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Africa Wildlife and Conservation News, Lions, Southern Africa

Lion from illegal zoo in Bulgaria could be heading for South African sanctuary

File image © Shutterstock File image Cape Town – International animal welfare organisation Four Paws hopes that the rescued pregnant lioness and her partner from an illegal inbred zoo in Razgrad, Bulgaria, will be brought to one of the organisation’s-owned sanctuaries in South Africa or Jordan.

The birth of lioness Raya and her partner Hector’s cub is expected a few weeks into the new year.

The rescue team took both animals to the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, to thoroughly examine the pregnant lioness earlier this month. Results of the ultrasound exam show that the unborn cub is well.

Raya and Hector are now waiting at Sofia Zoo for the birth of their offspring. In the meantime, Four Paws is looking for a long-term, species-appropriate home for the lion family.

Three weeks ago, Four Paws intervened to end the cruel practices of the illegal zoo.

The Razgrad Zoo is located in north-eastern Bulgaria and opened in 1960. Although its licence expired in 2014, the zoo remained open to visitors for free. The breeding and sale of lions was used for financing the enterprise. According to Four Paws, currently over 25 animals – including lions, deer, reindeer, llamas, foxes, hogs and birds – live in the illegal zoo. Since the city owns the zoo, Four Paws convinced the mayor of Razgrad to intervene.

The international team of veterinarians provided medical care to all seven lions and additionally sterilised two adult males.

After Initial medical exams showed that Raya is pregnant and expects her offspring in a few weeks, the organisation decided to transfer the lioness and her partner.

Veterinarian and country director of Four Paws Bulgaria Dr Marina Ivanova said: “Raya’s condition is worrying. She is pregnant and before we stepped in she had never been fully examined. We assume that Raya and Hector are siblings. Therefore, it is a miracle the unborn lion cub is healthy, according to ultrasound scans.

“However, we won’t know the cub’s exact condition until it is born.”

The team would wait and see whether the mother will accept her offspring after the birth. Four Paws South Africa Country Director Fiona Miles said: “In our sanctuaries, we offer lions a safe, species-appropriate home. There they also receive the medical care they urgently need after years of being neglected.”

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