Rescuing animals during disasters – Europesave human lives by saving animals before, during and after disasters
(Washington D.C. – November 30, 2022) – Four young lion cubs rescued from Ukraine, were flown from Poland to a sanctuary in Sandstone, Minnesota for lifelong care.
The cubs – Taras (male), Stefania (female), Lesya (female) and Prada (female) – are all between four and five months and have spent the last three weeks at the Poznan Zoo, receiving excellent care and recovering from their 36-hour journey out of Ukraine.
“These cubs have endured more in their short lives than any animal should,” said Meredith Whitney, Wildlife Rescue Program Manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “They were born at breeding facilities in Ukraine, during the war and then orphaned at a few weeks old. When Dr. Andrew Kushnir asked us to help rescue the cubs out of Ukraine, we made a commitment to find them a wonderful, safe place to live out the rest of their days together. Having worked with The Wildcat Sanctuary on previous big cat rescues, we knew they had an incredible habitat waiting for them.”
At the time of the cubs’ rescue, zoos and rescue centers across Europe had accepted many lions from Ukraine already and reported their facilities were at capacity.
Two animal rescue organizations, The Wildcat Sanctuary (TWS) and IFAW, partnered to ensure the cubs would have a safe place to live out the rest of their days together. The sanctuary has a specially designed habitat for lions and the cubs will live together as a pride in an environment specific to their needs.
“We’ve cared for 300 big cats at TWS and are acutely aware of the trauma many big cats around the world experience,” said Tammy Thies, Founder and Executive Director of TWS. “From the moment IFAW reached out to request our partnership, we knew these cubs had found their forever home at our sanctuary. They have a custom, open space to explore and soft grass or hay to rest their tired bodies on. Because of the generosity of our supporters, we can provide lifelong care to big cats at our sanctuary.”
The 9-hour flight was sponsored in part by the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, who immediately connected IFAW to a company that could fly the cubs from Poland to the United States (US). The plane that transported the cubs was already scheduled to return to the US and space was available for the cubs since they are still quite young. International regulations for transporting animals require temperature thresholds and the space for the cubs on the plane was pressurized and temperature controlled. Dr. Kushnir, who was a pivotal part of their rescue, care and transport out of Ukraine, traveled with the cubs to the US. The flight landed on Tuesday, 29 November 2022 around noon and, once the cubs cleared customs, were met by care staff from TWS to transport the cubs from the airport to the sanctuary.
The cubs were offloaded into an indoor quarantine enclosure at TWS, assessed by Dr. Clark Campbell, DVM, lead veterinarian at TWS, and provided a warm space to rest after their flight. Their arrival marks the final step in an arduous journey to find peace after surviving sporadic bombings and drone attacks in Ukraine.
While these cubs now have a secure future, many big cats – in captivity and in the wild – face new and increasing threats to their survival.
“Nearly every species of big cat must overcome a growing list of threats to their wild existence, in particular, the increasing demand of the exotic pet trade,” said Whitney. “We are working with the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance and organizations like The Wildcat Sanctuary to stop the exploitation of big cats in the US and around the world.”
“One of the biggest ways individuals in the US can take action on this problem is to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act, refuse to visit cub petting operations or roadside zoos and support legitimate organizations that rescue and provide care for confiscated and surrendered big cats in the US.”
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About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) - IFAW is a global non-profit helping animal and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. The problems we’re up against are urgent and complicated. To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action. We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organizations and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish. See how at ifaw.org.
About TWS (The Wildcat Sanctuary) - The Wildcat Sanctuary (TWS) is the only accredited, non-profit sanctuary in the Midwest. TWS provides a natural sanctuary to wild cats in need and inspires change to end the captive wildlife crisis. Combining natural and spacious habitats with a life free of exhibition, TWS allows all residents to live wild at heart. As a true sanctuary, we do not buy, breed, sell or exhibit animals. The Wildcat Sanctuary is accredited by the American Sanctuary Association and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. More information can be found at WildcatSanctuary.org
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