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Bulgarian big cats adapt well to their new life in Lionsrock

Several months after their rescue at Lionsrock Big Cat Sanctuary, all big cats rescued from Bulgaria in 2010 and beginning of 2011 have settled in well. Tiger Martin and lionesses Lea, Simona and Bagira enjoy the first steps of their freedom.

Lea and Simona:

Lea lives in an enclosure with another young lion – Kara. They are still keeping distance to each other but are in general calm and relaxed young ladies.  As soon as they see anyone approaching their enclosure, it is clear that they are attached to humans as they both come running to the fence moaning for attention. Lea seems to adapt in her new environment easier than Kara, showing no fear from anything except Kara. She will growl at her, as soon as Kara comes too close.  It might be seen as a compensation behavior for Lea having no claws. In the beginning of 2011 both lions were moved to one of the adaption enclosures and are now next to Simona. The keepers hope that they can join all three together in future.

During the first few weeks Simona was still scared and prefers the safety of the house, which is no surprise as she is alone without any backup to her confidence.  Only if someone approached quiet and alone, she dared to ask very carefully for attention. As she had been hand raised and kept as a single animal, this is the only way she knew to get reassurance when feeling scared. After a few weeks, however, Simona became more self-assured and seems to enjoy her neighbors Lea and Kara. She is quiet playful and likes to stalk and chase the keepers along the fence.


Bagira’s wounds close very slowly and sometimes she does not want to eat properly. She soon needs her own enclosure, as she is in one of the feeding areas of an existing group. Even though the “Braila group” are friendly neighbors, she is intimidated by them. This is mainly because she is handicapped and this weakness makes her instinctively more alert and cautious towards her environment and fellow species. The team has planned the construction of an enclosure for her special needs (small, flat area, house with wooden floor), where she will be still in sight distance to other lions. Construction is expected to  start presently.


Martin settled in very quickly. Typical for a male tiger, he was not very much scared of his new surrounding or anything else. He lost weight visibly, which is no surprise, as he arrived quite overweight and has now a big natural area, which he is patrolling every day. He loves to cool himself in the water, by lying with his hind legs and belly in the dam.