Rescued lions from Albanian horror zoo arrive at new home

FOUR PAWS brings Lenci, Zhaku and Bobby to Dutch Big Cat Centre FELIDA


International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has successfully transferred three male lions from their temporary home at Tirana Zoo to an animal sanctuary in the Netherlands. The three male lions, Lenci, Bobby and Zhaku, were rescued in October 2018 during a spectacular rescue mission from the notorious Safari Park Zoo in Fier, Albania. After years of suffering in unsuitable conditions, the lions can now finally begin a dignified and better life.

On May 7, the lions started their journey from Tirana Zoo to Nijeberkoop in the Netherlands, where the FELIDA Big Cat Centre is located. The FOUR PAWS team travelled for 52 hours and almost 3,000 kilometres to bring the lions to their new home.

Lenci, Zhaku and Bobby are doing well after their long journey, cautiously exploring their new surroundings with curiosity. Veterinarian Marc Gölkel from the Leibnitz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) was part of the initial rescue team in October 2018, and again accompanied the transfer from Tirana to ensure the well-being of the animals. Prior to their departure, Gölkel gave the go-ahead for the journey after a short medical examination.

“Overall, the health of all three has improved since their rescue. Lenci’s inflamed eye has healed well. The tests have shown that Bobby has kidney problems, and Zhaku has skin inflammation. In addition, all three lions need dental treatment. We will take care of that as soon as they have adjusted at FELIDA.”

Marc Gölkel, Leibnitz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research veterinarian

Spectacular rescue from 'Europe’s worst zoo'

From December 2015, FOUR PAWS investigated the Safari Park Zoo in Fier several times, but it was not until October 2018 that intervention was possible. Photos from inside the zoo showed the terrible conditions the animals had to live in.

International media dubbed the Safari Park Zoo 'Europe’s worst zoo' and 'Zoo from hell'. After an international outcry, the Albanian government decided to confiscate all wildlife from the zoo with the support of FOUR PAWS. The rescue of the animals proved to be extremely demanding, but the experienced team was able to free eleven animals from the small, dirty concrete enclosures and bring them to safety. Today, all the rescued animals have found new homes at different sanctuaries.

Ioana Dungler, Director of the Wild Animals Department at FOUR PAWS, was responsible for rescuing the lions from Safari Park Zoo.

“After years of torture, they now finally get the specialised care they desperately need from our experienced team. In FELIDA, they can enjoy the sun and grass in their new enclosure.”

Ioana Dungler, FOUR PAWS Wild Animals Department Director

A home for traumatised big cats

The FOUR PAWS Big Cat Centre FELIDA in the Netherlands operates as a special care centre for physically and mentally traumatised big cats. The big cats that recover from the hardships of their past can then be transferred to the FOUR PAWS Big Cat Sanctuary LIONSROCK in South Africa. Others might need lifelong special care and stay at FELIDA permanently. With the arrival of Lenci, Bobby and Zhaku, two tigers and six lions currently live at FELIDA.

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FOUR PAWS press contact

Elise Burgess

Elise Burgess

Head of Communications

M: 0423 873 382

FOUR PAWS Australia
GPO Box 2845 

Main Phone: 1800 454 228

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them.

Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, farm animals, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.

With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA, and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

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