FEBRUARY 27, 2018– Today, a new life begins for two lions. Lions that have experienced the horrors of war. Simba was rescued from a zoo in Mosul, Iraq, while Saeed came from an amusement part in Aleppo, Syria. However, the two lions have been transported to a sanctuary in South Africa, leaving their brutal past behind.
After more than half a year of rehabilitation in Jordan, Simba and Saeed were ready for their final journey. FOUR PAWS, the international animal welfare organization, relocated the former war lions to Johannesburg, South Africa yesterday, February 26. There, the two male lions will find peace and refuge in the 12-square-kilometer big cat sanctuary: LIONSROCK. The 33-hour transfer took place by passenger planes and trucks. This last transfer concludes delicate rescue missions to crisis areas in the Middle East as well as months of intensive care at the Jordanian wildlife rescue center Al Ma'wa for Nature and Wildlife.
The two lions have endured much suffering in their young lives. Believed to be about four-years-old, Simba was born in the Montazah Al-Morour Zoo in the eastern part of Mosul during the ongoing war in Iraq. The majority of the 40 animals at the zoo died of starvation or were killed by bomb attacks. The lucky few escaped from their damaged enclosures. When the FOUR PAWS rescue team visited in February 2017, they found only two animals alive in the zoo: bear Lula and lion Simba. After weeks of difficult negotiations in Iraq, the animal welfare organization successfully evacuated both wild animals in April 2017 and brought them to Jordan.
Saeed, however, was rescued in a group of 13 other animals. In July 2017, FOUR PAWS took over the remaining animals from the neglected zoo at the Magic World amusement park near Aleppo. International security companies and the Turkish Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs supported the evacuation. After a two-week stay in Turkey, the Turkish government approved the departure of the 13 injured and traumatized animals to Jordan. Because of his young age, it is believed that two-year-old lion Saeed was born in captivity during the war in Syria.
"Simba and Saeed had a difficult start to life but thanks to the tireless efforts of the animal caretakers and vets involved, the health of the two lions has improved enormously. They are now ready to begin a new chapter at our big cat sanctuary LIONSROCK. There, we have the chance to bring Simba and Saeed together with other rescued lions. We will immediately begin our socialization project for both lions, as young lions feel comfortable in prides."
FOUR PAWS Big Cat Expert Barbara van Genne
Without their initial rehabilitation period, the improvement of the lions could have been greatly inhibited. The Jordanian wildlife rescue center Al Ma'wa for Nature and Wildlife, a joint project of FOUR PAWS and the Princess Alia Foundation, has become a species-appropriate home for most rescued zoo animals from crisis areas in the Middle East. Due to their good health and young age, FOUR PAWS decided to transfer Simba and Saeed. Approximately 100 rescued big cats, including lions and tigers, live at LIONSROCK. With 79 other lions, we are confident Simba and Saeed will find themselves a pride and a happy ending to their chaotic upbringing.
Read more about our rescues in Iraq and Syria here.