Africa: Ukutula’s Smallest Residents

When we arrived, our first introduction was to the smallest of the residents at Ukutula. They were a pride of cubs that had been orphaned, and their adopted sister Kylie, who came into their family when it was seen her mother did not want to take care of a baby lion. They were only a few weeks old.
We were overwhelmed as the staff reached in the playpen-like area and handed these bundles of delight and joy into our arms. To accept that this ball of playful fur is indeed a lion, not a puppy or a kitty cat, but a lion is hard to conceptualize in such a moment. They welcomed our embrace and extensions of love. Their small heartbeats would beat in rhythm with our own. They seemed so small and helpless and as you can tell, opened up in each of us this amazing encounter.
Their personality and feelings were evident and what settled with me was that they trusted us. That, for me, was part of the remarkableness of this connection; they trusted an entirely different species, a species that had the power and history to kill or harm them, as humans. And yet what we found was it was as if they had an inward knowing that we would only extend love and joy in their presence to them.
I wondered what makes us either welcome and trust this connection with other species or doubt it and keep our guardedness up?