A race to a wildlife sanctuary to save lions in war-torn Ukraine | National

Wildlife sanctuary races to save shell-shocked lions in war-torn Ukraine

Lion Rori (M). (The Big Cat Sanctuary via SWNS)

By Faye Mayern via SWNS

An animal sanctuary said it was a “race against time” to save five traumatized lions from war-torn kyiv.

The Big Cat Sanctuary is on a mission to evacuate a lion and four lionesses from Ukraine to a new home near Ashford, Kent.

The ongoing war has caused much distress to the cats, particularly two of the lions who are suffering from shellfire.

Cam Whitnall, from the sanctuary, said: “When we heard about the heartbreaking plight of these lions, we knew we had to do something, even though we don’t have space at the sanctuary at the moment.

“We immediately got to work trying to figure out how to make this idea a reality with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

“It’s a race against time, but we are determined to give them the best forever home possible.

“It’s our mission because they deserve it after everything they’ve been through.”

Wildlife sanctuary races to save shell-shocked lions in war-torn Ukraine

Lions, Amani and Read. (The Big Cat Sanctuary via SWNS)

A three-year-old lion named Rori and a lioness named Yuna, also three years old, are temporarily living in a shelter called Wild Animal Rescue, which rescues animals across Ukraine.

Debris was thrown near Yuna’s enclosure in January this year, leaving the lioness suffering from shell shock and loss of coordination.

She had been found by military volunteers and was living with another lion in a three by four meter enclosure with a concrete floor.

The debris fell 300 meters from her enclosure and Yuna cowered in the corner of her enclosure.

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Since being moved to her temporary home at Wild Animal Rescue, she has started showing fewer signs of stress.

Rori, a three-year-old lion, was allegedly used for illegal breeding before his rescue in January 2023.

After an intense shelling near his old compound in Sumy, he was unable to stand due to his own shell shock.

Wildlife sanctuary races to save shell-shocked lions in war-torn Ukraine

Cam Whitnall of the Big Cat Sanctuary. (The Big Cat Sanctuary via SWNS)

Since her rescue by Wild Animal Rescue, her coordination issues have started to improve, although a permanent home in the UK is needed.

Wild Animal Rescue is working with The Big Cat Sanctuary to relocate the animals, including three other lionesses, to Kent.

Vanda, another lioness, was rescued from an apartment in southeastern Ukraine and was suffering from severe malnutrition after being kept as a pet.

Sisters Amani and Lira were rescued as lion cubs from a breeding facility and were rescued by Wild Animal Rescue after the breeders ceased operations due to the war.

Natalia Popova, from Wild Animal Rescue, said: “These big cats must have been so scared and confused.

“Some were born during the conflict and know no life other than the constant chaos of war, while others were directly affected by the bombings.

“I am relieved that these lions now have a better life ahead of them.

“It’s a scary time for everyone here in Ukraine.”

The Big Cat Sanctuary is currently building a dedicated enclosure at its Kent center to ensure the best care for the five lions.

They are appealing for funds to help evacuate and provide new housing for Vanda, Yuna, Rori, Amani and Lira.