11 lions evacuated from Ukraine in biggest war-zone rescue of its kind

11 lions evacuated from Ukraine in biggest war-zone rescue of its kind

Ukraine has been in a devastating war since the country was invaded by Russia back in February. The conflict has killed over 15,000 civilian casualties.

The war has also been devastating for Ukraine’s animals, from pets separated from their owners to zoo animals threatened by overhead bombings.

But thankfully, there are people risking their lives to evacuate these animals from the war zone and give them a chance at survival in a safer place. That was the case recently, after 11 lions were flown out of Ukraine, the biggest warzone rescue of its kind.

According to Metro, several animal groups and rescuers joined together to fly the lions out of war-torn Ukraine, arranging for their safety in other parts of the world.

A pride of 9 lions — 7 adults and 2 cubs — has been flown to Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. Another two are being transported to a 14,000-square meter reserve in South Africa.

The lions had reportedly been living in the Ukrainian port of Odessa, but were under threat of Russian bombs and missiles. On top of that, the owners were concerned about being able to afford the lion’s huge quantities of food.

The lions were transported spent several months in temporary shelters in Romania, then boarded a Boeing Dreamliner to their destination.

Lionel De Lange, the founder and director of Warriors of Wildlife, says it took 30 sleepless hours to get the lions on board the plane. His friend Reon Human also had his travel documents stolen.

But the difficulties were worth it: in the end, they made an unprecedented animal rescue.

“There’s never been a single rescue of this many lions from a warzone and we just feel so grateful that we have got to this point,” Lionel told Metro.

Over the past few months, pet owners and animal rescuers have experienced the significant difficulties of getting these animals to safety. Transporting an animal like a lion isn’t easy even in peace time, but on top of that rescuers face the risks of overhead bombings and the the challenges of arranging safe transport.

The rescuers had to transport the nine lions 600 miles in four vehicles across Ukraine, Moldova and Romania, and received police escorts to get through the war-torn country.

But in the end, the mission was a success, and now these lions are on their way to safety. And not only are the lions safe from bombs and missiles, but they’ll now get to enjoy much nicer surroundings: they’ll no longer be at a zoo, but in sanctuaries where they can live in their natural habitat.

“We are extremely appreciative of all the governments involved in processing the permits for the lions to travel, it’s amazing to have got it all done in four months,” Lionel told Metro.

“We are super-tired but we are super-happy to have got to this point. The lions are in the cargo hold below us and we’ll be traveling with them.”

We’re so glad these beautiful lions have been rescued and evacuated from Ukraine. We’re sure they will enjoy their new lives in sanctuaries. Thank you to everyone who saved them!

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