Ana Julia Torres is a woman endowed with a special sensitivity toward animals, especially those that have been exploited in different ways by men. Her complicity led her to undertake a task that many considered to be rather idealistic. She started to rescue animals that’d been victims of abuse.
To welcome the animals and provide them with everything they required, Ana Julia Torres created a space called Villa Lorena, in a poor area of the city of Cali, Colombia. There, for more than two decades, she’s been building a home for many different species of animal.
The work of Ana Julia Torres became famous not so much for her wonderful work itself, but for the particular relationships she established with different animals. Images of her embracing a huge lion became famous worldwide. Indeed, this lion certainly didn’t hide her attachment to Ana and expressed it, not only through unique hugs but also with ‘kisses’.
” Until one has loved an animal, a part of the soul remains unawakened.”
Ana Julia Torres
Ana Julia Torres was a teacher for a long time and was concerned with instilling in her students a great love for nature. About 22 years ago, she asked her students to bring their pets to school and introduce them to the other children. For the first time, she noticed that many people had exotic pets in their homes.
A few months later, a friend of hers gave her an owl that he’d bought at an illegal market. The man had bought it because he thought it was fascinating, but he soon got fed up with it. Knowing that Ana Julia loved animals, he gave it to her. That aroused in her the desire to start rescuing specimens that were going through similar situations.
Gradually, she began to acquire lots of land in a poor area of Cali. There was plenty of it and it wasn’t too expensive. She proposed to rescue as many animals as she could that had been rejected by their owners or had been exploited. In the end, she managed to build the refuge on a 25-hectare piece of land. Today, she has more than 900 animals.
The stories of the rescued animals
Ana Julia Torres directed her search mainly toward a setting where there were usually animals in poor condition to be found: the circus. She also publicized her project so that anyone who knew of abuse of any kind would report it. Throughout the years she’s managed to collect many stories of love and pain involving her protégés.
For instance, she remembers with special tenderness ‘Yeyo’, a spider monkey who lived with an alcoholic man. She learned about him because the neighbors reported that they’d heard the animal’s cries almost daily. In fact, she reported the case to the police herself and they verified that the man kicked the monkey frequently. Traces of blood and wounds were found all over the animal’s body.
She also speaks emotionally of an elephant she rescued from a circus. The animal was blind in one eye, had leg wounds, no tail, and one ear had been severed. Ana Julia Torres had to find a group of friends to protest every day in front of the circus until they agreed to give her the elephant. After she rescued him, the elephant hugged her with his trunk.
Jupiter, the lioness
Ana Julia Torres’ most famous guest was a lioness named Jupiter. She’d been rescued from a circus when she was just three months old. By then, her claws had already been pulled out and she showed signs of abuse. Ana adopted her, fed her, and became her best friend.
Next to Ana Julia, Jupiter looked like a domestic pet. She grew up being a loving, sociable, and frisky animal. However, when she was 16 years old, the environmental authority visited the Villa Lorena refuge and determined that it was not a suitable environment for housing a lioness like Jupiter. Therefore, they decreed that she should be transferred to a state shelter in another city in the country.
A couple of years later, Ana Julia decided to visit her old friend. To her surprise, she found her to be gravely ill and rather distant toward her. When Jupiter was taken from her, she weighed 240 kilos; now, her weight was no more than 90 kg. She didn’t seem interested in seeing Ana and didn’t even sit up because she didn’t have the strength to do so.
Ana Julia sought the support of the media and managed to get Jupiter back. She took her back to Villa Lorena and, after a week, she managed to get her to start eating somewhat normally. She also became friendly to Ana again. However, two weeks later, she died. The case is under investigation. Naturally, Ana Julia was bereft when she lost this particular battle, but she knows that her fight must continue.
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