Four Lion Cubs & A Black Leopard Have Been Rescued From War-Torn Ukraine & Are Now Safe In Poland

Photos by Holly-Marie Cato

Four lion cubs and a black leopard cub crossed the Ukraine-Poland border last week after traveling for 36 hours to escape war-torn Ukraine.

The cubs, all younger than four months old, arrived safely at the Poznan Zoo in Poland, where they will be cared for until onward transport to a long-term care sanctuary is arranged.

They have had a harrowing first few months of life, surviving the recent drone attacks and bombings in Kyiv.

According to their permits, all of the cubs were surrendered to animal rescue organizations, including the Wild Animal Rescue in Kyiv, and one located in Odesa. This happened after local officials started to enforce laws on the exotic pet trade in Ukraine.

“An estimated 200 lions live in private homes and as the war rages on, they face increasingly grim outcomes,” said Meredith Whitney, Wildlife Rescue Program Manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “These cubs were in critical need of rescue and we worked with two exceptional organizations in Ukraine to move them to safety as quickly as possible.”

As the majority of big cats bred in captivity have limited care options and cannot be released back to the wild, IFAW aims to bring these cats to two legitimate sanctuaries, The Wildcat Sanctuary (TWS) in the United States and another in Europe, to provide lifelong care for each of the cubs.

“IFAW reached out to us about the four lion cubs because our team is experienced in international big cat translocations,” said Tammy Thies, Founder and Executive Director at The Wildcat Sanctuary (TWS).

IFAW previously worked with TWS to support the intake care of two white lions rescued from Tiger King Park in Oklahoma. Pending issuance of all required permits, IFAW and TWS will partner to ensure the safe translocation of the lion cubs, and provide a safe haven for them to live out their days.

“There was a bit of serendipity in this rescue because we have an enclosure that is specifically designed for a pride of lions and the cubs are a male and three females. We were thrilled to be able to offer these cubs a beautiful, one acre habitat together, and hope to welcome them home soon,” Thies added.

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