Nine lions rescued from Ukraine have arrived safely at their new home in Colorado.
The big cats were “urgently relocated” from the Bio Park Zoo in Odessa, Ukraine, when the Russian invasion began, according to a news release from The Wild Animal Sanctuary.
A convoy from Odessa transported lions from Moldova to Romania; their journey stretched more than 600 kilometers, says the sanctuary. On May 24, they arrived at the Targu Mures Zoo in Romania’s Transylvania region.
The lions spent months at the zoo waiting for an emergency travel permit so they could board a rescue flight, according to the sanctuary. Finally, on September 29, they reached the last houses.
Seven adult lions and two cubs from the rescued pride are now being cared for by The Wild Animal Sanctuary, a non-profit based in Keenesburg, Colorado. The lions will live in an extension of the sanctuary called The Wild Animal Refuge, which consists of almost 10,000 hectares of land near Springfield, Colorado. The facility is not open to the public, the sanctuary’s website says.
Two other lions were sent to the Simbonga Game Reserve and Sanctuary in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, the statement said. On Facebook, the South African reserve said it had received two lions, Mir and Simba, who were rescued from Ukraine and later stayed in Romania.
Pat Craig, executive director of the Wildlife Sanctuary, highlighted the complexity of the feline rescue mission.
“International rescue operations are almost always more complex, but then you’ve got foreign governments and deadlines to give permission, some with active war zones,” Craig said in the statement. “We are grateful that we were able to get all the lions out in time and save them. That’s what matters. They will live their whole lives in clean, large and natural habitats.’