Seven rescued lions reach Dutch sanctuary after journey across Europe

Seven rescued lions reach Dutch sanctuary after journey across Europe

FOUR PAWS rescued the lions from inappropriate breeding and keeping conditions in Romania


6 October 2021 – Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS rescued three female and four male lions on 29 September from unsafe keeping conditions Picior de Munte in Southern Romania. After a journey across Europe through Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Germany, the seven lions finally reached their new home at FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary in the Netherlands, on 1 October. FOUR PAWS will keep negotiating with the former owner to end breeding on-site for good and find a species-appropriate solution for three lions he refused to part with. 

The FOUR PAWS team travelled 40 hours, 2,000 kilometres and crossed five borders to bring the lions to their new home.

“All seven lions have managed the long journey well. The vets checked on them during regular stops and the lions were calm most of the time. Some of them got a little nervous on arrival, which we expected. Now they can relax and get used to their new surroundings. Our experienced team at FELIDA will provide all the care these lions need.” 

Ioana Gabriela Dungler, Director of the Wild Animal Department at FOUR PAWS and responsible for the rescue mission

While lions Elza and Simba, who were kept separate from the others and need special care, will most likely stay at FELIDA, FOUR PAWS plans to bring the five younger lions to its LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa as soon as possible.

FOUR PAWS CEO Josef Pfabigan was also on-site in the Netherlands to welcome the new arrivals: “These seven lions represent thousands of wild animals in captivity worldwide. When we turn the spotlight on these lions rescued from private keeping, we bring all those animals out of the dark who are still suffering. Our rescue missions are not only about providing a better life for individual animals but also about creating awareness that we need to treat all creatures in this world with respect, empathy and understanding.”

Owner changed his mind on agreement to end breeding

Three lions – the parents of the seven rescued lions as well a recently born cub – stayed behind as the owner refused to part with them. He initially agreed to let FOUR PAWS vasectomise the adult male lion to permanently prevent further breeding on-site. However, during the rescue mission, he changed his mind. The FOUR PAWS team was not allowed to treat the lion accordingly but was able to give temporary anti-conception to the female.

“We are disappointed about this setback, but we are not giving up on these lions so easily. Wild animals belong in the wilderness. If they are forced into captivity by humans and cannot be released into the wild, we can offer species-appropriate care tailored to the needs of the individual animals. Moreover, if we can prevent any further animals from being bred and suffering the cruel fate of inappropriate keeping or commercial exploitation, we will do everything in our power to make it happen. We urge the former owner to respect the agreement signed with FOUR PAWS and ensure that further breeding and trade of big cats will not be possible on his property,” says Dungler.

Dutch sanctuary for traumatised big cats

FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary in the Netherlands is one of multiple FOUR PAWS sanctuaries worldwide for rescued wild animals. It functions as a special care facility for physically and mentally traumatised big cats. The big cats that recover from the hardships of their past can be transferred to LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa. Animals that need lifelong intensive and special care, stay at FELIDA.

Learn more about FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary

For these lions The ordeal is finally over!

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at FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary

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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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