A zoo is fighting to bring a lioness and her three cubs to Britain after they were abandoned in war-torn Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park is urgently working to give mom Aysa, three, and her 10-month-old cubs Emi, Santa and Teddi a “wonderful new life” on its sprawling reserve.
Pregnant Aysa was left in a deserted private zoo, in the Eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine, when Russian invaders poured through the border in February last year.
And the malnourished big cat suffered alone in her bleak enclosure as the sounds of exploding bombs and gunfire echoed around her.
Aysa was eventually rescued and taken to a temporary sanctuary near Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.
She then gave birth to her three adorable cubs before the new family was transported to a holding facility in Poznan, Western Poland.
But Colin Northcott, from Yorkshire Wildlife Park, said he could tell the young lions still bore the scars of war when he recently jetted off to visit them.
He said: “The lions were so distressed when I first encountered them
“The cubs – Teddi, Emi and Santa – cowered on top of each other in the corner and often hissed and spat loudly at me.
“Seeing them so terrified made me feel desperately sorry for them.
“They were extremely nervous and tried to get as far away as possible from me. This was completely understandable considering what they have been through.
“By the end of the week that I was there, they were starting to trust me more so I felt terrible leaving them behind.
He added: “They have experienced so much trauma and deserve a wonderful new life in Yorkshire. We need to get them here as fast as possible.”
The zoo previously rescued 13 lions from a Romanian zoo in 2010 and brought them to Yorkshire with the help of the charity the Wildlife Foundation.
The pride then went on to enjoy a happy and healthy life in the park, which covers some 260 acres.
There is currently no arrival date for Asya and her cubs to come to the zoo, but staff are working with Polish authorities to arrange the necessary paperwork.
And Colin said he’s already begun preparing the family for life in their new home by playing them sounds from the park, which has more than 400 animals.
He said: “After spending some time with the lions, they have become more comfortable with me, and I hope to continue this progress in Yorkshire.
“We can’t wait to rescue them and offer them a fresh beginning within the park.”
John Minion, CEO of Yorkshire Wildlife Park, said he hoped his team could give Asya and her young cubs the life they deserve.
He added: “When Lion Country was built for the rescue of the 13 lions from Romania in 2010, it was built with the help of donations from people who loved animals and wanted to help rescue the animals.
“It was always meant to be a welfare facility and now we are in a position where we can offer a home to these poor lions and hope that we can make a difference to their lives, just as we did for the Romanian lions in 2010.”.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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