FROM a circus to a concrete cage.
But now a semi-game camp is waiting for four lions in the Eastern Cape after being rescued from bad conditions in Ukraine.
In a 35 m² concrete enclosure, three lionesses have been detained and forced to lived in their own urine and faeces for almost three years after leaving a circus in Ukraine.
Lionel de Lange, a native of Port Elizabeth and now the executive director of the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization - Ukraine, strives to save bears daily, but when he came across those lions he could simply not look the other way.
“I was preparing to rescue bears when I came across them. The smell was horrible when I found them, and I could not leave them there.
“They were in a concrete cage with no direct sunshine or even rain, and no decent ventilation. Except for the front, the entire cage was closed. They literally slept in their own urine and stool because there was no other place to lock them up in order to clean the cage.”
De Lange said the lions were, however, not malnourished.
While De Lange negotiated with the owner of the lions, he was informed of a lion cub in distress.
A circus boss took the cub, Nathan, away at two months old to train for circus tricks.
“We were lucky to be able to take him away too, because his life would get much worse going forward,” said De Lange.
Ayesha Cantor, co-owner of the Kragga Kamma Game Reserve in Port Elizabeth, was pleasantly surprised when she heard a fourth lion will soon be part of this park’s first lion pride.
According to Cantor, De Lange is an old friend who advocated the situation of the three lionesses last year and she could not help but offer a new home for the lions.
“We are in the industry because we have a love for wildlife. After hearing the story of the lions we could not help but say yes,” Cantor said.
The park has recently been granted a permit to keep the lions and major construction work for their camp has begun. A camp of one hectare is now being demarcated within the reserve, with a house where the lions will be fed at night.
The lions are expected to be welcomed in Port Elizabeth by the end of October.
Besides the nearly R150 000 it will cost for the lion’s fence, and the approximately R500 000 to bring the lions to South Africa, Cantor and De Lange believe it is worth resettling the lions.