Lion Ivan-Asen in FELDIA 2018

The life-changing journey of lion Ivan-Asen


Rescued from a zoo in Bulgaria and brought to our Big Cat Centre FELIDA

Ivan-Asen was in very bad shape when we first arrived at Razgrad Zoo in November 2017. Fortunately, the lion responded well to the treatment he received after his rescue during his temporary stay at Sofia Zoo. During this time, our animal animal caretaker crate-trained Ivan-Asen on-site, with the result that he voluntarily went into his transport box. Therefore, risky anaesthesia for the already weakened lion could be avoided. Dr. Marc Gölkel from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) was present during the entire transfer to examine and observe the three-year-old lion and attest to his ability to travel.

The transfer of Ivan-Asen follows that of the lion siblings Masoud and Terez, whom FOUR PAWS already brought to FELIDA in March 2018. With Ivan-Asen arriving at the Dutch Big Cat Centre, the lions, who come from the same family, are reunited.

“We are happy that Ivan-Asen too has found a suitable home. Since we rescued him, his health condition is slowly improving. At FELIDA, our team of experts will make sure that he is provided with the further care he now needs.”

FOUR PAWS big cat expert Barbara van Genne.

Watch Ivan-Asen's journey in the video below.

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Zoo without license

Razgrad Zoo opened in 1960 and is located in north-eastern Bulgaria. Although its license expired in 2014, the zoo remains open to visitors for free, and was financed by the unprofessional (in)breeding and sale of lions. Animals of different species – including lions, deer, reindeer, llamas, foxes, hogs and birds – still live in the illegal zoo. Since the city owns the zoo, we convinced the mayor of Razgrad to intervene. At the end of last year, an international team of veterinarians provided medical care to the lions and sterilised two adult males.

With that, we successfully ended the illegal breeding of lions at Razgrad Zoo.

Update February 2020

Ivan-Asen is a good example of an animal that requires highly specialised and intensive care. Because he is the result of inbreeding and grew up under very poor conditions, he developed serious joint and digestive problems. Luckily we could help him recover from his digestive problems and because his muscles got stronger, his mobility also improved. Ivan is doing well. He enjoys his enclosure and plays with his nephews Masoud and Terez. His manes shine and he roars proudly every day.

But we need to keep a close eye on him. For instance, we see that Ivan ​sometimes develops skin problems. Ivan has a weak immune system and because of the deformity in his neck it is difficult to groom himself properly.

To provide him with the most suitable care, we investigate his diet to rule out possible allergies, we will provide him with a cattle brush to help him clean his fur and we are looking for infra-red panels which could help him with direct warmth. In addition, our wildlife veterinarian Marc Gölkel paid us a visit to take some skin biopsies from Ivan. We are now awaiting the results of this examination so that we can treat Ivan accordingly. It was a short veterinary check and Ivan woke up well in his warm bed of straw. 

Update March 2020

Recently we've been keeping a close eye on Ivan-Asen, but at the moment the signs are promising that he is coping well.

Following his skin biopsy results, we are thankful the results showed no bacterial, viral or allergy related problems. But we suspect that Ivan has a problem with his immune system which can lead to problems with his skin and other organs; recent check-up showed that his kidneys have deteriorated a little.

We now provide Ivan with medication to help him with his physical problems and this works out well. Ivan will always need intensive care and sadly may have moments that his immune system will cause him some discomfort. But for now, the spots on his skin are healing and his behaviour is demonstrating that he feels better as he is becoming more active and playing with his neighbors Masoud and Terez again.

26th of March, only two years ago, on this day, Ivan arrived at FELIDA Big Cat Centre! He looks nothing like the poor creature that arrived here. He looks like a true king. All thanks to your support. You made it possible to rescue Ivan from a dark cage in an illegal breeding station in Bulgaria. Happy anniversary Ivan, we hope to enjoy your beautiful company for many more years to come!

Lion Ivan-Asen in FELDIA 2019

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