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Newly named Boomerang adjusts to new home



Published: Fri, January 21, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The animal has been renamed Uhuru -- Swahili for freedom.

Boomerang the lion sleeps well tonight.

Actress Tippi Hedren says so and adds that if you don't believe her you can come out to her 70-acre sanctuary in sunny southern California and see for yourself.

"You can tell people to please come and visit him," the movie-star-turned-animal-angel told The Vindicator on Thursday.

Boomerang is the 250-pound male lion who entered this world as a prop in a New York Post story about how easy it is to buy exotic animals. He left the Youngstown area Tuesday after a bitter 14-month custody battle between the buyer and Noah's Lost Ark animal park in Berlin Center.

William Long of Upper Arlington bought the animal with Alfred Guart, the reporter on the story, and took it to Noah's Lost Ark in October 2003. When Long tried to get the lion back, Ellen Whitehouse, one of the owners of the local sanctuary, put up a passionate but failed campaign to keep Boomerang.

Newspaper spat

New Yorkers followed the saga through a snarky Post vs. Daily News spat over the purchase of the critter from the northwest Ohio town of Wapakoneta when it was only 8 days old. The Daily News chastised its rival for snatching the kitten from its mother at so young an age. The Post insisted it uncovered a scandal.

"He got here fine," said Hedren, adding that he arrived on a Kitty Hawk Transportation flight accompanied by a Columbus veterinarian.

"He was so comfortable in his crate ... there wasn't a scratch on him," she said.

Renamed Uhuru, Swahili for freedom, the animal will spend the rest of his 20-year life expectancy in a series of compounds some as large as an acre, Hedren said.

He'll be with us through the rest of his life. He'll never have to get into another crate, never travel in to another vehicle," she said.

Hedren founded her Shambala Sanctuary in 1972 near Acton on the edge of the Mojave Desert about 40 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The Santa Clara River runs through the property and the soil is sandy, which Hedren says is a plus for the animals because it keeps their fur clean.

Boomerang/Uhuru has joined 67 other felines there, she said. The property is home to an assortment of lions, Siberian and Bengal tigers, leopards, servals, mountain lions, bobcats, a lynx, a Florida panther, a snow leopard, a cheetah -- and a lone African elephant.

Room to roam

"We'll move Freedom all over the preserve. We move the animals around so they don't get bored. They get different trees to climb, different smells, different neighbors."

After the cat is neutered, she said she'll move him in with a spayed tiger.

"She was the last tiger born at the deplorable place outside of Colton, Calif. Her name is Mendhi. We hope after a month in quarantine, Freedom and Mendhi will become great pals," she said.

"There's some nasty stuff going around about how we are going to breed him. Please let people know that we plan to have him neutered," said the actress, who describes her current full-time job as raising $1 million a year to support the preserve.

"There is no breeding, buying, selling or trading here," Hedren said. "We're not really open to the public," she said. "But we allow visitors once a month."

After a custody fight that made it all the way to Ohio's 7th District Court of Appeals, Hedren plans a place of peace for her new lodger.

She already has sensed a whiff of trouble in the wind.

"There have been threats," she said.

"Some very nasty people say they are going to walk through the preserve with all kinds of viruses on their feet" with the intent of infecting the cats, she said.




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