Three four-month-old orphaned lion cubs found in a suitcase in war-torn Ukraine have been sent to start a new life at a wildlife sanctuary in the USA.
The cubs had been found packed into a case at Odessa station and were probably due to be sold, experts believe.
A fourth orphaned cub aged five months has joined them at the sanctuary.
The cubs have spent the last three weeks at Poland’s Poznan Zoo until they were old enough to be moved.
A spokesman for Poznan Zoo said: “It was August, and they were about three weeks old, and had only just opened their eyes. They were taken from their mother and probably intended to be sold.”
The lion cubs were looked after by an American vet who contacted the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) who arranged for the evacuation of all four.
The cubs have been named as siblings male Taras and sisters Stefania and Lesya with the fourth cub = a female called Prada.
They are now recovering from their 36-hour journey to the US.
Meredith Whitney Wildlife Rescue Program Manager at IFAW said in a statement obtained by Newsflash on 30th November: “These cubs have endured more in their short lives than any animal should.
“They were born at breeding facilities in Ukraine, during a war, and then orphaned at a few weeks old.
” Early on, we made a commitment to these cubs that we would find them a wonderful, safe place to live out the rest of their days together.
“Having worked with The Wildcat Sanctuary on previous big cat rescues, we know they have an incredible habitat waiting for them.”
At the time of the cubs’ rescue, zoos and rescue centres across Europe had accepted many lions from Ukraine already and reported their facilities were at capacity.
Two animal rescue organisations, The Wildcat Sanctuary (TWS) and IFAW, partnered to ensure the cubs would have a safe place to live out the rest of their days together.
The Wildcat Sanctuary has a specially designed habitat for lions. The cubs will live together as a pride in an environment specific to their needs.
Tammy Thies, Founder and Executive Director of TWS, said: “We’ve cared for 300 big cats at TWS and are acutely aware of the trauma many big cats around the world experience.
“From the moment IFAW reached out to request our partnership, we knew these cubs had found their forever home at our sanctuary. They have a custom, open space to explore and indoor comfy rooms where they can rest their tired bodies after their long journey.”
Their nine-hour flight landed on Tuesday, November 29, 2022, around noon.
Once the cubs cleared customs, they were met by care staff from The Wildcat Sanctuary to transport the cubs from the airport to their sanctuary in Minnesota.
The cubs were offloaded into an indoor quarantine enclosure at the sanctuary and provided a warm space to rest after their flight.
They will get to explore their large outdoor habitat in the next few days.
While these cubs now have a secure future, many big cats – in captivity and in the wild – face new and increasing threats to their survival, including the exotic pet trade.
Thies added: “We hope to continue working with IFAW and members of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance to save more big cats from war-stricken Ukraine.”
TWS (The Wildcat Sanctuary) – The Wildcat Sanctuary (TWS) is the only accredited, non-profit sanctuary in the Midwest.
IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) IFAW is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together.
The public can be part of this historic international rescue and the cubs’ lifelong journey by becoming a sponsor parent for the cubs at https://www.bit.ly/SponsorTWS or by making a general donation to their care at https://www.wildcatsanctuary.org/
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Story By: Michael Leidig, Sub-Editor: Marija Stojkoska, Agency: Newsflash
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