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FOUR PAWS rescues pregnant lioness from Bulgarian inbreeding zoo


The birth of the lion cub is expected in the new year

Brussels, 21.12.2017 – To enable lioness Raya to give birth safely, the international animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS saved her and her partner Hector from an illegal zoo in Razgrad, Bulgaria on 19.12.2017. The rescue team took both animals to the capital, Sofia, to thoroughly examine the pregnant lioness. The results of the ultrasound exam show that the unborn cub is well. Together with her partner, Raya is now waiting at Sofia Zoo for the birth of her offspring, which is expected to happen in the new year. In the meantime, FOUR PAWS is looking for a long-term, species-appropriate home for the lion family.

© FOUR PAWS/Bodgan Baraghin

For the two twelve-year-old lions Raya and Hector, the suffering at Razgrad zoo is over. Three weeks ago, FOUR PAWS intervened and ended the cruel practices of the illegal inbred zoo. Initial medical exams showed that Raya is pregnant and expects her offspring in a few weeks. Hence, the international animal welfare organization decided to transfer the lioness and her partner to the Sofia Zoo for now. "Raya's condition is worrying. She is pregnant and before we stepped in she had never been fully examined. We assume that Raya and Hector are siblings. Therefore, it is a miracle the unborn lion cub is healthy, according to ultrasound scans. However, we won’t know the cub’s exact condition until it is born. We will also have to wait and see whether the mother will accept her offspring after she gives birth," stated Dr. Marina Ivanova, veterinarian and Country Director of FOUR PAWS Bulgaria.

New home for the lion family                                                                                                                     

While the vet team prepares for the birth, FOUR PAWS is working on a permanent solution for the entire family. The idea is to bring the lions to one of the FOUR PAWS-owned sanctuaries in South Africa or Jordan. "In our sanctuaries, we offer lions a safe, species-appropriate home. There they also receive the medical care they urgently need after years of being neglected,” shared Dr. Ivanova.

Zoo without license

The Razgrad Zoo is located in north-eastern Bulgaria and opened in 1960. Although its license expired in 2014, the zoo remained open to visitors for free. The unprofessional breeding and sale of lions was used for financing the enterprise. Currently, over 25 animals – including lions, deer, reindeer, llamas, foxes, hogs and birds – live in the illegal zoo. Since the city owns the zoo, FOUR PAWS convinced the mayor of Razgrad to intervene. The international team of veterinarians provided medical care to all seven lions and additionally sterilised two adult males. The long-term goal is to move at least five of the seven former zoo lions to FOUR PAWS sanctuaries.