Lions And Zoos

Simba the lion: Abandoned lion cub victim of Russian wildlife trade starts new life in Italy

A young lion is starting a new life at a wildlife sanctuary in Italy after being found abandoned as a cub in Russia – a reminder, according to the charity that helped rescue him, of the wildlife trade.

Simba was emaciated and mewing in distress when he was discovered in a cardboard box in a deserted garage near Moscow. Just a few weeks old and stripped of most of his fur due to a skin condition, he was so weak he could barely stand.

“While little is known about how Simba ended up in such desperate circumstances, it is likely that he was an innocent victim of the cruel wildlife trade and was dumped in due to its poor condition,” says the Born Free Foundation, which helped organize the lion’s journey. to Western Europe, just months before the outbreak of war.

The young cub was rescued by volunteers in the summer of 2020 in the suburbs of Moscow. He was taken to the Wildlife Hospital Foundation, where he was treated and cared for. But the space in the enclosure was insufficient: Simba needed a new home.

Born Free was contacted and set out to plan a better life for the lion. Hours of assessment and care went into the operation involving specialists from wildlife centers in three countries.

Born Free has saved many other lions for nearly four decades. Earlier this year, it relocated four circus lions known as “Containment Lions”taking them from France to the Born Free Sanctuary of Shamwari in South Africa.

Simba was transported to the Natuurhulpcentrum Wildlife Rescue Center in Belgium in December 2021. While the team of specialists cared for him, Born Free gave him a permanent home, at the Animanatura Wild Sanctuary in Tuscany.

Last Monday (June 13), Simba’s 800 kilometer overland journey between Belgium and Italy began. It has now arrived and is being housed in a temporary enclosure, while a new purpose-built area is being built – which Born Free has appealed for.

“Born Free has always stood for the importance of every wild animal. Simba is a symbol of that. He is an example of why saving lions from the worst forms of human exploitation – from the wildlife trade, circuses, zoos or canned hunting facilities – is so important to all of us in the Born Free family,” said Will Travers, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of Born Free.

The charity, which named 2022 the “year of the lion”, said “there has never been a more crucial time to protect and prioritize” the future of animals.

“In the 1960s, when the film born free was made, there were about 200,000 lions in the wild. Today, there are only 20,000 left – a devastating 90% decline in just 55 years,” he says.