We’ve all heard it said that cats have nine lives. These resilient creatures are known for their near misses and narrow escapes – and big cats are no exception.
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When it comes to narrow escapes, this story could rival any tale of animal rescue. On November 29th, 2022, four orphaned lion cubs arrived in the United States following an incredible journey.
As part of a rescue mission organized by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Ukrainian cubs were flown from Poland to Sandstone, Minnesota in custom made wooden crates. Their journey, however, began long before the 9-hour flight and subsequent 8-hour drive to The Wildcat Sanctuary (TWS).
“They were born at breeding facilities in Ukraine during a war, and then orphaned at a few weeks old,” said Meredith Whitney, Wildlife Rescue Program Manager. “Early on, we made a commitment to these big cubs that we would find them a wonderful, safe place to live together. Having worked with The Wildlife Sanctuary on previous big cat rescues, we knew they have an incredible habitat waiting for them.”
The adorable cubs, whose names we simply can’t resist, are Taras, Stefania, Lesya, and Prada. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, many animals were displaced. Although several lions ended up in zoos and rescue centers throughout Europe, there was no vacancy left for these big cats. It was at this point in time that IFAW became involved and recruited The Wildlife Sanctuary.
“From the moment IFAW reached out to request our partnership, we knew these cubs had found their forever home at our sanctuary,” reported Founder and Executive Director of TWS, Tammy Thies, in a release.”They have a custom, open space to explore and indoor comfy rooms where they can rest their tired bodies …”
Prior to heading overseas, the cubs had already journeyed a great distance. It took 36 hours for them to travel from the Ukraine to Poland’s Poznan Zoo, where they remained for the next three weeks to receive care. That’s quite a trip for young cubs, especially ones who have experienced so much trauma in their short lives.
“Their arrival marks the final step in an arduous journey. These lion cubs have traveled almost 7,000 miles to finally find peace, after surviving bombings and drone attacks in Ukraine.” the TWS release continued.
Finally at journey’s end, the cubs are now ready to settle into their forever home. And these cubs won’t be the last to escape the war-torn country. According to the TWS release, members of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance will continue to work in collaboration with IFAW to rescue more cats from Ukraine.
We wish only the best for Taras, Stefania, Lesya, and Prada as they move forward. As always, our thoughts and prayers are with all the people and animals of Ukraine.
Share this story with a friend to welcome these beautiful cubs to America, their new forever home!
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