Photos by Warriors of Wildlife
A pride of nine lions trapped in the Bio Park Zoo in Odesa, Ukraine, were recently rescued during a daring 72-hour operation guided by Lionel de Lange, the Founder and Director of Warriors of Wildlife (WOW). A noted animal rescuer and wildlife sanctuary owner, de Lange and his team were able to save the lives of these lions during what is being called “the largest ever big-cat rescue from an active war-zone.” The funding for the rescue mission was generously donated by Animals Australia.
“The conflict in Ukraine has been devastating for people, but also for animals large and small, with so many being left behind,” Animals Australia’s Director of Development, Louise Bonomi, said in a statement.
“We supported Lionel de Lange’s heroic mission to save these beautiful animals who faced the dangers of both war and starvation if they remained,” continued Bonomi. “It’s a tragedy that it took a brutal conflict to create a path to freedom for these lions.”
As explained by de Lange on the Warriors of Wildlife (WOW) Ukraine Facebook page, the nine big cats were heading towards trouble and were already experiencing difficulties due to the lack of visitors to the park which in turn generated no income to buy the much-needed fresh meat at their home in the war-torn Black Sea port. This was augmented by the threat to both the animals and civilians if Russian missiles were to strike and damage the lions’ enclosures.
The lions are now at a temporary home at Targo Mures Zoo in Romania where they are acclimatizing to their new surroundings in an indoor shelter. They will also be given access to an open-air enclosure where the lions can enjoy the outdoors.
As per de Lange, who has now rescued a total of 39 lions, 13 bears, a wolf, and a monkey from Ukraine, the rescued big cats will be relocated to Simbonga Sanctuary by September 30th. Located on the Eastern Cape of South Africa, de Lange established the refuge last year as a home for some of the lions he has rescued from Ukraine.