NEWS AND COMMENT-ODESSA, UKRAINE: A team of war veterans, including Tom L-S, and animal activists from the animal welfare charity Breaking the Chains, and including Lionel de Lange, who runs the animal charity Warriors of Wildlife, have managed to rescue nine lions from a zoo in the Ukrainian city of Odessa as there were fears that there would be a direct strike on the zoo, which would set the animals loose and in any case they were under threat of starvation because of the ruined tourism industry in Ukraine.
Lionel de Lange organised the rescue at Biopark Zoo. He said: “There had been a lot of shelling in the area and the lions were traumatised”. The rescue took place under the noses of the Russians and it is believed to be the biggest big cat rescue in an active war zone according to Jane Flanagan of the Times newspaper.
The rescue was kept secret until the last minute. De lange also said: “The fighting could go on for a very long time and these animals are in the middle of it and they can’t feed themselves”. Veterinarians who volunteered in the rescue had to sedate the two adult males, five females and two cubs. They stretchered them into a convoy of cages in preparation for a 25-hour drive. They crossed international borders and checkpoints to a safari park in north-eastern Romania.
It was important to keep them together as they are a pride of lions. But this limited their options as to where they could take them. De Lange has a sanctuary in South Africa, the Simbonga Game Reserve, but there was not enough space for nine lions. He will take in two lions that were rescued from another zoo in Ukraine.
Potentially, a large zoo in Colorado might take in the pride if the American authorities grant permission.
The lions were allowed to de-stress in their cages before being released into the grassy sanctuary.
Lionel de Lange setup is his animal charity because he had benefited from his ex-military dog who helped him to recover from PTSD after his medical discharge from the British army. He said: “It was an animal that saved my life. I understand the true beauty and value of animals and I want to make sure I could save their lives, which is why we are in Ukraine”
Animals at Kyiv’ zoo have also been caught up in the war. Keepers had to sedate an elephant who was terrified by the explosions during the first days of the war. The animals are also frightened by the sirens which continually blared across the city. Staff moved into the zoo to reassure them.
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