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News 22 Dec 17

Bulgarians Save Lion Cubs From Zoo 'Death Sentence'

Protesters have succeeded in persuading the Bulgarian authorities to send two recently rescued baby lion cubs to a rescue centre abroad, instead of to life behind bars in a Bulgarian zoo.

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia
The rescued cubs in a vet cinic in Sofia. Photo: Wild Animals foundation

Bulgaria has agreed to send two lion cubs recently rescued from an illegal zoo in the northern city of Razgrad to a rescue centre for big cats in Holland, run by Four Paws International, an animal rights group announced on Friday.

The announcement of the change of heart came amid protests in front of the government building in Sofia against a decision of Razgrad municipality to donate the lions to a zoo in another Bulgarian city, Pazardjk.

The council in Razgrad decided on Thursday to donate the cubs – Therese and Masud – who nearly died in an accident in the local zoo in September, to Pazardjik zoo, although animal rights groups who had saved their lives had already arranged their transfer abroad.

“We will not give the lions Therese and Masud to a zoo! The municipal council in Razgrad decided that instead of living in natural environment and freedom, they will be put behind bars in the Pazardjik zoo. They are doomed to die there,” the organizers of the protest wrote on Facebook. 

Over 200 citizens and animal rights activists,  many of them together with their pets, were joined by the country's environment minister, Neno Dimov, shortly after the start of the rally.

He promised to take action to improve the state of Bulgarian zoos and "to change our mentality, so that we do not have animals living like prisoners".

Yavor Gechev, from Four Paws Foundation Bulgaria, thanked the crowd for its efforts and announced to cheers that, after all, the cubs will soon be sent to The Netherlands and after growing up, they would be transferred to South Africa.

The case of the two baby lions sparked an outcry in Bulgaria as it helped exposed the appalling conditions and cruel practices still existing in zoos around the country.

Environmental groups warned that no Bulgarian zoo had the necessary conditions or qualified personnel to provide adequate care to lion cubs, separated from their mother.  

In December, Four Paws Foundation rescued three more endangered lions from the Razgrad zoo, which operates without a license.

NGOs were shocked to find out that despite all their efforts to send the cubs abroad, the municipality of Razgrad, which is administratively in charge of the animals, had decided to send them to another Bulgarian zoo.

The manager of Pazardjik zoo told BTV on December 18 that the zoo had neither the necessary conditions, nor qualified workers to provide care for baby lions.

“A long time ago Bulgarians chose the lion as their heraldic symbol. A symbol of courage, pride, and freedom. Today, Bulgarians want to send Therese and Masud to be free in Africa, not to live a miserable life in somebody’s cage”, the protesters wrote in a letter sent to international organizations and environmental activists. 

 

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