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Eleven lions saved from Ukraine to be flown to sanctuaries around the world in ‘biggest ever wartime rescue’

Eleven lions will soon have a new home after safely leaving Ukraine (stock photo) (AFP via Getty Images)
Eleven lions will soon have a new home after safely leaving Ukraine (stock photo) (AFP via Getty Images)

Eleven lions are set to be rehomed in countries around the world after being saved from at-threat zoos in Ukraine.

Planners behind the logistics have called the effort the “biggest ever warzone rescue”of lions and have now planned how the big cats will be airlifted from their haven in Romania - where they were moved after the invasion - to new pastures.

The lions have been in temporary shelters beyond the border but are set to be flown to Qatar - from where a group of nine, including two cubs, will then be sent to Colorado's Wild Animal Sanctuary while the other two cats will go to South Africa.

South African animal rescuers Lionel De Lange and Reon Human, who are behind the Warriors of Wildlife organisation, are part of the team who will fly with the lions to Qatar and will then take a pair named Simba and Mir to the Simbonga Game Reserve and Sanctuary.

Mr De Lange told the Metro: “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.

“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.”

The pride of nine lions bound for the US had been homed in Ukrainian port city Odessa before being transferred to Romanian capital Bucharest in May - where Simba and Mir were also rehoused. All eleven will fly on one Boeing Dreamliner to Qatar capital Doha and are sedated and placed in crates during transfers.

Mr De Lang added: “The lions have a couple of scratches and bruises but they are travelling well. As with every single rescue we do, there’s an incredible feeling knowing they are going to a good place.”