Rescued lions from Albanian horror zoo arrive at new home 

FOUR PAWS brings Lenci, Zhaku and Bobby to Dutch Big Cat Centre FELIDA


May 13, 2019 –  FOUR PAWS successfully transferred three rescued lions from their temporary home at Tirana Zoo to a sanctuary in the Netherlands. For these three big cats, after a long wait, they finally receive the happy ending they deserve: Specialized care at FOUR PAWS Big Cat Centre FELIDA. 

FOUR PAWS previously rescued Lenci, Bobby and Zhaku in October 2018 during a spectacular rescue mission from the notorious Safari Park Zoo in Fier, Albania. After years of suffering in inappropriate conditions, the lions can now finally begin a dignified and better life.

On May 7th, the lions started their 1800 mile journey from Tirana Zoo to Nijeberkoop in the Netherlands, where Big Cat Centre FELIDA is located. The FOUR PAWS team traveled 52 hours  to bring the lions to their new home.

The three lions remained curiously but cautiously as they explored the new surroundings. Veterinarian Marc Gölkel from the Leibnitz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) was part of the rescue team in October 2018 and has again accompanied the transfer to ensure the well-being of the animals. Prior to their departure, Gölkel gave the go-ahead for the journey after a short medical examination. 

“Overall, the state of health of all three has improved since their rescue. Lenci’s inflamed eye heals well. The tests have shown that Bobby has kidney problems, and Zhaku has skin inflammation. In addition, all three lions need dental treatment. We will take care of that as soon as they have adjusted at FELIDA” 

Marc Gölkel, Veterinarian from the Leibnitz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW)

The transfer of the lions was preceded by a call for protest by FOUR PAWS against the responsible Albanian Ministry of Environment and Tourism, which blocked their departure. The reason given was an ongoing court case initiated by the former owner of the animals for damage to property. 

FOUR PAWS did not accept this reason and fought tirelessly for the departure of the lions. “It was high time that the Ministry kept its agreement with us. We are relieved that we were finally able to bring the lions to our special care centre. We would like to thank Tirana Zoo for its help, but in the long run the zoo would not be a suitable home for the animals. After years of torture they now finally get the specialised care they desperately need from our experienced team. In FELIDA they can enjoy the sun and grass in their new enclosure,” says Ioana Dungler, Director of the Wild Animals Department at FOUR PAWS, and responsible for rescuing the animals from Safari Park Zoo.

Since December 2015, FOUR PAWS had investigated the Safari Park Zoo in Fier several times, but it was not until October 2018 that intervention was possible. Photos from inside the zoo showed the terrible conditions the animals had to live in. International media started labeling Safari Park Zoo as “Europe’s worst zoo” and “Zoo from Hell”. 

After an international outcry, the Albanian government decided to confiscate all wildlife from the zoo with FOUR PAWS supporting them. The rescue of the animals proved to be extremely demanding, but the experienced team was able to free eleven animals from the small, dirty concrete enclosures and bring them to safety. Today all the rescued animals have found new homes at different sanctuaries.

The FOUR PAWS Big Cat Centre FELIDA in the Netherlands functions as a special care center for physically and mentally traumatized big cats. The big cats that recover from the hardships of their past can then be transferred to the FOUR PAWS Big Cat Sanctuary LIONSROCK in South Africa. Others might need lifelong special care and stay at FELIDA permanently. After the arrival of Lenci, Bobby and Zhaku, two tigers and six lions currently live at FELIDA.

© Bogdan Baraghin | FOUR PAWS  

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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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