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Lions rescued from Ukraine released into big cat sanctuary in South Africa

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South Africa

A pair of lions have released into their new home in South Africa after being rescued from a zoo in Ukraine. The three-year old lions, Tsar and Jamil, were rescued shortly after war began in 2022.

These lions were born into captivity in Ukraine, they now await their new home.

"The lions are doing well. I've just checked on them, they're resting in the crate. In a few minutes, time we will be heading to Born Free. That is the Southern Born Free and we will be releasing them into their new enclosure," says Glen Vena, Animal Care Manager at Born Free South Africa.

They will be released into the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary at Shamwari Private Game Reserve in South Africa.

The lions were handed over to a wildlife rescue centre in Kyiv before plans were set into motion for the brothers to be re-homed in South Africa.

"So, Tsar and Jamil have had the most tragic start to life. They are only three years old. They recently turned three in January, and they have been through the mill. They have had broken bones, been fed on a diet that is completely inappropriate for lions. We're having we're going to have to build up their immune systems. We're going to have to build up their muscle mass, so that they become strong, healthy lions here, to be able to live out their life in the African bush, as they should have from the start," explains Catherine Gilson, Born Free Manager at Shamwari Private Game Reserve.

Both lions were raring to go - upon release, both dashed straight out of their travel crates to explore their new enclosure.

"First thing now we want them to drink water, and then a little bit later they'll be fed. And, but once they drink water, we know everything is fine, but we will watch them quite closely and make sure they find," says Joubert.

Johan Joubert, Head of Wildlife at Shamwari and a vet, says both lions had small bruises which was normal after a long journey - but they are expected to heal quickly.

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