Five lions rescued from Romania have finally arrived in their ‘forever home’ in South Africa animal welfare group, Four Paws said on Monday.
But the happy ending for the five is marred by the fate of another lion cub who is being used in a popular video clip in Romania, prompting accusations of animal cruelty and exploitation.
FOUR PAWS says it is fighting to rescue the one-year-old cub Aslan from its owner, a former legal executor, who refuses to give it up.
The animal welfare group said the use of lions in music videos „is outrageous. This.. uncontrolled breeding and the inappropriate keeping conditions are clear signs the owner shouldn’t be allowed to keep lions.”
FOUR PAWS says it fears that the owner, Claudiu Dicu, will break a prior agreements to end breeding and urges the Romanian authorities to help prevent wild animals from such exploitation.
Eleven months ago, the seven lions were rescued from ‘inappropriate and unsafe private keeping’ from southern Romania, and transported to the FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary in the Netherlands for treatment.
However, the owner held on to theee lions and stopped FOUR PAWS from sterilizing the adult male lion, despite agreeing to it in writing.
The rap artist Dani Mocanu told viewers that „the lion lives with his family is is kept in legal conditions. He hasn’t been sedated or tied up. He has a close relationship with the artist as he grew up with him.”
But Four Paws says that the lions arew not kept safely and they are a danger to humans, as they don’t have the proper professional and veterinary care.
The five youngest lions arrived at their forever home, LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa, on 10 August which coincided with World Lion Day.
However, due to the mistreatment they suffered in Romania, Simba and Elza require specialised care and remain at Felida.
The team provided temporary birth control to the lioness but once it wears off, uncontrolled and possibly incestuous breeding can resume.
“The owner keeps refusing to hand over the animals or to at least allow a vasectomy of the male. … We will do everything in our power to prevent any further animals from suffering the cruel fate of inappropriate keeping or commercial exploitation,” said Ioana Dungler, director of Four Paws’ Wild Animals department.
But for the five, at least, there is a happy ending.
“They can explore, roam around and play but will also have place to hide, if they want. It is bittersweet that these five lions get this opportunity, but that their little brother is still stuck being kept as a pet and abused for videoclips,” said Barbara van Genne, responsible for Wild Animal Rescue and Advocacy at FOUR PAWS.
Romania banned the keeping of big cats and other wild animal species in circuses in 2017, and private ownership required a special permit.
Every year, thousands of lions and other wild animals are exploited and abused for the commercial wildlife trade and human entertainment in the EU and elsewhere.
“Despite positive steps in and outside of Europe, including Romania….many lions and other wild animal species are kept and bred privately in inappropriate conditions in circuses, for photo ops or in private yards around the world. They are cruelly abused for their body parts, their skin and bones, as pets and for entertaining humans,” said Dungler.
LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary near Bethlehem, South Africa is home to over 100 big cats, most of which were rescued by FOUR PAWS from war-ravaged zoos, circuses, private ownership, and the canned hunting industry.
The sanctuary provides a lifelong home for the mistreated big cats who cannot be released back into the wild.