Lion pride rescued from Odessa finds temporary shelter in Romania
Several big cats from the port city of Odessa have been rescued and relocated to the zoo in the Romanian city of Târgu Mureș, after an effort by South African wildlife park owner Lionel de Lange.
The surroundings of Odessa have seen much of the heavy fighting in recent days, as Russia’s forces desperately attempt to conquer the eastern parts of Ukraine, the latest development in a war that has stretched past 100 days.
Overall, the ongoing war has displaced 14 million people, half of them going abroad as refugees. It has also prompted animal rights NGOs to rescue animals left behind. Lionel de Lange, a South African wildlife park owner, became determined to save the pride of lions from Odessa. Living in Ukraine since 2014, he got in contact with a zoo in Romania and organized the extraction of nine lions.
The convoy with the lions had to avoid Russian bombing and went through Moldova, negotiating with authorities in both Ukraine and Moldova for a police escort. “Nine lions made everyone really wary,” De Lange said, quoted by The Guardian. They arranged for law enforcement to be present to shoot the lions in case they got out.
The crew that collected and transported the lions was made up of British army veterans and a veterinarian. They sedated and checked the health of the lions, the largest of which weighed 230kg, and loaded them into vans, military trucks, and a converted ambulance. Then they moved them to the city of Târgu Mureș, where a zoo agreed to host the lions until 1 September, awaiting the move to a permanent home in the US.
The nine lions weren’t the only animals to be rescued out of harm’s way. PETA, a large animal rights NGO, got nearly 740 animals out of Ukraine since the start of the war. To help, authorities in the EU eased conditions for their transport. Romanian NGOs have also done their part, moving Simba the lion from the Zaporojie zoo to the one in Rădăuți, Suceava. Cattle, dogs, wolves, and horses were also brought over by associations like the Casa lui Patrocle (House of Patrocles).
(Photo source: Lionel De Lange Facebook page)