In January 2022 FOUR PAWS was contacted by the local authorities of Montenegro about a illegally kept lion cub that had escaped from private keeping and was roaming the streets near Budva on the Adriatic coast. After 10 days the starved and exhausted lion cub, who got the name Nikola, was rescued and brought to a temporary safe place.
From the streets to safety
After Nikola was rescued, a team of dedicated volunteers took care of the young lion in a safe location. The FOUR PAWS team visited Nikola multiple times for vet checks, health and enrichment advice. There are no zoos or sanctuaries in Montenegro that could house a young lion, so it was important to move him to a long-term and species-appropriated home at FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary.
The journey through Europe
Together with the local authorities FOUR PAWS worked hard on the transfer of the lion cub to FELIDA. To prepare him for the journey, we performed ‘crate training’ on site. We teach him with ‘positive reinforcement’ training to walk into the transport crate all by himself. This way he does not need anesthesia and learns that the crate is not scary. On the 20th June 2022 all of the necessary paperwork was finally ready and Nikola was on its way to his new home. The FOUR PAWS team accompanying the young lion traveled through six country borders and arrived 2.000 kilometers later at FELIDA.
First time for everything
The first few days after his arrival were stressful for Nikola. The young lion had never been in contact with other lions or people and was quickly overwhelmed by all the new sounds. With the help of the animal caretakers, Nikola is now feeling more and more comfortable with his new surroundings. He is starting to explore everything, eats well, is curious towards our animal caretakers and above all he loves to play with his ball made out of old fire hoses. We are so happy to see the young lion flourish after the chaotic first months of his life.
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Update January 2023: a new enclosure
The change of enclosure is an environmental type of enrichment and helps stimulate the animals to play and explore their environment and new objects. That is why we also moved our young lion Nikola to the big enclosure next to Simba. The energetic lion was over the moon with his new home and immediately started to discover all kinds of new sounds and smells.
Updates 2022: welcome home
Soon after his arrival at FELIDA, the young energetic Nikola had outgrown his special intake enclosure. He needed more space to play and run around and was moved to the former enclosure of our tiger Tsezar. The crate training that was needed for his internal relocation went very smooth. After his release, Nikola immediately started to explore his new surroundings and smells.
On September 10th, we had a special party at FELIDA. Not only were we celebrating that Nikola turned 1 year old, but it was also his first birthday at our sanctuary! Our handsome lion was over the moon with his special birthday enrichment and was playing with it for hours.
Before Nikola arrived at FELIDA in the summer of 2022, the FOUR PAWS expert team for big cats and veterinarian Mandana Pötsch of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research performed a small procedure on the young lion, because he had problems urinating. In November we saw that same complaints started to emerge again. Through careful observations, we were able to conclude that he was bothered by the same problem, for which he was treated in Montenegro.
Our veterinarian Mandana therefore came to FELIDA and successfully carried out the treatment again. Luckily, it was a relatively small operation for the young lion. This treatment may need to be performed again in the future until he is fully grown. Nikola woke up well after the procedure in his heated indoor enclosure and was able to go outside again the next day where he immediately started playing with his favorite enrichment!