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WATCH: Rescued lions released outside J'Bay

Four lions that were rescued in Ukraine were released on African soil this morning at Simbonga Game Farm outside Jeffreys Bay. 

The lions, Alex and Caesar (brothers), Nala and Akera were rehomed by the Warriors of Wildlife Non-Profit Company.

The lions arrived in South Africa on 28 April and were released at Simbonga early this morning into their "new species appropriate habitat".

For some of these rescued lions, it was the first time "feeling grass under their paws," Lionel de Lange, director at Warriors of Wildlife said.

"They are doing great, as if they have lived here their whole lives," he wrote on Facebook.

Additional enclosures at Simbonga are also being built to help with further rescues not only in Ukraine, but within South Africa as well.  

Moments before they set foot on African soil for t
Moments before they set foot on African soil for the first time. Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Warriors of Wildlife is a registered non-profit organization operating in Ukraine and South Africa, rescuing and relocating abused wildlife from circuses, private zoos and private ownership. "As there are no sanctuaries catering to big cats in Ukraine, and as lions do not belong in Europe, we try to relocate them to ethical sanctuaries in South Africa," the organisation said in a statement.

"We are currently working on our fourth relocation, which will bring our grand total to 20 lions rescued and relocated from Ukraine to South Africa since 2018, with more rescued lions waiting for their chance to get home."

Warriors of Wildlife has decided to build their own Rescue Centre and Sanctuary in the Eastern Cape after they began to realise the importance of ensuring the lions' future. "Operating as a non-profit, we solely rely on donations to continue these rescues, and in the future, to educate on the importance of animal welfare, care, and compassion."

???? Ukrainian lioness Akera.... ??Akera was taken in as a pet and then just abandoned by her owner in Dec 2019. We were...

Posted by WOW Ukraine - Warriors of Wildlife on Thursday, 15 April 2021
Meet the lions

Alex and Ceaser

Alex and Caesar are the most handsome brothers. They were born at a private zoo where their future was uncertain. They will be given a "furever" home together and free of a what would have been a certain life of exploitation. A brother’s bond is something that can never be replaced.

Nala

Nala was also being kept as pet. Her human family had seen her and thought that by buying her as a cub, would be helping her. Her owners, albeit loved her dearly, quickly realised that living in a human home would never be enough for Nala.

They often now share with their friends how getting involved with someone who trades and breeds these animals is not a good idea, and keeping wild animals as pets should never be sought out. Being naturally pride-oriented, but never living with another lion before since she was born, she happily accepted the love and affection of the two boys, Alex and Caesar, when they were able to introduce them to one another at the holding facility in Ukraine.

Akera

Akera was being kept in someone’s backyard as a personal pet. When her owners moved, they abandoned her. She was only found by the new home owners when they arrived days later. She had been left in a backyard cage with no food, lack of appropriate shelter, water engulfed in algae, and the ground covered in excrement. No one knows when she had eaten last.

Finally free! Photos: Supplied
Finally free! Photos: Supplied
About the sanctuary

"Its been a long, hard struggle but we are now proud to say that we have our very own wild animal sanctuary which will provide a safe haven for other wild animals in need," De Lange said.
  • Keegan Smith, who has nine years working experience with lions, tigers and other big cats, as well as other wildlife and his wife Lauren Kylie - who has six years experience working with the same and recently started assisting in monkey rehabs, bats and birds - will be managing the sanctuary. 
  • WOW Sanctuary will be the future home for the cubs Nala, Alex, Caesar and Akera. "We will continue to do rescue/relocations from Ukraine and apart from the lions waiting to leave now, we have another five that we hope to relocate later in the year."
  • All the enclosures are built according to specifications/law laid down by the Department of Environmental Affairs. There is ample shaded and sheltered areas, as well as open grassland. They have night shelters for each enclosure that will be used in the event of medical emergencies and when the team needs to get into the enclosures to clean and do any maintenance.
  • All visits to see the lions and other cats will be made by appointment and strictly controlled as to give the cats as much privacy as possible.
  • The vet, who has many years experience in treating wildlife, is only a 40 minute drive if needed in an emergency.
  • They are situated between Port Elizabeth and Jeffreys Bay. The sanctuary/farm is 160 hectares with a variety of game, including giraffe, kudu, zebra and blue wildebeest to name a few. 
  • They will be doing guided and educational tours, there are hiking trails for beginners and advanced hikers, game drives and soon they will set up a bush cafe to provide light meals and refreshments.

Our ????boys from ????Ukraine..... Alex & Caesar ??Our not so little guys, now 1 year old are all legal and ready to travel...

Posted by WOW Ukraine - Warriors of Wildlife on Monday, 19 April 2021
Additional sources: Lionel de Lange Facebook 
Warriors of Wildlife media statement

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