A tragic baby lion that was rescued by police when it was smuggled onto a long-distance bus had surgery to remove both eyes.
The disturbing case of the animal named Grom highlights the sinister illegal wildlife trade for pets of wealthy people.
The young animal was discovered in a narrow wooden box in the luggage compartment of an intercity bus on a 1,200-mile route in Russia from Makhachkala to Moscow.
The baby, only a few weeks old, had no food or water and veterinarians believe it was removed by its mother before it even suckled her milk.
First, the young animal was given to a circus in Volgograd, where the police found the lion during a search of the intercity bus in the summer.
Then a veterinarian exam found cataracts in his eyes, but the surgery was delayed due to inflammation.
When surgery was finally performed in September, it was believed to be successful, and Grom – which means thunder – returned to the Dovgalyuk circus.
But the owner Nikolay Dovgalyuk said: “The disease progressed quickly.
“Grom poked at the walls and was furious that he couldn’t understand what was happening to him.”
Another complex operation failed to save the eyes due to the breakage of the boys’ corneas, said Galina Alikova, head of the regional veterinary committee.
“We were immediately warned that both eyes would have to be removed,” she said.
“Grom is completely blind now.
“Of course we are very sorry.
“But we really looked through all possible options. It was about saving his life. “
New images show the eyeless lion playing with a ball, but there are questions about his future.
The police couldn’t find out who sent Grom on the cruel bus trip.
They also failed to find out who the protective buyer was, but experts pointed out a smuggling route for exotic pets from the Dagestan region on the Caspian Sea, where Makhachkala is the capital.
A dog police officer said: “It’s scary to think, but under such conditions, he might not have made it to Moscow – without food and water.”
“In the box itself there were absolutely unsanitary conditions.”
The famous Russian animal surgeon Karen Dallakyan previously warned Vladimir Putin of the lack of criminal sanctions against animal smugglers.
He had offered to take care of Grom early in the saga, who blinded him, but the officials refused to send him the boy.
He claimed that the lion’s sight could have been saved had Volgograd officials acted earlier, and that handing the animal to a circus after it was discovered was the wrong move.
He said, “This blind, eyed lion – we will try to find a way to help him.
“And the rest will remain on the consciences of those guilty of what happened to the lion.
It can be the veterinarian management, the circus staff, and the vets who treated the cub.
“Everything comes back like a boomerang because the animal doesn’t deserve it.
“He had already been saved from the hands of those flayers (who carried him on the bus) so he could enjoy life.
“But how is he going to enjoy life now, being blind, I don’t know?”