Seven lions rescued from breeding facility in Romania

Four lions against a fence
Rescued lions, Romania, photo: Four Paws/Bogdan Baraghin

Seven lions were rescued from bad conditions on Wednesday in Romania. Animal welfare organization Four Paws said they saved the animals from dangerous breeding and keeping conditions in Picior de Munte in Southern Romania.

The animal will be brought to Felida Big Cat Sanctuary in The Netherlands.

The owner of the lions kept and bred lions legally but was also involved in illegal trade and used the lions for entertainment productions, Four Paws said in a press release.

The owner refused to give up the parents of the rescued lions and a newborn cub. Four Paws gave the female lion anti-conception so she can’t be used for breeding while they try to negotiate with the owner to give up the last three lions. 

“Our team of vets had to put several lions under anaesthesia at the same time in order to get them out,” Ioana Gabriela Dungler, director of the Wild Animals Department at Four Paws, said.

Although the owner had previously agreed to permanent anti-conception for the lions that stayed behind, he changed his mind during the mission, and Four Paws was not allowed to treat the male lion. 

“We are relieved that we got the seven lions on the road safely, but we are not done with their previous owner yet. We will not give up on the lions that stayed behind,” Dungler said. 

Four Paws plans to bring the five youngest lions to its Lionsrock Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa as soon as possible, where they can keep living as one group in a big space.

Lions used for entertainment 
Three-year-old lion Simba, who was born in Picior de Munte and one of the lions that Four Paws rescued, already made the news in late 2020 as he was used in a music video of a Romanian musician, visibly in poor condition and with multiple injuries. 

This led to a public outcry resulting in the authorities seizing Simba, but they later returned him to his owner as he had a licence to keep lions. 

Simba could not be reunited with the other lions as his father rejected him and was since kept alone in a tiny enclosure. 

“Simba is only one sad example of thousands of wild animals that are exploited and abused for commercial trade such as entertainment, in the EU and beyond,” Dungler said. “He will now need lifelong special care.”

Dutch sanctuary 
Felida Big Cat Sanctuary in the Netherlands is a special care facility for physically and mentally traumatized big cats. 

The big cats that recover can be transferred to Lionsrock Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa. Animals that need lifelong intensive and special care stay at Felida.

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