Ukraine Lion Appeal: We need your help!

25 July 2023


A photo of two young lions looking anxious in a temporary indoor enclosure

Born Free has launched an urgent new appeal to get two lion brothers from war-torn Ukraine to their ancestral home of Africa, where they belong.

At just over two years old, Tsar and Jamil have already faced unimaginable turmoil, but now, we’re raising funds to take these beautiful brothers ‘home’ to our Big Cat Rescue Centre at Shamwari Private Game Reserve in South Africa.

Born in a Ukrainian zoo, Tsar and Jamil were taken from their mother as tiny cubs and sold to an ostrich farm to ‘attract visitors’. Heavily exploited at the farm, the young lions became malnourished and sickly. Thankfully, after pressure from animal welfare groups, they were rehomed at a rescue centre in Kyiv, where veterinary examinations revealed that both had calcium deficiencies and that Tsar had tibia bone fractures.

With proper care, Tsar and Jamil began to recover from their ordeal. But in February 2022 war broke out in Ukraine and Russian troops invaded. Deafening shelling caused the stressed lions to panic and injure themselves on the bars of their enclosure. But despite appalling human heartbreak and hardship in Ukraine, the incredible rescue centre prioritised Tsar and Jamil’s well-being and plans were made to evacuate the lions to Belgium via Poland, where they are being temporarily cared for by our friends at Natuurhulpcentrum (Nature Help Centre) – a wonderful half-way house.

These brothers have already had FIVE different homes. Now we are appealing for help to get them to their final and forever home in South Africa.

Catherine Gillson, Born Free Manager at Shamwari Private Game Reserve, explains: “Here in South Africa, at Shamwari Private Game Reserve, Born Free has an awesome sanctuary, giving loving, expert care to 14 rescued lions, in spacious, natural enclosures. It fills me with joy to see each one transform under our care… I long to give Tsar and Jamil the same opportunity.

“Last September, after many happy years’ retirement at Shamwari, our beloved old lion Nelson – rescued from a zoo in France – died at the grand age of 22, leaving us with an empty enclosure. This could be perfect for the brothers but, we

need to raise the funds needed to transport Tsar and Jamil over 8,000 miles and prepare their new home. By supporting our Ukraine Lion Appeal, people will not only help get the brothers ‘home’ they will also be helping to fund a lifetime of loving care for these boys.”

Will you help give Tsar and Jamil the forever home and lifetime care they deserve, by supporting our appeal?