Lioness Geena arrives at LIONSROCK

Five rescued lions in Romania get a forever home South African

A new life for big cats used for breeding and entertainment


AUGUST 11 2022 – FOUR PAWS rescued seven lion siblings back in September of 2021 from unsafe and inappropriate private keeping in Romania. The global animal welfare organization brought the lions to FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary in the Netherlands for immediate specialty care and treatments.

Now the five youngest lions have arrived at their forever home, LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa, on August 10th, coincidentally World Lion Day.

Simba, Elza, Roman, Vincent, Dolf, Ellie, and Geena are all siblings from different litters: A result of uncontrolled breeding. They were rescued from Picior de Munte, a small village less than hundred kilometers from the Romanian capital Bucharest. Simba reached the news at the end of 2020 when he was used for pictures and a video clip by Romanian artist Dani Mocanu in Romania, which was shared on social media.

“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. The fact that these lions keep appearing in music videos is outrageous. It’s a shame that Romania’s animal welfare laws even allow this. 

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

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.

During the rescue in Picior de Munte, FOUR PAWS encountered shocking neglect and abuse including a complete lack of professional and veterinary care. Unsafe keeping conditions also proved a danger not only for the animals but also for humans in case of an escape.  

Since then, the lions have received the specialized veterinary care they so desperately needed at FELIDA. The two older lions, Simba and Elza, will remain at the facility to maintain their focused care routine. Three-year-old Roman, Vincent, Dolf, Ellie and Geena have arrived safely at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary after a long journey. The sanctuary provides a species-appropriate, lifelong home for the mistreated big cats who cannot be released back into the wild.

“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 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 videoclips,” says Barbara van Genne, responsible for Wild Animal Rescue and Advocacy at FOUR PAWS

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 habitat offers highest standards including large areas for family groups, facilitation of natural behavior 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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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organization 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 organization advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy, and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects 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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