There’s nothing like a nice nap in the sun – especially if you’ve been freezing your paws off for years.
Seven lions enjoy freedom in Africa for the first time after being rescued from cold Ukraine, where they were raised in captivity.
Some had been caged in cramped conditions for up to seven years for display in zoos and circuses.
That was until the charity Warriors of Wildlife merged with Qatar Airways Cargo – or should that be Catar Airways? – to transport them 9,000 miles to sanctuaries in South Africa.
Now the cats feel fantastic as they can move around freely and experience the sun on their back in their natural environment.
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The big cats spent 85 hours in boxes, which were flown from the Ukrainian capital Kiev to Doha in Qatar and then on to the operating room in Johannesburg. Tambo airport.
Lionesses Nala, 14 months, Joy four years old, and Akera, two, traveled with four men, Cecil, seven, Xanda, four, and Alex and Caesar, both 14 months old.
Lionel De Lange, founder of WoW, said the incredible journey had followed two years of raising money and obtaining visas and papers for the lions – as well as dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
He said, “The repatriation of wildlife is a big endeavor, especially over such great distances.
“But we could rely on the Qatar Airways Cargo teams, who are 100% behind us and our work.
“You played a crucial role. Without them, these seven lions would still be in terrible conditions in captivity. “
Warriors of Wildlife’s own reserve in Simbonga, Eastern Cape, will now house Akera and Nala and the brothers Caesar and Alex, while the other cats will go to a sanctuary elsewhere in South Africa.
Lionel’s partner Anya Masiach campaigned for the release of the lions in her native Ukraine. So far, WoW has freed more than 20 lions from captivity and also rescued bears kept in captivity.
Qatar Airline said it has returned animals to their natural environment free of charge at the request of animal welfare authorities as part of Qatar Airways Cargo’s “Rewild the Planet” initiative.
Aviation vlogger Sam Chui, who photographed the trip, flew with the group.
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Sam said, “This is the first time I’ve seen wild animals like lions being transported on an airplane.
“Operations like this happen once in a blue moon, so I have the privilege of documenting the trip.”