Lioness Geena arrives at LIONSROCK

Five Lions Rescued From Romania Last Year Arrive at South African Forever Home

Former owner keeps exploiting rescued lions’ parents and one-year-old cub


Vienna, 11 August 2022 – In September 2021, global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS rescued seven lion siblings from inappropriate and unsafe private keeping in Romania. The lions were brought to FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary in the Netherlands for treatments. Now the five youngest lions have arrived at their forever home, LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa, on 10 August – this year’s World Lion Day.

The two older lions, Simba and Elza, need specialised care and will stay at FELIDA.

FOUR PAWS keeps fighting for their parents and a one-year-old cub named Aslan which the owner refuses to give up. Just like Simba before, Aslan recently appeared in a shocking music video. FOUR PAWS fears that the owner will violate prior agreements to end breeding and urges the Romanian authorities to help prevent wild animals from such exploitation.

On-site in Picior de Munte in Southern Romania, FOUR PAWS encountered unsafe keeping conditions that prove a danger not only for the animals but also for humans in case of an escape, as well as a lack of professional and veterinary care.

While the former owner gave up seven of his lions last year, he was not willing to part with three of his lions and forbade the FOUR PAWS team to vasectomise the adult male lion although this had been agreed in writing. The team provided temporary birth control to the lioness but once it wears off, uncontrolled and possibly incestuous breeding can resume.

“The fact that these lions keep appearing in music videos is outrageous. This, the uncontrolled breeding and the inappropriate keeping conditions are clear signs the owner should not be allowed to keep lions. It’s a shame that Romania’s animal welfare laws even allow this. The owner keeps refusing to hand over the animals or to at least allow a vasectomy of the male to stop the breeding. We will do everything in our power to prevent any further animals from suffering the cruel fate of inappropriate keeping or commercial exploitation. We urge the former owner to respect the agreement signed with us and prompt the Romanian authorities to help us give these lions a better life,” 

Ioana Dungler, Director of the Wild Animals department at FOUR PAWS.

Five young lions arrive at forever home

While FOUR PAWS continues to fight for their family members that had to stay behind in Romania, the seven rescued lions have found species-appropriate homes. Simba and Elza receive all the care they need at FELIDA, and their five younger siblings, three-year-old Roman, Vincent, Dolf, Ellie and Geena have arrived safely at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary after a long journey.

“None of these lions had experienced a species-appropriate life in Romania, where they can live as a group according to their instincts and individual personalities in spacious, natural surroundings. At LIONSROCK they can explore, roam around and play but will also have a place to hide, if they want. It is bittersweet that these five lions get this opportunity, but that their little brother is still stuck being kept as a pet and abused for video clips,” says Barbara van Genne, responsible for Wild Animal Rescue and Advocacy at FOUR PAWS.

Wild animals exploited for entertainment in the EU

Romania banned the keeping of big cats and other wild animal species in circuses in 2017, and private keeping is only allowed with a special permit. In the EU and beyond, every year thousands of lions and other wild animals are exploited and abused for the commercial wildlife trade, for example for human entertainment.

“Despite positive steps in and outside of Europe, including Romania, towards better wild animal protection laws, many lions and other wild animal species are kept and bred privately in inappropriate conditions in circuses, for photo ops or in private yards around the world. They are cruelly abused for their body parts, their skin and bones, as pets and for entertaining humans,” says Dungler.

LIONSROCK: A home for over 100 rescued big cats in South Africa

LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary near Bethlehem, South Africa is home to over 100 big cats, most of which were rescued by FOUR PAWS from war-ravaged zoos, circuses, private ownership, and the canned hunting industry. The sanctuary provides a species-appropriate, lifelong home for the mistreated big cats who cannot be released back into the wild.

The habitat offers highest standards including large areas for family groups, facilitation of natural behaviour through enrichment and highest standards of medical care as well as highest security standards of enclosures. In LIONSROCK hunting, trading or breeding, as well as interactions between wild animals and visitors, are prohibited.

Lioness Ellie at FELIDA

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Katharina Braun

Katharina Braun

Team Lead Public Relations

+43 (0) 664 885 33 270

VIER PFOTEN International 
Linke Wienzeile 236
1150 Vienna, Austria

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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

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