Masoud and Terez, two newborn lion cubs had a rough start in life. Their parents were being kept in an unlicensed zoo in Razgrad, Bulgaria. The zoo was breeding lions and selling them to keep the facility running. Because Masoud and Terez’s parents were genetically related, the cubs had all kinds of health problems.
They were suffering from the stress of cramped cages and poor nutrition and the rejection of their parents.
Wild Animals, an animal organization based in Sofia received a call from a concerned citizen who had visited the zoo and witnessed a fully grown lion accidentally trample a newborn cub. However, the organization didn’t specialize in rescuing big cats, like lions.
“Initially I was shocked,” Lubomila Krivoshieva, director of Wild Animals, told Balkan Insight. “I said, there is no way to take in lions, this is absurd!”
They knew they could not leave the cubs where they were.
At the same time, Four Paws International was investigating the zoo and coordinating the rescue of its lions.
Marina Georgieva, a volunteer with Wild Animals, was determined to save Masoud and Terez, and took on the task of trying to raise the cubs:
It is normally best for cubs to stay away from humans, as they can’t be raised well away from their own kind. Because they had nowhere else to go, people realized hand raising was their only option. Georgieva tried to keep them safe until they could move to a real rescue facility and for five months, she was their mother, bottle-feeding the cubs and tending to their needs 24 hours a day.
“These five months were the hardest months of my life,” she told Four Paws. “I had to stop caring for my family. I didn’t go to work for five months.”
Once it was time to separate from her, no one wanted to see them return to any kind of substandard zoo. It was not clear whether the authorities would let them leave the country.
The public had grown to love Terez and Masoud and they were willing to take a stand for them.
Four Paws negotiated with the government to let Terez and Masoud go to a sanctuary, while people held a rally to support their transfer.
“Fortunately, thanks to the support of the Bulgarian prime minister as well as the tireless efforts of the Bulgarian public, the permissions to transfer the cubs were eventually granted,” Four Paws wrote in a release. “The Four Paws team did not waste any time and was on their way to the Netherlands as quickly as possible.”
Georgieva accompanied the cubs from Bulgaria to the Netherlands to make sure the cubs got there safely. Finally the, arrived at FELIDA Big Cat Center in Nijeberkoop.
“We are very happy that the situation took a positive turn and that we could bring Masoud and Terez to species-appropriate surroundings,” Dr. Marina Ivanova, veterinarian and country director of Four Paws Bulgaria, said. “Given Terez’s health condition, he urgently needs daily monitoring and a special diet to treat his poor development. From now on, they can recover from their past suffering.”
Rescuers hope that the cats housed at FELIDA will be able to make the long trip to LIONSROCK, Four Paws’ big cat sanctuary in South Africa. There they will enjoy larger enclosures in their natural habitat.
They seem pretty happy to be in a place where they can recover and continue to grow up as adult lions. The siblings have been making full use of their new home by tackling each other in piles of hay. s soon as they’re older and healthier, they won’t interact with humans at all.
Georgieva can go back to her normal life now that the cubs are safe.
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