30 September 2021 – Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS rescued seven lions from unsafe keeping conditions in Picior de Munte in Southern Romania on 29 September. They are currently on the way to FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary in the Netherlands, run by FOUR PAWS. The former owner kept and bred lions on his private property legally but was also involved in illegal trade and abuse for entertainment productions. Since the owner refused to part with the parents of the seven rescued lions along with a recently born cub, they had to stay behind. The female lion received anti-conception to temporarily stop the breeding on-site, allowing FOUR PAWS to continue negotiations with the owner to end the inappropriate keeping for good and hand over the last lions into species-appropriate care.
The FOUR PAWS team including six experienced vets from multiple partner organisations arrived on-site in Picior de Munte for a complicated rescue mission, as all but two of the lions were kept in the same unsafe enclosure.
“Our team of vets had to put several lions under anaesthesia at the same time in order to get them out. The conditions we encountered were challenging even for our experienced rescue team and required maximum security measures. As long as dangerous wild animals such as big cats are kept in inappropriate cages only secured by a questionable fence, the safety situation remains concerning,”
says Ioana Gabriela Dungler, Director of the Wild Animals Department at FOUR PAWS
Although the owner had previously agreed to permanent anti-conception for the lions that stayed behind, he changed his mind during the mission and FOUR PAWS was not allowed to treat the male lion. “We are relieved that we got the seven lions on the road safely but we are not done with their previous owner yet. We will not give up on the lions that stayed behind,” says Dungler. Once they arrive at FELIDA, all lions will receive thorough veterinary checks as well as any needed treatments and permanent anti-conception. FOUR PAWS plans to bring the five youngest lions to its LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa as soon as possible, where they can keep living as one group in spacious surroundings.
Wild animals exploited for entertainment in the EU
Three-year-old lion Simba, who was born in Picior de Munte and one of the lions that FOUR PAWS rescued, already made the news in late 2020 as he was used in a music video of a Romanian musician, visibly in poor condition and with multiple injuries on display. This led to a public outcry resulting in the authorities seizing Simba but they later returned him to his owner as he had a licence to keep lions. Simba could not be reunited with the other lions as his father rejected him and was since kept alone in a tiny enclosure. Romania banned the keeping of big cats and other wild animal species in circuses in 2017, and private keeping is only allowed with a special permit. “Simba is only one sad example of thousands of wild animals that are exploited and abused for commercial trade such as entertainment, in the EU and beyond. He will now need lifelong special care. Romania has taken important steps by regulating the keeping of big cats but as long as animals are suffering and private persons are allowed to keep and exploit them in inappropriate conditions, there is more work to be done,” 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.