chicken, pork and the wild animals from the nearby forest.
“Also as a gift, I like to give them cream and ice cream that they love.”
Together, both Alex and Myjanka eat more than 200 kg of meat a month, the equivalent of almost a whole cow.
Occasionally the lions will play fight together, and while sometimes Mr. Basista will join in, he occasionally has to step back as the lions can get carried away.
Mr. Batista believes that his breeding over lions is about preserving the species, which could be endangered for future generations.
Mr Basista said: “Many people don’t agree with people keeping lions in private hands, but I think it’s important to protect the genetic code of these animals.”
Mr. Basista first rescued Alex the lion as a cub at just seven months old, from a circus. He claims that Alex probably would have died if it wasn’t for his and the hospital’s care.
Mijanka joined Alex in the mini-pride months after, and they formed a tiny family of eventually massive pets
‘My daughter could play with both lions when they were small but now that has changed.
‘Because Mijanka now protects her pride like in the wild she fears my daughter – almost seeing her like an enemy – which is not good.’
Mr Basista’s daughter Sarka, who has been involved with the lions since she was young, and they were cubs, has had to adapt to how their dynamic and relationship has changed.
She said: ‘I think Mijanka remembers when she was small and we were friends.
‘We could play together go to bed and sleep together.
Moving from outside in the garden, to inside their house in the Czech Republic is a slightly different transition, considering they are fully grown lions
Alex the lion, now fully grown, can be seen with a proper mane around his neck, which denotes his maturity and dominance
Mr Basista claims that the people who criticize the lions have the wrong idea about lions, and think they’re only killers
‘But now she’s became a woman and she’s jealous of me – everything has changed.
‘Alex is like her husband now and I’m another woman – she’s scared of that.’
Despite the criticism he has experienced from friends and neighbours Mr Basista believes he is doing the right thing by keeping the lions in captivity.
He said: ‘Most people have the wrong idea about lions, they think they’re only killers but that is not right.
‘Lions are social, sensitive animals and they’re great.
‘A lot of people don’t agree with people keeping lions in private hands but I think it’s important to protect the genetic code of these animals.
‘It’s about preserving this type of lion for future generations.
‘They’re very important to me – I love them so much.
‘They give me back love the love I give to them. It’s great for me.’
Mr Batista’s is one of several stories featuring in new Animal Planet series Preposterous Pets which begins on Thursday April 3 at 8pm.