Imagine living your life in a cage of concrete and steel. Never feeling the grass beneath your feet or the fresh air. For many animals living in zoos, working for carnivals or the circus, this is their sad reality. While people may claim they are well taken care of, the truth is wild animals belong in the wild. It’s just that simple.
One sweet lion had never spent a single moment outside of his concrete cage. However, when a rescue group decided to show him kindness, his life was changed forever. You won’t believe this charming story—grab some tissues!
An Amazing Rescue
In the fall of 2015, FOUR PAWS, an animal rescue organization rescued five lions that had been born in captivity. They knew nothing of the world outside their cages and for the first time would have a new lease on life. The rescue was captured on video, but what you may not know is for three of the lions, their journey to this moment began a long 15 years ago.
Trained to be attractions at Globus, a circus in Bucharest, Romania; lions Lidia, Lavinia, and Petrica were worked harder than the other animals featured at the show. One day, Petrica finally snapped and attacked her trainer, resulting in all three animals being declared too hostile to work in the circus any longer.
This doomed the lions to an even worse fate.
Out of the Frying Pan…
The lions were transferred to Baia Mare Zoo in 2002 and the living conditions were absolutely abysmal. The lions had left behind the circus life for a prison of concrete and steel. It was no place for a wild animal to live.
A Small Box
The cages were small and cramped. The floors made of cold stone. And if things weren’t small enough, Lavinia became pregnant with Petrica’s cubs. Now the cramped quarters were about to become even more impossible to live in.
After the birth of the cubs, named Marin and Tarhon Big, local authorities began to investigate the zoo’s poor conditions. Ultimately, the conditions were deemed inadequate. Therefore, the zoo was to be shut down permanently. While this was a win for the animals, it did create a new problem.
Homeless and Alone
With the zoo closure imminent, the lions and other animals living in the zoo had no place to go. Someone would have to step up to the plate or the fate of the animals was about to get much, much worse.
According to FOUR PAWS, the wait for new placement could be incredibly long, and many of the animals could end up euthanized before finding new homes. Thankfully, the lions had someone going to bat for them, their kind veterinarian who made it his mission to help them. They deserved a much better life than what they had endured so far.
Refusing to Accept Their Fate
With the possibility of euthanasia looming in the future, the vet knew time was of the essence. He would not allow for the lions he had cared for to be put to death over something they had no control over. Out of desperation, the kind veterinarian reached out to the FOUR PAWS rescue organization for help.
Reaching out to the non-profit organization, the vet hoped they might be able to help. FOUR PAWS was known for their work and had spent over 20 years rescuing animals from abuse. Their mission was simple: to be advocates and champions for those who have no voice of their own.
Could they help save the lions from a sad end?
Happy to Help
Refusing to abandon animals in need, FOUR PAWS jumped at the opportunity to help the five lions. Unfortunately, they had no room at their local site and would need to find another suitable location to house them. They wanted to find a permanent home where the big cats would live out their days in peace.
Thankfully, they didn’t have to search for too long.
A Home of Their Own
Realizing it would take some time to find the perfect placement for the lions, FOUR PAWS refurbished an abandoned farm to house the lions in the meantime. The organization chose to personally look after the lions as well, partnering with a local vet to ensure they had the best care possible.
The Day Finally Arrives
It would be October 2015 when FOUR PAWS would finally find a permanent home for the five lions. They had secured spots at LIONSROCK, a South African sanctuary for big cats. Of course, it would be a very long and trying journey for the lions, but that was the price for freedom.
The Long Journey
The LIONSROCK sanctuary was over 15,000 miles away and would take several trips to get there. FOUR PAWS had to make sure the lions were healthy and safe through the duration of the journey; therefore, they broke it down into smaller trips that would be more manageable. Soon, the lions would have a space to roam, play and live out their lives in the great outdoors.
Setup for Success
In order to ensure the safety of the lions and the people traveling with them, FOUR PAWS put together a team of veterinarians from South Africa, Romania, Germany, and the Netherlands. Along the way, another lion named Giovanni was added to the group, rescued from his own tragic past.
The Sad Case of Giovanni
Giovanni had come from a horrible life of abuse where his handlers had beaten him and starved him. During that time, he lost his tail and became a broken soul. Thankfully, FOUR PAWS had come to his rescue and now he was on a journey to a new life as well.
An Epic Journey Concludes
After traveling over 15,000 miles, the lions finally reached their destination, a 3,000-acre paradise that was every big cat’s dream. However, FOUR PAWS wondered how the lions would react to their newfound freedom. Would they understand they were finally free?
A Beautiful Moment
None of the lions had ever touched grass or had the space to run and stretch. After so many years of abuse, at first, the lions were pensive about their new surroundings. Slowly, they began to explore the new habitat and then one of the lions had a beautiful reaction…
Tears of Joy
Caught on video by the camera crew of FOUR PAWS, one of the lions began to cry. After years of captivity, the lion was finally free and couldn’t hold back its appreciation. It’s been long suspected that animals have an emotional spectrum just like humans…this is definitely a sign they do.
A Bright Future
“At LIONSROCK, the six big cats will live in large enclosures in a natural habitat,” the rescue organization revealed. “The unique sanctuary offers a species-appropriate home to over a hundred lions and tigers from poor keeping conditions.”
However, there were even more plans in store…
A New Program
Due to most Romanian zoos having poor conditions and living spaces for animals, as well as a lack of medical care, LIONSROCK was planning to implement a reproduction control program for lions in the zoos of Romania. The goal is to prevent this type of gross abuse from continuing and provide an opportunity for lions to thrive.
The future for these lions is definitely a positive one.