Starving lions and tigers have been rescued from war-torn Ukraine and given a new lease of life on a game reserve in South Africa.
Warriors of Wildlife rescued the starving big cats from cramped cages in the Carpathian mountains and the Mykolaiv region of Ukraine, where food supplies were running low because of Putin’s invasion.
After being rescued in 2022, the animals made the 85-hour journey to Simbonga Game Reserve and Sanctuary on the Eastern Cape in South Africa.
The animals had been kept in crates for hours during the cross-continent journey but were found to be in good health following the long trip.
In total, the organisation rescued seven big cats during the operation, including six lions named Hercules, Khaya, Akera and Mir – all four – and Simba, 10 and Cher, eight. They also rescued a nine-year-old tiger named Gina.
Warriors of Wildlife rescued eight big cats from parts of war-torn Ukraine, including enclosures in the Carpathian mountains and the Mykolaiv region, where the animals were in small cages with little food (pictured)
The lions underwent an 85-hour journey to travel from Ukraine to Simbonga Game Reserve and Sanctuary on the Eastern Cape in South Africa, where they now live in large outdoor enclosures (pictured)
Gina the tiger pictured in Ukraine following Putin’s invasion of the country last year
Along with the lions, a nine-year-old tiger called Gina was also rescued from the enclosure in Ukraine (pictured in South Africa this year)
The lions are now living in large enclosures ready to embark on their new life.
Since their move from Europe, sanctuary manager at the reserve Lauren Vad-Smith, 32, has been documenting the animals progress since arriving in Africa.
Lauren said: ‘These animals now all live at our sanctuary in South Africa at Simbonga Game Reserve.
‘The lions endured 85 hours in their crates from Ukraine to their destination at the sanctuary.
‘Our non-profit organisation is called Warriors of Wildlife; we work across the globe with a primary focus in Ukraine and South Africa currently.
‘Tourists are able to come and visit the lions and learn about the animals as well as well as the work that goes in to rescuing them.
‘Our goal is to rescue and relocate captive animals in need.’
These were not the only animals to be rescued from the Eastern European country in the last year.
Since the war in Ukraine broke out, Warriors have Wildlife have rescued and relocated 37 lions from Ukraine to South Africa.
Animals in these enclosures (pictured) were not the first big cats to be rescued. Back in May 2022, Warriors of Wildlife along with the animal rescue groups Breaking the Chains, travelled to the wore-torn Black Sea port of Odessa to rescue a group of lions and tigers
Since the war in Ukraine broke out, Warriors have Wildlife have rescued and relocated 37 lions from Ukraine to South Africa
Photos shared by sanctuary manager Lauren Vad-Smith showed the dreadful conditions the lions had been placed under before they were rescued
Prior to the rescue mission the lions were left starving, with meat supplies for the animals being extremely low
Photos shared of the lions before their rescue in 2022 left), compared with on the South African game reserve in 2023 (right) showed a drastic difference
The lions now have plenty of space to roam around the open-air sanctuary while they are being cared for on-site volunteers (right). It offers a stark difference to their life before in Ukraine in the months after the war broke out (left)
During one mission back in May 2022, Warriors of Wildlife along with the animal rescue group Breaking the Chains, travelled to the wore-torn Black Sea port of Odessa to rescue a group of Big Cats.
Nine lions, who were facing starvation at the time, were rescued from their home in Biopark, Odessa.
Two adult males, five lionesses, as well as two cubs, were taken to a temporary home in Targu Mures, Romania.
The animals were then either moved on to Simbonga Game Reserve or transferred to a wildlife sanctuary in the US.
Warriors of Wildlife was set up to rescue and relocate wildlife to be cared for by volunteers. Pictured: One of the lions rescued from Ukraine basking in the South African sun
At the sanctuary, 11 lions and Gina the tiger can be viewed by appointment only, as the recovery centre can only be viewed by appointment
The lions were taken on an 85 hour journey from Ukraine to South Africa in crates, but were all recorded as healthy on arrival
The animals now have much more space to roam around in a natural environment rather than being penned up in zoo enclosures
Warriors of Wildlife founder and South African Army veteran Lionel de Lange said at the time: ‘It was an international operation, and it was great to work with other people who were keen on getting this amazing job done.
‘I hope we can go back in under the Russian noses again and rescue more animals together in the future.
‘It’s great for me to get any animal out of a bad situation but I suppose for me as someone who has lived in Ukraine it was extra special.
‘The lions future was super bleak staying in Odesa because the writing is on the wall, and it looks like there’s not going to be an end to the war anytime soon.’