Lion Lenci at FELIDA


Rescued from “Europe’s worst zoo”


Lenci was together with lions Zhaku and Bobby, rescued from the Safari Park Zoo Fier in Albania by FOUR PAWS. This zoo was known as “Europe’s worst zoo”. Lenci became most famous during the rescue mission due to bad inflammation of his eye. Pictures from Lenci with his black, pinched eye went globally. Since May 9th 2019, he lives at FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary.

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Liberated from concrete

In October 2018, a FOUR PAWS rescue team managed to rescue the three lions, as well as the other wildlife from Safari Park Zoo Fier. Lenci had lived on a concrete floor in a small cage for years. There was no protection from wind, rain or sunlight. To top it off, he suffered a serious eye infection. After the rescue, the lions were transferred to a temporary residence in the Albanian capital, Tirana, until the Albanian ministry authorised the transport to the Netherlands. Unfortunately, the ministry initially did not cooperate, and bureaucratic arbitrariness hindered the movement of the three lions. FOUR PAWS launched an online petition signed by nearly 70,000 supporters. With success: the lions got the green light. After a journey of 52 hours and almost 3,000 kilometres through ten countries, they were finally home.

After the rescue, the care begins

Sometimes we say that the work really starts after the rescue. Lenci, Zhaku and Bobby were all in very bad shape. So bad, unfortunately, that help came too late for lion Zhaku: he died two months after arriving at FELIDA. Lenci also didn't have an easy time with his health, although he initially seemed to be doing better thanks to medical treatments, specialised care and, moreover, thanks to the peace and space, he struggled with a herniated disk not much later. Nerve-wracking times were approaching because we did not know if and how Lenci would be able to recover from this. But again, Lenci turned out to be a fighter: he also survived this difficult time.

Happy lion

His appearance still shows that Lenci was seriously neglected not so long ago: due to the severe eye inflammation at the time, the nerves in his face were damaged, causing his eye, nose and mouth to be slightly crooked and, therefore, he has an asymmetrical face. On the other hand, in his behaviour, his difficult past is hardly noticeable. Lenci is a good-humoured and playful lion who loves all kinds of enrichment and enthusiastically roars every day in the "lion choir" consisting of Bobby, Ivan-Asen and Terez.

Update January 2021

Lenci lived in a small cage on a concrete floor for years, and while we were able to save him from that place, his sad past has left deep marks. So when a worrying change in his behaviour was noticed last week, we immediately took action. 
We were able to bring Lenci to an animal clinic and together with wildlife veterinarian Marc Gölkel from IZW Berlin, CT scans were made of Lenci's head and back, a rhinoscopy was done and blood samples and biopsies were taken. Luckily, no changes were found in his back; Lenci's weak spot. In his jaw and nasal cavity where we removed a cyst last year, some agitated spots were observed. We have to wait for test results before we can further discuss the best possible treatment for Lenci with the specialists. 
Just when we thought we could look back on an intensive but successful day with relatively good news, something very unpleasant happened... While Lenci, back at FELIDA, awakened from the anesthesia, he bit his tail. The injury required our vet to treat Lenci again right away. A tail is vulnerable, as it can be hard to ‘fix’ and we had no other option than to remove the damaged piece. Vet Gölkel was able to stitch the wound and Lenci will now have to recover not only from the veterinary check, but also from this misfortune. We will continue to monitor Lenci closely in the coming period.

Farewell, dear Lenci (February 2021)

When all hope of improvement is lost, we need to be strong and provide the hardest kind of care that is left: preventing further suffering. Unfortunately, this is an important part of our responsibilities as a special care sanctuary for traumatised animals. So also yesterday: it is with great sadness that we let you know that our brave fellow Lenci is no more.

Lenci has been through so much in his life, and he had to fight so hard. In May 2019, he arrived at FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary, severely traumatised both mentally and physically, after FOUR PAWS rescued him from an illegal private zoo in Albania. Thanks to specialised care, he slowly recovered and visibly enjoyed the grass under his paws, the sun on his fur, the enrichment to play with and the peace around him. But his health remained fragile, because the many years of suffering on a concrete floor in a small cage, in damp and unsanitary conditions, without proper care, had left deep and indelible marks.

Recently, Lenci’s cheerful behaviour changed and he seemed to be in pain. Medical examination, including a CT scan, found that he was suffering from a chronic, very painful inflammation in his nose area that would spread further, causing more pain. Long-term treatment would not resolve this problem and we saw him weaken under his tough, majestic appearance. Lenci was exhausted, his troubled past caught up with him, and the will to fight was gone.

We are very sad that we had to let him go, but also relieved that his fight is over. Thanks to you he got a second chance and knew peace, love and joy for the first time in his life.

Lenci, you changed our world as much as we changed yours. We will never forget you, you were one of a kind.


  • Born in Albania in 2010
  • Presumably the brother of Bobby
  • Can be recognised by his asymmetrical face
  • Not picky with food
  • Enjoys all kinds of enrichment, as long as it can be destroyed
  • Playful, curious and happy
  • Misses a part of his tail

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