SA man on quest to rescue abused animals from Ukraine

2018-09-21 13:57


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The issue of performing animals in Ukraine’s circuses has been controversial for years.

So when entrepreneur and animal-lover Lionel de Lange got an opportunity to move to that country and serve as the director of Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation, he didn’t think twice about it.

He was aware of the parlous state of animal rights in Ukraine, but it was only when the 53-year-old, who hails from Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, got to the Breadbasket of Europe that he realised how serious the situation really was.

A case that tugged at his heartstrings concerned four lion cubs – Nathan and his sisters Luca, Charlie and Kai – who’d been snatched from their parents to be sold to a circus.

Fortunately Lionel found Nathan dumped in a steel cage before he was due to be sold off. The three female cubs, however, had mysteriously disappeared.

"Nathan was used as a tourist attraction and locked up in filthy, smelly cages,” Lionel explained.

He’d later discover that Luca, Charlie and Kai were sent off to be traded.

During a rescue of Eurasian brown bears and grey wolves at a hotel complex in Sambir, south-west of Lviv in Ukraine, Lionel and his team not only managed to save three bears, but also found Nathan’s three siblings.

They were kept in horrid conditions without any direct sunlight, fresh air, enrichment or freedom.

Lionel was sure of one thing: he couldn’t leave the cubs behind.

The bears were relocated to a bear sanctuary in Synevyr in the Carpathian Mountains and the lions were put in a temporary enclosure, which is funded by Lionel, until they can be transported to South Africa.

"They’re loving their temporary enclosure, stalking each other and lazing in the sun,” Lionel said excitedly.

“It’s their first chance in life to simply be lions. It was amazing to see the change in them from being caged to having the run of a much bigger enclosure.”

If all goes well, the lions will be relocated in early October to the Kragga Kamma Game Park in Port Elizabeth where they’ll be able to roam freely and peacefully.

“All the lions have been vaccinated, chipped and documented in accordance with Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

“We’re now awaiting Cites export certificates, which should arrive soon. And then we’ll apply for Cites import in South Africa. That should be granted during the first or second week of October, after which the lions will fly home.”

The expedition will be costly.

Lionel and his team are raising funds (their target is $35 000, or R490 000) to fly the lions, Lionel, the vet and handler to South Africa.

Monthly food for the cubs already costs them R25 000 a month. Taking care of the kings of the jungle comes with a hefty price tag but the 53-year-old doesn’t mind.

“For decades animal rights issues have been a huge problem for Ukraine. But with organisations like mine we’re trying to change this culture of caging and abusing animals.”

Read more on:    ukraine  |  animals

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