Lions Nikola and Vasylyna

Two young lions - One love story

Rescued 2.000 kilometers apart they roamed the streets, alone, scared and left to die. Now, lions Nikola and Vasylyna have a chance at a new life together.


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This is the journey of the two young lions Nikola and Vasylyna. They share the same background story but were found 2.000 kilometers apart and now have a chance of a future together. Discover how the two lions were brought to safety to FELIDA and got a second chance in life and love. Their next step? LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary! 

Follow their origin story here.

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Lion Nikola released at LIONSROCK

And they live happily ever after!

We are excited to share that lions Nikola and Vasylyna have arrived at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary. Nikola wasted no time and quickly stepped out of his transport crate. Vasylyna however needed more time, but eventually joined Nikola in their new forever home. They have already settled in very well and currently enjoying the African sun on their beautiful fur.  

Lioness Vasylyna in transport crate

Ready, set, GO!

Lions Nikola and Vasylyna are on their way to the beautiful LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa. Kim, one of our animal caretakers at FELIDA, will accompany the lovely couple to help them feel comfortable during the whole trip. In FELIDA our team has prepared the two young lions for the transfer in the best possible way. We did daily crate training with them. This is to familiarize the animals with the transport crates so they do not have to be put under anesthesia. The crate training went very well. Nikola needed a bit more time and guidance, but both lions successfully walked into their transport crates and are now on their way to paradise.


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Time to say goodbye

It's time to say goodbye to the cute lion couple Nikolyna. We say goodbye to them with a smile and a heavy heart. Our team at FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary will miss them dearly. But we also know that it is time for these two young lions to start a new chapter. They are full of energy and deserve to live in their own territory under the African sun. On Thursday 25th of April, they will take off to our LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary, where the experienced on-site team will welcome them and care for them in the best way for the rest of their lives. We are so happy that we were able to give Nikola and Vasylyna a second chance at life after their tragic start and that they found each other at FELIDA. 

Lion Nikola (left) and lioness Vasylyna (rechts)

Ready for the next chapter

Their couple’s name “Nikolyna” is now a symbol of their growing love towards each other. It is as if both lions have never lived separately. They are a perfect match and even share the same hobbies:playing soccer and destroying enrichment. But there are also differences: While Vasylyna is a little bit more independent and likes to keep the overview by laying on high platforms. Nikola prefers to explore their environment for new sounds and smells. Vasylyna and Nikola are full of energy and in perfect health. That is why we have started with the preparations of moving the young couple to South Africa. They are getting bolder and are showing us more clearly every day: we are ready for LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary! 

Lion Nikola (front) and lioness Vasylyna (back)

Growing stronger by the day

It has been a couple of months since lions Nikola and Vasylyna were successfully socialised. During the past few weeks we can see that their bond is growing stronger by the day. The first butterfly feelings have evolved into mutual trust and they now are completely comfortable with each other. As if the two young lions had never lived apart. We are so proud to see their relationship and personalities flourish.

The first moments of lions Nikola and Vasylyna together

Together at last! 

What a start off the new year! In the first week of 2024 we have successfully socialised the lions Nikola and Vasylyna. After months of preparations and hard work it was time to open the gate between the two young lions! The first contact between Nikola and Vasylyna was a thrilling but exciting moment! Both lions have never been in contact with a conspecific before. They needed some time to get used to each other’s presence but after a couple of days, the young lions started to settle down and we see wonderful, positive interactions. We are extremely thankful for everyone that has been a part of their story and cannot wait to see what their future together holds. 


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Their love story continues

It has been a couple of months since Vasylyna moved next to the enclosure of the handsome Nikola. During that time, both lions have been very busy getting to know each other’s characters. They are young and full of energy. We can see this in their behaviour towards each other as they sometimes get a bit distracted. That is why we have adapted their enclosure to create a more secluded environment for their socialization. Together with positive reinforcement training, the use of special pheromones and switching their enclosures, we hope to stimulate their contact even more.


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The first spark

Eventually, it was time for them to meet! Both lions are full of energy and needed some time to get used to each other’s enthusiasm. But after a couple of days, they started to settle down and it looks like LOVE IS IN THE AIR! We are so proud of this important milestone in their young lives. They still have a long way to go together, but the first signs look very promising. When the time is right, the next steps in their socialisation process will be discussed our behavioural experts. In the meantime, we will keep a close eye on the lovely couple.

Lioness Vasylyna exploring her new enclosure

A new enclosure

All the results of the medical check showed that both lions are in perfect health. So, it was time for them to meet. Their first eye contact via the inside enclosure was a big hit. That is why we decided to move Vasylyna to a larger enclosure next to Nikola. The crate training that was needed for her internal relocation went very smooth. After her release, Vasylyna immediately started to explore all the new sounds and smells. She needed a bit of time to get used to her new surroundings, but the young lioness soon felt completely at home.

Medical check of lion Nikola

Medical check

To prevent future offspring, our veterinarians from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research performed a minimally invasive sterilisation procedure on the young lion Nikola. The operation was successful and Nikola was given time to recover. Lioness Vasylyna also received a visit from the wildlife vets for a routine health check. They checked her kidneys, collected blood and urine samples, and performed a general physical exam. Fortunately, the results show that she is in excellent health! The same goes for Nikola.

Lion Nikola

Two journeys, one future

In the world of big cats, the lion stands out as the only social creature that thrives in the company of its own kind. That is why we have decided to introduce the young lions, Nikola and Vasylyna, to each other. Both of them are energetic and full of life and we believe that allowing them to spend time together will greatly benefit their overall well-being. Our plan is to gradually bring Vasylyna closer to Nikola by relocating her to an enclosure next to his. When the time is right we will start their introduction. If everything goes according to plan, we hope to socialise the two young lions.

Lioness Vasylyna

Vasylyna is finally home

The first days after the arrival of Vasylyna were a bit stressfull for her. As the young lioness was in dire need of some rest. After giving her some space to recover from the long journey, she slowly but surely began to explore her new environment and trusting our animal caretakers more and more. Nowadays, we find her on one of the specially made platforms higher up in her enclosure. This serves as an important tool to strengthen her muscles while simultaneously giving her a nice view, allowing her to keep a watchful eye on everything that is going on at the sanctuary. We are very glad to see the young lioness is doing well after the long journey. 


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The journey to safety

FOUR PAWS has organized many rescues before, but the rescue of lioness Vasylyna was especially difficult because of the ongoing war. However, despite these challenges and all the paperwork, Vasylyna was finally able to be transferred to the Netherlands on June 5th, 2023. She arrived at the sanctuary on June 7th, 2023, safe and sound.

Lioness Vasylyna at Wild animal rescue near Kiev

Rescued from the war torn streets of Ukraine

In the beginning of 2023, FOUR PAWS received information that a young lioness named Vasylyna was wandering around in a village in Ukraine. Vasylyna used to be kept as a pet in the Kharkiv region, and had escaped. Luckily, Wild Animal Rescue was able to capture her and temporarily take care of Vasylyna at their rescue center near Kyviv with their dedicated team.

Lion Nikola in the grass

Happy young lion Nikola

Lion Nikola feels completly at home at FELIDA. His energetic and curious personality makes us smile every day. He enjoys discovering new things, eats well, is interested in our animal caretakers, and most importantly, he loves playing with anything that looks like a ball. We are thrilled to see the young lion thrive after the chaotic first few months of his life.

Lion Nikola with his birthday enrichment

A special celebration!

On September 10th, we had a special party at FELIDA. Not only were we celebrating that Nikola turned 1 year old, but it was also his first birthday at our sanctuary! The handsome lion was over the moon with his special birthday enrichment and was playing with it for hours.

Lion cub Nikola playing in the grass

Growing into a strong confident lion

Shortly after arriving at FELIDA, the young and energetic Nikola had become too big for his adaption enclosure. He needed more space to play and roam, so we decided to move him to the former enclosure of tiger Tsezar. Nikola immediately started to explore his new environment and all the interesting smells.

Lion cub Nikola in his temporary enclosure in Montenegro

Rescued from the streets of Montenegro

In January 2022, the local authorities in Montenegro asked FOUR PAWS for help with a young lion cub that had been kept illegally and had escaped into the streets. After 10 days, the hungry and tired cub, who got the name Nikola, as saved and taken to a safe place where dedicated volunteers looked after him. On June 20th, 2022, all the needed documents were prepared and Nikola was taken to his new  home at FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary.

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