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A new life for two tigers and two lions


FOUR PAWS brings distressed big cats from Romania to South Africa

Yesterday afternoon the international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS brought two tigers, Harun and Lina, and two lions, Zac and Donna, from an absolutely squalid zoo in Onesti (Romania) to the LIONSROCK big cats sanctuary in Bethlehem (South Africa) releasing them into two large familiarisation enclosures. After many years of suffering in small, dark cages with concrete floors the four big cats left their transport crates and were able to feel grass under their paws for the first time in their lives. “We’re very happy to have been able to take the last four big cats from Onesti Zoo into our care”, said Ioana Dungler, project leader at FOUR PAWS, with tears of joy in her eyes. “Harun, Lina, Zac and Donna had to suffer so long. Here in LIONSROCK they’ll quickly rediscover their dignity and zest for life.

© FOUR PAWS | Mihai Vasile

Harun, Lina, Zac and Donna were the last of a total of ten big cats vegetating in Onesti Zoo in extremely grim conditions. Onesti Zoo lost its permit to keep wild animals in 2007, as Romania joined the EU that year, resulting in many laws – including those on animal welfare – being tightened up. The tiny cages in which the big cats had to live for many years did not even come close to satisfying EU minimum standards, so the zoo was closed down. The big cats, however, were left behind in desolation. After years of negotiations, the start of this year saw the municipal office at Onesti finally agree to hand over the ten big cats to FOUR PAWS. The organisation had already brought six of them to LIONSROCK in April.

© FOUR PAWS | Mihai Vasile

Five Romanian zoos lost their permits to keeps big cats years ago, as their keeping conditions do not meet minimum requirements. However, dozens of wild animals are still suffering in appalling circumstances. “It’s high time the Romanian authorities implemented the laws which are in place”, stressed Ioana Dungler. “There are minimum standards, and these have to be satisfied.” Furthermore, in many Romanian zoos wild animals are still being bred, without controls, and they then have to live a dismal life which is entirely inappropriate for their species. “We’re calling on the Romanian Environment Ministry to issue a law making birth-control programmes mandatory in Romanian zoos”, says Ioana Dungler.

© FOUR PAWS | Mihai Vasile

Harun, Lina, Zac and Donna coped well with the long trip from Romania, via Zurich, to South Africa, and now they’re nosily exploring their beautiful enclosures. After a familiarisation phase lasting several months they will be able to move into their permanent homes: huge compounds of at least 10,000 square metres, 250 times larger than the cages they were held in until now.


The new arrivals mean a total of 82 lions and 8 tigers now live at the FOUR PAWS LIONSROCK big cats sanctuary. Of these, 29 lions and 4 tigers are from Romania.