Lionel de Lange, director of The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization helped to rescue four lions – Nathan, Luca, Charlie and Kai – from the Ukraine last year.
For the South African leg of the operation De Lange enlisted the support of the non-profit organisations the Bateleurs and Wildlifevets.
He had found Nathan and his sister – that had been taken from their parents at about two months old and were to be sold to a circus, private zoo or even as pets. Fortunately, he was able to get Nathan out but his sister mysteriously disappeared during the discussions. It is thought that she might have been sold.
Nathan was dumped in a concrete and steel cage of about 15m². He was never able to explore, go outside or even just enjoy the simple pleasure of lazing in the sun.
The three lionesses, Luca, Charlie and Kai were then found when De Lange was doing a three brown bear rescue and relocation from a privately owned zoo in Sambir, Ukraine. The bears were relocated to a bear sanctuary in Synevir in the Carpathian Mountains.
But De Lange could not leave the three lioness-es to live in the squalid conditions they were in.
Their enclosure was only 35m² of concrete and steel cage. No direct sunlight, no fresh air, no enrichment, just filth. De Lange managed to negotiate and secure their release into his care. He was able to raise some funds to build a temporary enclosure for them and Nathan whilst prepping them for their journey to South Africa.Their journey started with a 13 hour road trip from Sambir to Kiev Borispol airport and then two flights with Turkish Cargo from Kiev to Istanbul and then onto OR Tambo in Johannesburg. A total 76 hours!