Nine lions that were rescued from Ukraine have arrived safely at their new home in Colorado.
The big cats were “urgently relocated” from Bio Park Zoo in Odessa, Ukraine, when the Russian invasion first began, according to a news release from The Wild Animal Sanctuary.
A convoy transported the lions from Odessa across Moldova to Romania; their journey stretched for over 600 miles, says the sanctuary. They arrived at the Targu Mures Zoo in Romania’s Transylvania region on May 24.
The lions spent months at the zoo waiting for an emergency travel permit so they could board a rescue flight, according to the sanctuary. They finally arrived in their final homes on September 29.
Seven adult lions and two cubs from the rescued pride are now being cared for by The Wild Animal Sanctuary, a nonprofit based in Keenesburg, Colorado. The lions will live at an extension of the sanctuary called The Wild Animal Refuge, which consists of almost 10,000 acres of land near Springfield, Colorado. The facility is not open to the public, according to the sanctuary’s website.
Another two lions were sent to the Simbonga Game Reserve and Sanctuary in Eastern Cape, South Africa, says the release. On Facebook, the South African reserve said they received two lions, Mir and Simba, who had been rescued from Ukraine and then stayed in Romania.
Pat Craig, The Wild Animal Sanctuary’s executive director, highlighted the complexity of the feline rescue mission.
“International rescue operations are almost always more complex in nature, but then you are factoring in a variety of foreign governments and timelines for permitting, some of those with active war zones,” Craig said in the release. “We are thankful we could get all the lions out in time and save them. That’s what matters. They will live out the rest of their lives in pristine, large, natural habitats.”