Hero Pets: A Lion’s Big Heart

Jupiter the lion may weigh in at 550 pounds, but his demeanor with handler Ana Julia Torres proves that even the king of the jungle can be a gentle giant.

Hero Pets: A Lion’s Big HeartMeridith Kohut/Redux
With paws the size of dinner plates, bright black eyes, and a luxuriant golden mane, Jupiter, a 13-year-old, 550-pound lion, bears no resemblance to the malnourished cub that Ana Julia Torres rescued from a traveling circus in Colombia in 1999.

Torres, 50, brought Jupiter to Villa Lorena, an animal rescue shelter she established in 1984 in Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city. “When he came here,” she says, “I would enter his cage and hold him like a baby while I gave him his medicine. That is how our relationship started.”

Torres and a sanctuary staff of ten now care for more than 800 animals, including jaguars, camels, chimpanzees, flamingos, ostriches, crocodiles, and bears—most of whom, like Jupiter, were neglected, abandoned, or confiscated by police from the private zoos of Colombian drug lords. Torres, a school principal, oversees the care of all the animals at Villa Lorena, but her friendship with Jupiter is special.

Reaching her arms through the bars of the big cat’s cage, Torres greets Jupiter by grabbing him and planting a kiss on his muzzle. Jupiter responds in kind, rising on his hind legs to six and a half feet and wrapping his huge forelegs around her in a gentle embrace. “Jupiter’s hug is the most loving and sincere I’ve ever received in my life,” Torres says. “I can see the shine in his eyes. I think of it as his way of telling me thank you.”

More: Seven amazing hero pets »

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

how we use your e-mail

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.

From clientsfromhell.net

Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.