Last night, four young lions and an African wild dog arrived at the Spanish rescue center of AAP. The animals were evacuated last week on a perilous journey from Ukraine to Poznań Zoo in Poland, where AAP collected them. We had already promised to take over the animals from the rescue center near Kiev before the war, but the operation has now been carried out urgently due to the acute danger to humans and animals.
On Tuesday 1 March, volunteers from the Ukrainian Wild Animal Rescue foundation made an ultimate attempt to bring as many vulnerable animals as possible to safety. In a truck they managed to accommodate six young lions, several tigers, two caracals and an African wild dog. A blockade by Russian tanks forced the transport to turn around, but even when the drivers were held at gunpoint, they refused to give up their animals. After two days they finally reached the Polish border, where they were allowed to pass on Thursday morning.
Poznań Zoo, a partner from AAP who previously worked with us rescuing nine tigers surviving a horror transport to Russia in 2019, was ready to help again. The lions and the wild dog were able to relax in Poznan after the exhausting and stressful journey. They have been medically examined for border control and although the blood values of most of the animals are alarming, their condition was good enough to travel. On Wednesday evening, the transport arrived in Villena, where the Spanish rescue center of AAP is located.
The young lions – Gyz, Kiara, Flori and Nila – had been staying in the rescue center near Kiev for a few months. They all have had a terrible start in life. Gyz was rescued from a small cage in a shopping center and fed expired meats. Kiara was traded from an animal park to a petting zoo at a very young age, where she was exploited for cuddles with customers. She was fed expired meats and suffered severely from weak and broken bones until her rescue. Flori was kept as a pet in a small apartment and is much too small for her age due to a cat food diet. Her bones are very poorly developed because of this. Nila was used as an attraction in a nightclub until an animal welfare activist took over the animal. All we know about the African wild dog Zair is that he can hardly see because of juvenile cataracts and needs eye surgery.
Endangered speciesFor the success of this operation, we are grateful to the Spanish Ministry of Ecological Transition, acting as CITES management authority in this case because lions are protected as an endangered species by CITES. Also the willingness of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to speed up the procedures to get the animals to safety without delay is highly appreciated. We could not do this work without the support of authorities.
AAP is determined to offer the animals a new chance at an animal-worthy life. The young lions now know each other and will hopefully form one or more groups for life after their quarantine at AAP. It is now a matter of improving their frail and fragile health step by step through proper nutrition, exercise and rest. AAP’s specialized animal caretakers will do everything in their power to help these animals as well.
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