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leopard cub arrives safely at rescue center in France
A black leopard cub—one of five big cat cubs rescued from the exotic pet trade in war-torn Ukraine and brought to Poznań Zoo in Poland back—has arrived at a wildlife shelter in France.
The cub, named Kiara, is now six months old. She was only a few weeks old when she was surrendered to Wild Animal Rescue Center, a wildlife rescue organization in Kyiv, Ukraine. The organization reached out to IFAW to help evacuate her and find a suitable long-term home.
After being transported to Poznań Zoo in Poland in October, where she received care for several weeks, Kiara began the 15-hour journey to a wildlife rescue center in France called Tonga Terre d’Accueil. She arrived safely at the wildlife shelter and will remain there until she’s ready to be placed at a long-term facility that will serve as her forever home.
"Since the beginning of 2022, our shelter has been facing an explosion of animals rescued from animal trafficking,” says Pierre Thivillon, founder and president of Tonga Terre d’Accueil. “People's craze for keeping exotic animals as pets has become a real crisis. It is vital to put in place laws that are sufficiently dissuasive with heavy penalties.”
lion cubs safely transported to their forever home
30 November 2022
Four lion cubs have arrived at The Wildcat Sanctuary (TWS) with Meredith Whitney, Program Manager for Wildlife Rescue at IFAW, and IFAW-sponsored veterinarian, Dr. Andrew Kushnir, marking the final leg in their journey from Ukraine. The cubs—Taras, Stefania, Lesya and Prada—were flown from Poland to the United States in wooden crates that were specifically designed for them and, after an 8-hour drive to TWS, immediately unloaded into a warm indoor enclosure with plenty of food, water and toys. The lead veterinarian at TWS will give the cubs a health assessment and they will have time to settle into their forever home.
We will share more of their individual stories and personalities as they adjust to their new life in a beautiful habitat that was designed for a lion pride.
Thank you to the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation for their generous donation of $50,000 to cover some of the costs and make the transport flight possible.
>>> Learn more about the cubs in this FAQ.
meet the veterinarian caring for the rescued cubs
15 November 2022
Meet Dr. Andrew Kushnir, a veterinarian working with IFAW, who is the current primary caretaker of the four lion cubs and the black leopard cub rescued from Ukraine last month. Dr. Kushnir previously worked with our teams in Poland, helping refugees and their pets as they crossed over the border from Ukraine. When three small lion cubs first arrived in his care in Odesa, he knew IFAW could help and reached out to us.
Dr. Kushnir has experience with big cat species and was able step in as the cubs’ surrogate caregiver. During several drone attacks and airstrikes, he prepared their specialized milk formula every three hours, cleaned up their enclosure and made sure they had a warm place to sleep. On nights when the power went out, he even used his arms and legs to warm their milk bottles.
Dr. Kushnir traveled with the three cubs to Kyiv, where he met the other two cubs. He and the five cubs then travelled together to Poland, where he has been taking care of them ever since.
big cat cubs arrive safely in Poland
11 October 2022
Four lion cubs and a black leopard cub survived recent drone attacks and sporadic bombings in Kyiv followed by the journey to Poland from their war-torn birthplace in Ukraine. International Fund for Animal Welfare was proud to fund the rescue, transport and care for these soon-to-be big cats. We aim to bring them to the Wildcat Sanctuary in the United States pending the issuance of all required permits.
The cubs, all younger than four months, arrived safely at the Poznan Zoo in Poland, where they will be cared for until transport to a long-term care sanctuary is arranged.
According to their permits, all of the cubs were born at breeding facilities in Ukraine and surrendered to animal rescue organizations, Vet Crew in Odesa and Wild Animal Rescue in Kyiv, after local officials started to enforce laws on the exotic pet trade in Ukraine.
“An estimated 200 lions live in private homes and as the war rages on, they face increasingly grim outcomes,” says Meredith Whitney, Wildlife Rescue Program Manager at IFAW.
Thanks to overwhelming support from people around the world, IFAW’s work and that of our partners continues to make a difference for the animals and people impacted by the war in Ukraine.
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