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Rescued lions from war-torn zoos in Iraq and Syria arrive at their final home in South Africa

Sydney, 27.02.2018 – Overnight, international animal protection organisation, FOUR PAWS, completed the final transfer of two lions who were rescued from war-ravaged zoos in Syria and Iraq in 2017.

FOUR PAWS rescued the big cats from neglected zoos in Mosul and near Aleppo. After months of rehabilitation in Jordan at wildlife rescue centre "Al Ma'wa for Nature and Wildlife", Simba and Saeed were finally ready to be relocated to big cat sanctuary LIONSROCK in South Africa, where they will live for the rest of their lives.

The lions embarked on a 33-hour transfer by passenger planes and trucks to move from their current home in Jordan to the 12-square-kilometre FOUR PAWS sanctuary near Johannesburg, where they have now been released into their new outdoor enclosures. Soon they will be introduced to other rescued lions and begin socialisation.


At the wildlife rescue centre in Jordan a team of experts rehabilitated the traumatised animals, and prepared them for their final trip to South Africa. 

“Lion Simba was rescued from an abandoned zoo in Mosul, Iraq, by a FOUR PAWS team in April 2017. Traumatised and emaciated, he barely made it through the war,” said Jeroen van Kernebeek, Country Director of FOUR PAWS in Australia.

“Then in July 2017, our team went on another challenging mission and rescued thirteen animals from “Magic World”, a war-torn zoo near Aleppo in Syria. Lion Saeed was one of these animals, found starving and suffering in a cage. We brought both lions to Jordan, where they were nursed back to health and recovered from their traumatic experiences. We are so proud of how well they have regained their health and personalities,” said Van Kernebeek.

Simba: One of two survivors
Estimated four-year-old lion Simba was born in the Montazah Al-Morour Zoo in the eastern part of Mosul during the ongoing war in Iraq. The majority of the 40 zoo residents died of starvation or were killed by bomb attacks. When the FOUR PAWS rescue team first stepped in in February 2017, they found only two animals alive in the zoo: bear Lula and lion Simba. After weeks of difficult negotiations in Iraq, FOUR PAWS successfully evacuated both wild animals in April 2017 and brought them to Jordan for rehabilitation.

Saeed: Lucky number 13
Because of his young age, it is believed that two-year-old lion Saeed was also born in captivity during the war in Syria. In July 2017, FOUR PAWS rescued Saeed along with twelve other animals from the neglected zoo of the Magic World amusement park near Aleppo. International security companies and the Turkish Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs supported the evacuation. After a two-week stay in Turkey, the Turkish government approved the departure of the 13 injured and traumatised animals to Jordan in August 2017.

From Jordan to South Africa
The Jordanian wildlife rescue centre "Al Ma'wa for Nature and Wildlife", a joint project of FOUR PAWS and the Princess Alia Foundation, has become a species-appropriate home for most of the rescued zoo animals from the crisis areas of the Middle East.

Due to their good health and young age, FOUR PAWS decided to transfer Simba and Saeed to its big cat sanctuary LIONSROCK in South Africa where they will have the opportunity to be socialised with other lions. Currently, approximately 100 rescued big cats are living in the 12-square-kilometre large sanctuary near Johannesburg.

For more information, images or comments, please contact:
Elise Burgess
Head of Communications
FOUR PAWS Australia
T: 02 9198 4417

© FOUR PAWS | Daniel Born

© FOUR PAWS | Daniel Born

© FOUR PAWS | Daniel Born

© FOUR PAWS | Daniel Born

© FOUR PAWS | Daniel Born