Ukraine Lion Rescued From Russian Shelling in 'Severe' Condition

A Ukraine lion is in an "extremely severe" condition after it was rescued from Russian shelling.

The male lion had been living in a small enclosure in the Sumy region of Ukraine—which is on the border with Russia—when the shelling took place, Oleksandr Todorchuk, Founder of Ukrainian animal welfare charity UAnimals told Newsweek.

Russian shelling on the Sumy region has intensified in recent weeks. When the lion was rescued, he could not use his back legs and was unable to walk.

"The lion was very close to the shelling. We have now transported him to our wild animal rescue center where we provide veterinary treatment," Todorchuk said.

"If he can be cured, we will transfer him to a rehabilitation center in Europe. The condition is extremely severe, and he has problems with the head. Next week, we will do a full diagnosis, including an MRI, then we will be able to provide a prognosis."

Lion rescued from shelling in Ukraine
A photo shows a lion recently rescued in Ukraine after heavy shelling in the Sumy region. UAnimals

The lion requires a full examination so that veterinarians can determine what happened to him. But whether this can be done, depends on his ongoing condition.

"It is not yet known whether the animal will be able to endure long-term anesthesia," Todorchuk said.

This particular lion had been kept as a pet, although it is not certain where the owner was at the time of the rescue.

There are many exotic big cats living as pets across Ukraine. Before the war broke out, unregulated breeding of lions and other cats for the exotic pet trade was an ongoing problem. Animal welfare charities had been looking to tackle the situation before the war broke out, but when it began, all efforts refocused on evacuating them.

In February 2022, when the war began, there were some reports of pet big cats being left behind in the country after their owners fled.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare estimates there are at least 200 lions living in private homes that are still in need of rescue.

Animal welfare charities such as UAnimals have managed to evacuate animals to other countries. But this takes a lot of resources, and is not always possible due to roadblocks and other dangers.

Natalia Popova, the manager of the rescue center, said on a Facebook post: "The situation is difficult, and we don't know for sure what's wrong with the lion: whether he is sick or stressed because of the experienced shelling."

UAnimals has been an established charity since 2016. It worked to ban the use of animals in circuses from three cities, and campaigned for the removal of the use of fur in fashion shows.

However, when the Russian invasion began, it shifted all of its focus to rescue animals from war zones. It has so far rescued around 1,000 animals from the war torn country.

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