Today, a new life begins for the two Bulgarian lion cubs Masoud and Terez in the Dutch Big Cat Centre FELIDA run by the international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS. Both lions arrived safely in FELIDA last night and are doing well. A FOUR PAWS team has transferred Masoud and Terez from illegal keeping at the Bulgarian Razgrad Zoo to its new home at FELIDA. Due to the reluctance of local authorities to hand over the lion cubs into the care of FOUR PAWS, the team on-site was confronted with a tense situation given the serious health condition of one of the cubs. After mass protests against the transfer of the cubs to another sub-standard zoo, FOUR PAWS eventually gained permission to transfer the cubs with a delay of more than a week. Now Masoud and Terez have found a new home where they can recover from their past suffering. The team at Big Cat Centre FELIDA will provide them with the care they need and prepare them for an eventual and final transfer to an even larger sanctuary in the future.
As the FOUR PAWS team on-site in Bulgaria was waiting and campaigning relentlessly for the necessary permissions to transfer the lion cubs, Dr. Marc Gölkel from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) performed a vet check on both cubs. It was found that Terez has a serious bone growth defect in his front legs that needs specialised care, which FOUR PAWS is able to provide. Such a defect is most likely a result of the unprofessional breeding practices in the Razgrad Zoo, as Masoud and Terez are from at least the second generation of an inbred line. Fortunately, thanks to the support of the Bulgarian prime minister as well as the tireless efforts of the Bulgarian public, the permissions to transfer the cubs were granted eventually. The FOUR PAWS team did not waste any time and was on the way to the Netherlands as quickly as possible. Three-year-old lion Ivan-Asen will stay at Sofia Zoo for now. He reacted very well to the treatment he received there and, according to the veterinary checks, is healthy. FOUR PAWS has definite plans to transfer him to Big Cat Centre FELIDA too as the muncipality of Razgrad has already entrusted the animal welfare organisation with the care of Ivan-Asen.
"We are very happy that the situation took a positive turn and that we could bring Masoud and Terez to species-appropriate surroundings. Given Terez' health condition, he urgently needs daily monitoring and a special diet to treat his maldevelopment. From now on they can recover from their past suffering" states Dr. Marina Ivanova, veterinarian and Country Director of FOUR PAWS Bulgaria.
Zoo without license
Razgrad Zoo is located in north-eastern Bulgaria and opened in 1960. Although its license expired in 2014, the zoo remained open to visitors for free. The unprofessional breeding and sale of lions was used for financing the enterprise. Currently, many animals of different species – including lions, deer, reindeer, llamas, foxes, hogs and birds – live in the illegal zoo. Since the city owns the zoo, FOUR PAWS convinced the mayor of Razgrad to intervene. At the end of last year, an international team of veterinarians provided medical care to all seven lions and sterilised two adult males.
Home to many big cats
The lion cubs will temporarily live at the FOUR PAWS-owned FELIDA Big Cat Centre, which is located in the Dutch town of Nijeberkoop. By taking over the project in 2014, the international animal welfare organisation also assumed responsibility for the 26 big cats that were already housed there at the time. As FELIDA was primarily intended to serve as a transit and rehabilitation centre, FOUR PAWS moved most of the wild animals to the FOUR PAWS Big Cat Sanctuary LIONSROCK in South Africa. Six other tigers, including the two young tigers FOUR PAWS rescued from Syria, live in the Dutch big cat centre. Most of them are too old or weak to be transferred. In the future, FOUR PAWS plans to relocate the facility so that even more big cats can be rescued from poor keeping conditions and placed into large close-to-nature enclosures.